blank

How Many Expunctions Can a Person Get?

linkedin
Share on Google+
Share on Reddit
Share on Tumblr
Download PDF

I sometimes get this question from judges, lawyers, and individuals seeking relief. The answer is: As many as the law allows. North Carolina’s statutes establish precise requirements for obtaining an expunction, including conditions barring relief. Many of the statutes specify that a prior expunction of an adult criminal proceeding bars a later expunction (more on juvenile proceedings below). Some statutes contain no such language, however. Under the terms of those statutes, a person with a prior expunction can obtain a later expunction if he or she meets the other requirements for relief. There is not a general prohibition on a subsequent expunction. Here are the principal statutes providing for this result.

Expunction under G.S. 15A-145 after expunction under G.S. 15A-146. Under G.S. 15A-145, a person may obtain an expunction of a misdemeanor conviction for an offense committed before age 18. (The statute also allows an expunction of certain alcohol offenses committed before age 21.) The statute contains various preconditions, such as the absence of other felony or misdemeanor convictions except for a traffic offense. The statute does not list a prior expunction as a bar to relief.

Under G.S. 15A-146, a person may obtain an expunction of a dismissal of criminal charges. This statute, in contrast to G.S. 15A-145, makes a prior expunction under various adult expunction statutes a bar to relief, but it does not make a prior misdemeanor conviction a bar.

Applying the statutes together, a person with a prior misdemeanor conviction can obtain an expunction of a dismissal under G.S. 15A-146 because that statute does not make the conviction a bar. The person then may obtain an expunction of a misdemeanor conviction under G.S. 15A-145 because that statute does not make a prior expunction a bar.

Expunction under G.S. 15A-145.5 after expunction under G.S. 15A-146. Under G.S. 15A-145.5, a person may obtain an expunction of a nonviolent misdemeanor or felony conviction, as defined in G.S. 15A-145.5, after fifteen years (for a discussion of the fifteen-year requirement, see Older Nonviolent Misdemeanor and Felony Convictions in Relief from a Criminal Conviction (UNC Sch. of Gov’t, 2015)). The statute bars an expunction if the person has received an expunction under any of the listed expunction statutes. An expunction of a dismissal under G.S. 15A-146 is not listed as a bar to relief.

Applying these statutes together, a person with a prior misdemeanor conviction can obtain an expunction of a dismissal under G.S. 15A-146. The person then may obtain an expunction of a nonviolent misdemeanor conviction under G.S. 15A-145.5 because that statute does not make a prior expunction under G.S. 15A-146 a bar.

Expunction under G.S. 15A-145.2 and G.S. 15A-145.3 after expunction under other statutes. Under G.S. 15A-145.2, a person may obtain an expunction of a conditional discharge, a dismissal, or a conviction of certain controlled substance and drug paraphernalia offenses committed before age 22. Under G.S. 15A-145.3, a person may obtain an expunction of those dispositions for certain toxic vapor and drug paraphernalia offenses committed before age 22. The prior expunction bar varies for each type of disposition to be expunged. For example, G.S. 15A-145.2(c) bars an expunction of a conviction of a controlled substance offense if the person has received a previous expunction under that subsection; it does not list any other expunctions as a bar. G.S. 15A-145.2(b), which allows expunction of a dismissal, contains no expunction bar.

Expunction under adult statutes after expunction under G.S. 7B-7200. Generally, expunction statutes that make a prior expunction a bar refer to particular adult expunction statutes. Thus, G.S. 15A-146 prohibits an expunction if the person has received an expunction under G.S. 15A-145, G.S. 15A-145.1, and several other adult expunction statutes. None of the statutes, however, refer specifically to G.S. 7B-3200, the statute providing for expunction of certain juvenile justice matters. Therefore, a person who received an expunction of a juvenile justice matter should still be able to obtain an expunction of an adult matter in most instances.

A possible exception concerns G.S. 15A-145.4, which authorizes an expunction of an adult conviction of a nonviolent misdemeanor committed before age 18 if “the petitioner has not been previously granted an expunction.” (G.S. 15A-145.6, which authorizes expunction of prostitution offenses, contains similar general language.) It is unclear whether this language makes prior expunctions of juvenile justice matters a bar to relief or whether it was intended to refer only to expunctions of adult proceedings. For a further discussion of this issue, see Expunctions of Delinquency Matters in Relief from a Criminal Conviction (UNC Sch. of Gov’t, 2015).

A clear but narrow path to relief. Prior expunction bars and other conditions make it difficult for a person to obtain relief more than once. They do not impose a blanket prohibition on additional relief, however. The terms of each statute control whether a person can obtain an expunction. While the statutes create a narrow path to additional relief, they clearly allow it in some instances.

Category: Uncategorized

7 comments on “How Many Expunctions Can a Person Get?

  1. Please help me to comprehend – if the case was dismissed (NPC), why do you have to expunge under 15A-146 anyway in order to clean your record? It does not make big sense, but put you through the process like any other convicted felon? Thanks

  2. A charge, even if dismissed, still appears in a search of criminal records. In North Carolina, the charge is not automatically removed; a person must obtain an expunction. Although a dismissed charge does not have any legal effect, removal of the charge from a person’s record prevents others from viewing it and possibly having an unfavorable reaction.

  3. Question? A Defendant is charged with multiple offenses in multiple counties and all charges are ultimately dismissed. Offense dates are within 12 months, beginning to end, of these offenses. Is this D entitled to expunge each of the dismissed cases under 15A-146 assuming there is no prior expunction under 15A-145?

  4. Yes. The logistics can be a little cumbersome, but legally a person is entitled to an expunction of all dismissed charges for offenses allegedly committed within a 12-month period, whether they arose in one county or multiple counties (assuming the other preconditions are met). For a discussion of how to handle this situation, see the discussion in the Relief Guide at https://www.sog.unc.edu/resources/microsites/relief-criminal-conviction/dismissal-or-finding-not-guilty-misdemeanors-felonies-and-certain-infractions.

  5. Thanks for this helpful analysis! Any thoughts on using §15A-145.2 for expungement of a dismissal obtained through a §90-96 agreement vs. using §15A-146? It seems to me that §15A-146 should apply to *any* dismissal (and it’s much easier to do on your own, without a laywer), but in my local jurisdiction, there seems to be the position that §15A-145.2 must be used for §90-96 case expungements.

  6. I believe that a person may use G.S. 15A-146 to expunge a discharge and dismissal, also called a conditional discharge, obtained under G.S. 90-96. I reach that conclusion for the following reasons: (1) G.S. 15A-146 authorizes expunctions of dismissals, and a discharge and dismissal is a form of dismissal; (2) the expunction statutes provide cumulative forms of relief in the absence of limiting language, and no language precludes use of G.S. 15A-146 to expunge a discharge and dismissal; (3) G.S. 15A-146 previously contained language that appeared to bar use of that statute to expunge a disposition obtained under G.S. 90-96, but the General Assembly eliminated that limitation; and (4) the General Assembly recently amended G.S. 15A-146(d) to impose a $175 fee for an expunction under G.S. 15A-146 of a conditional discharge, which suggests that the General Assembly recognized the availability of such relief. For a further discussion of this issue, including links to pertinent authority, see the discussion of Types of Dismissals in my Relief Guide at https://www.sog.unc.edu/resources/microsites/relief-criminal-conviction/types-dismissals.

  7. John,
    So, a Defendant can get multiple dismissals expunged under 15A-146(a1) [including drug offenses] and then petition for an expunction under 15A-145.2(b) for an offense that was dismissed? Is this what you mean by a ‘path to additional relief’?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *