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Expungement eligibility: Who can seek a clean slate?

On Behalf of | Feb 13, 2024 | Criminal law

A criminal record can be a significant barrier to life’s opportunities. But in North Carolina, some individuals may have the chance to leave their past behind through expungement. Expungement is the legal process of removing a criminal charge or conviction from a person’s record.

Not anyone is eligible for expungement. This blog will explain which persons can have their criminal records expunged, and the conditions for their eligibility.

Understanding eligibility

The eligibility for expungement varies depending on the type of criminal offense the person wants to set aside. The individual’s age at the time of the offense is also a major factor for expungement. If a person had previously faced criminal charges that were dismissed or a court found them not guilty, they may also be eligible for expungement.

The following criteria make a person eligible for expungement:

  • First-time offenders and age considerations: Persons convicted of a first-time, nonviolent misdemeanor or felony before the age of 18 may be eligible for expungement. Those convicted of misdemeanor possession of alcohol before the age of 21 may also have the offense expunged.
  • Nonviolent misdemeanor and felony charges: Those convicted of nonviolent misdemeanor and felony offenses as adults may also have their records expunged. There’s no age limitation for this type of expungement, as long as the offense is nonviolent. However, there’s a waiting period that the person must abide by. A person can only have their misdemeanor offense expunged after five years from conviction and 10 years for a felony conviction.
  • Dismissals and acquittals: If your criminal case was dismissed or a court didn’t find you guilty, you might be eligible for expungement. There’s no waiting period, though you’ll still have to pay a fee.
  • Drug and controlled substance convictions: Certain first drug offenses for persons not over 21 at the time of the offense may be eligible for expungement. North Carolina can also expunge the criminal records of persons convicted of toxic vapors offenses, for as long as they were not over 21 at the time of the offense.

Eligibility for expungement in North Carolina is a nuanced subject. Understanding these laws can be the first step toward clearing your record and moving forward with your life. If you think you meet any of the criteria outlined, consider consulting with a legal professional, who may be able to assess your eligibility and help you with the process.