Clearing Your Record in North Carolina

There are over 1,000 statutes in North Carolina regulating housing, employment, licensure, and public benefits for people with criminal records. The federal government imposes additional sanctions on education, housing, and other benefits. These barriers, called collateral consequences, inhibit the citizens’ ability to reintegrate successfully into society after an encounter with the legal system.

North Carolina allows for expungement of a broad variety of charges. NC also offers a Certificate of Relief for many people who don't qualify for an expunction. The Certificate of Relief does not remove anything from your record, but it does lift some of the collateral consequences. Below is an overview of the process for cleaning your record in North Carolina.   



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step 1

Make sure you are aware of everything you were ever arrested for. Getting your criminal background check is a good way to do this. You can get this at the courthouse using special computers or directly from the Clerk of Court, from the State Bureau of Investigation, or from a commercial background company. Note that the Clerk of Court will only provide you with a list of charges from that county, and that commercial background companies may not have complete and accurate information.

I am happy to assist you with obtaining a complete background check and all parts of the expunction process.

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step 2

Figure out whether you qualify for an expungement or a Certificate of Relief. The following questions cover the broadest categories of relief available, but are not inclusive. You may also be eligible if you have a prostitution conviction as a result of human trafficking or were the victim of identity theft, among other things. Contact me if you'd like further assistance. 

  Question 1: Have you ever been convicted of anything (other than minor traffic tickets)?

  • If not, you are eligible to expunge all your dismissed charges.

  • If you do have convictions on your record, move on to Question 2.

Question 2: How old were you when the offense was committed?

  • If you were under 18, you are eligible for an expungement if

    • You were convicted of a nonviolent felony (generally class H or I), don't have any previous and/or subsequent convictions (other than minor traffic tickets) or pending charges, and it has been 4 years since your sentence is up, OR

    • You were convicted of a misdemeanor, don't have any previous convictions and/or convictions for two years after the conviction you're trying to expunge, and it has been two years since the date of your conviction or your sentence finished (whichever is later).

  • If you were over 18, you are eligible for an expungement if

    • You were convicted of a nonviolent felony or misdemeanor (generally class H or I felony or anything except an A1 misdemeanor), AND

    • You have no previous or subsequent convictions (other than minor traffic tickets) and no pending charges, AND

    • It has been 10 years (for felonies) or 5 years (for misdemeanors) since the completion of your sentence, AND

    • You've had no prior expungements.

  • Bonus Question: Can you get a Certificate of Relief?

    • You are eligible for a Certificate of Relief (which gives you some leverage in obtaining employment, housing, and licenses, but does not remove anything from your record) if

      • You were convicted of no more than two Class G, H, or I felonies or misdemeanors in one session of court, AND

      • You have no previous or subsequent convictions (other than minor traffic tickets) and no pending charges, AND

      • It has been 12 months since the end of your sentence.,

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step 3

Fill out the appropriate form, take it to the Clerk of Court, and ask whether a hearing is required and what the next steps are. Forms can be found through on the North Carolina Courts website. Figuring out which form to use can be almost as difficult as determining whether you are eligible for an expunction. I am available to help with this process.


Additional Resources

Legal Aid of North Carolina offers personalized legal assistance with expunctions and Certificates of Relief for those with limited income. You can contact an office near you or register for one of their DIY clinics. 

Southern Coalition for Social Justice has a wealth of information on expungement and Certificates of Relief on their website.

For a much more detailed explanation of the expunction process, geared more toward legal professionals, the NC Justice Center has a section on its website all about collateral consequences, including a 30-page guide to expunctions.

The UNC School of Government has two online resources, a digital guide to relief from criminal convictions and a tool that is a compilation of all the collateral consequences faced by those with criminal convictions in NC.

For information on collateral consequences and restoration of rights across the country, the Restoration of Rights Project contains concise, up-to-date profiles for every state.