Expungements: A Clean Slate for a New Year

January 5, 2015

A new year causes most people to want to better themselves - to become a version of yourself that you didn't quite live up to last year.  For some, it's about losing weight.  For others, it's about reconnecting with lost friends or family members.  But for some, a new year is an ever present reminder of a past mistake -- a mistake that led to a criminal conviction years ago in what seems to be another life.  That conviction has intruded on every aspect of one’s life – from losses of relationships to denials of employment.  In an age of instant internet background checks, there is no escaping that mistake that happened so many years ago... until now.


In 2012, the North Carolina General Assembly passed N.C. General Statute 15A-145.5, which provides for the expunction or expungment of certain nonviolent felonies or misdemeanors.  An expunction is the legal process by which a charge, or in this case, a conviction, is erased and deleted from all governmental records and databases.  The word "expunction" comes from the Latin word "expunctio" meaning "to strike out."  An expunction, or expungment or expungement as it is also called, is literally the striking out of a conviction from your criminal record.


Requirements for a Conviction Expunction


There are a lot of criteria that one must meet to qualify for an expunction under 15A-145.5.  And quite honestly, there are not a lot of defendants who qualify for an expunction under this statute because it is so narrow.  In general, one can only have a single conviction for a nonviolent felony or misdemeanor, which means the conviction was for a Class H or I felony or a Class 1, 2, or 3 misdemeanor.  Additionally, the conviction cannot be for any offense which includes assault as an essential element.  There are also several other convictions which will disqualify a petitioner seeking an expunction.  Essentially, you can only have one single conviction for a single felony or misdemeanor.  However, multiple convictions that occurred in the same session of court are treated as a single conviction for the purposes of this statute. 


If you believe that these criteria are too narrow for you in that you may have more than one conviction, please contact me regardless.  I have been able to help some clients who had a disqualifying second conviction reopen and overturn that disqualifying second conviction through a Motion for Appropriate Relief (MAR), after which they then qualified for the expunction of the original conviction.


The Process


Once I have determined that you qualify for a conviction under this statute, I will then prepare your Petition for Expunction.  I will need two character affidavits from people who are not related to you that can speak to your good character.  I will provide you with samples to provide to these references.  You will also need to supply an affidavit as to certain facts, which I will help you craft.  After your Expunction Packet is complete, I will approach the Cumberland County District Attorney for the appropriate response.  I will then shepherd your Petition through the various channels. 


The Result


The entire process takes between 4 and 9 months.  But the end result is worth it.  For the first time since your conviction, you will be able to legally say that you were not arrested or convicted for the offense that was expunged.  The statute grants you the ability to deny ever being arrested, indicted, tried or convicted for the offense, even under penalty of perjury.


Now that is a clean slate!  If you or someone you know needs a clean slate, please give  Fayetteville Attorney Adam Barrington or Bruce Armstrong a call at (910) 433-2000 to setup an appointment to talk about it.

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