Under North Carolina law, all criminal charges could remain on a person’s record indefinitely, including pending charges, convictions, Prayer for Judgment Continued (PJC) and even dismissed charges. However, while a criminal charge cannot be removed automatically, it may be erased if it’s eligible for expungement.

What is expungement?

The word, “expunge,” is a verb that means to erase or completely remove. Translated into common law, an expungement proceeding allows someone with a criminal conviction to seal the records of their crime. This makes the crime record unavailable through the state or Federal repositories, meaning it’s almost entirely “erased.” The record is, however, available to the courts, prosecutors and law enforcement.

When can you expunge?

Under recent changes to North Carolina expungement law, dismissals and not-guilty dispositions are immediately eligible for expungement.

Defendants may be able to file for expungement of a misdemeanor conviction 5 years from the end of their court-ordered punishment (imprisonment, parole or probation). Prior to the 2017 changes, the waiting period was 15 years. The waiting period for felony convictions has generally been reduced from 15 years to 10 years, however violent felonies are usually not eligible for expungement.

Prior to 2017, multiple crimes could not be expunged over one person’s lifetime. There is no longer a limit to the number of offenses that may be expunged in North Carolina.

The wait-time and eligibility for expunging a crime may vary depending on many factors, such as whether the defendant was a minor at the time of the crime and the nature of the crime. Contact an attorney to determine whether you may be able to strike out a past charge or conviction that’s been haunting your record.