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Spotlighting North Carolina criminal expungement rules and processes

On Behalf of The Law Firm of Brent D. Ratchford |

Perhaps you are a young male resident of Gaston County with a past episode of interaction with law enforcers that has proved troublesome over time and continues to adversely affect your daily life and opportunities.

If so, you’re far from alone. Young people sometimes make mistakes that yield stark criminal penalties. In doing so, they often don’t perceive that their conduct is unlawful or fail to duly appreciate its potential consequences.

Should they bear that burden of error for a lifetime?

Collectively, the general public hardly thinks so. The consequences of a past error – or a wrongful arrest, which is even more concerning – can be monumentally punitive for a party already punished and seeking to secure a fresh start in life.

A bedrock principle of the American criminal justice system sanctions that second-chance approach, although its nod toward basic fairness sometimes competes with sterner realities for people with criminal records.

To wit: If you have a record showing a past arrest and conviction, the hurdles you face can seem perpetual and enduring. One authoritative North Carolina criminal law legal source stresses that “a potential employer may choose not to hire you.” Moreover, “A potential landlord may refuse to rent to you [or] a bank may decide you are too great of a risk to receive a loan.”

That downside list of possibilities additionally extends to further possibilities. Individuals with criminal records might not be able to join the military. They might be denied educational opportunities. They can suffer a delimiting stigma in their local community.

Expungement: a second-chance tool grounded in basic fairness

Expungement can be explained and perhaps best appreciated via reference to this simple imagery: It wipes the criminal slate clean.

That is, an expungement grant erases information linked with a past arrest or conviction. As the above-cited overview states, expungement enables a party to “legally tell the world you were never arrested or convicted of an offense.”

How invaluable is that?

Here is some key information that is important to note concerning criminal expungement in North Carolina:

  • Automatic right to expunge an arrest in a matter where charges were ultimately dropped or a “not guilty” verdict was secured
  • Evolving law has liberalized expungement grants in recent years concerning select felony and misdemeanor offenses
  • Expungement continues to be off limits in many charges tied to sex crimes and drug offenses, as well as in felony assault cases
  • Comparatively expanded expungement application concerning juvenile offenses

Expungement rules and requirements are complex and evolving in North Carolina. A state website on the expungement process underscores expungement’s “multiple steps” and that application can sometimes be “a timely and intimidating process.”

An experienced criminal defense attorney with proven advocacy in record sealing/erasure can provide candid guidance and diligent representation in an expungement matter.