As in recent sessions, the General Assembly remained active in revising North Carolina’s expunction laws. The biggest changes came in S.L. 2021-118 (S 301), as amended by section 2.3 of S.L. 2021-167 (H 761). The legislation expanded the opportunity for a person to expunge older convictions of “nonviolent” felonies but with complex eligibility conditions. This post is a first stab at analyzing that legislation. At the end of the post are short summaries of other 2021 legislation revising North Carolina’s expunction laws. Continue reading
Tag Archives: expunction
All the Expunction Developments through 2020
I am happy to announce the completion of the 2020 Edition of my online guide to expunctions and other relief from a criminal conviction in North Carolina. It took me a while to dissect and incorporate all the changes into the previous, 2018 online edition. (It would have taken far longer to update the guide without the patient and painstaking work of Owen Dubose of the School’s publications division.) If I missed anything or got anything wrong, please let me know. Here is what you’ll find in the new edition. Continue reading →
A Second Chance in North Carolina through Expanded Criminal Record Clearance
North Carolina continues to make gradual strides in helping people clear their criminal records and enhance their opportunities going forward. On June 25, 2020, the Governor signed the Second Chance Act, S.L. 2020-35 (S 562), which passed the General Assembly unanimously. The Second Chance Act expands expunction opportunities and streamlines the process for people trying to clear their records. The product of negotiation and compromise, it reflects the interests of prosecutors, law enforcement, and court administrators as well. The act illustrates many of the record clearance issues being considered around the country, including automatic expunction of nonconviction records (to begin in North Carolina at the end of 2021), removal of barriers to expunctions of nonconviction records (most notably, no longer will prior convictions, whether for a felony or misdemeanor, be a bar), somewhat greater opportunities to expunge older convictions if “nonviolent,” and greater access by prosecutors and law enforcement to expunged case information. This summary does not try to explore the many nooks and crannies in the legislation. It is a first pass at describing the changes. Continue reading →
Much of the conversation at one of the first Juvenile Jurisdiction Advisory Committee meetings I attended centered on “doughnut hole” youth. The meeting participants were discussing the long pause between when raise the age legislation passed in June of 2017 until the time it would take effect in December of 2019. Many 16- and 17-year-old youth would continue to be convicted in criminal court for things that the legislature had already determined should be juvenile offenses for youth their age. Caught in between passage and implementation, these kids were in the “doughnut hole.” The legislature included a remedy for these youth, and many others, in the Second Chance Act (S562) that was ratified on June 17, 2020. Certain misdemeanor and Class H and I felony convictions for offenses committed before raise the age took effect and when the person was 16 or 17, can now be expunged. This new expunction opportunity is available to any person with an existing conviction from the age of 16 or 17 that would now fall under juvenile jurisdiction and not just the young people who were caught in the doughnut hole. Continue reading →
Relief Guide 2017
Expunging criminal record information can be like removing ants from under your refrigerator. Just when you think you’ve eliminated all the ants/information, there’s another trail. That’s how a talented attorney in this field described the process in her article of the same name here. It’s also an apt description for figuring out the legal requirements, procedures, and forms for obtaining an expunction, in North Carolina and elsewhere. Here’s my latest effort, the 2017 Guide to Relief from a Criminal Conviction in North Carolina.
Appeals of Expunction Decisions
A short opinion issued recently by the Court of Appeals, State v. J.C., ___ N.C. App. ___ (Sept. 19, 2017), concerns two open questions about appellate review of a trial judge’s expunction decision. How can a party obtain appellate review? And, how can the person who petitions for an expunction make sure that the records of the appellate proceeding remain confidential? The Court’s opinion does not expressly address those issues, but the case provides guidance on both. Continue reading →
Expanded Expunction Opportunities
In S.L. 2017-195 (S 445), the General Assembly made several changes to North Carolina’s expunction laws. Most importantly, the act expands the availability of relief in two ways: it reduces the waiting period to expunge older nonviolent felony and misdemeanor convictions, and it allows a person to obtain an expunction of a dismissal regardless of whether the person received any prior expunctions. Because the act states that it applies to petitions filed on or after December 1, 2017, the revised statutes apply to offenses, charges, and convictions that occur before, on, or after December 1, 2017. The tradeoff for this expansion is that information about expunctions, maintained by the Administrative Office of the Courts and otherwise confidential, is available for review by the prosecutor and useable to calculate prior record level at sentencing if the person is convicted of a subsequent offense. This part of the act applies to expunctions granted on or after July 1, 2018. The act makes other changes to create more consistency and uniformity in the expunction process. Continue reading →
Hurry Up and Have that DWI Expunged
If you’ve been dragging your feet about having an old DWI expunged, you had better hurry up. A law enacted last week removes convictions for offenses involving impaired driving from the types of convictions that may be expunged. The change is effective for petitions filed or pending on or after December 1, 2015. So if you are eligible for such an expunction, your window of opportunity is closing fast. Read on to find about the other changes S.L. 2015-150 makes to the state’s DWI laws. Continue reading →
I have been working on a theory of everything . . . for expunctions. It’s a small corner of the criminal justice universe, but a critical one for people with past convictions. The subject can be maddeningly complex, at times a seemingly impenetrable black hole. I have been trying to master the mysteries of our expunction statutes in updating my 2012 Guide to Relief from a Criminal Conviction (which you can find here, but beware of subsequent changes in the law).
Without further physics puns, here’s one of the questions I’ve looked at: Can a person expunge a misdemeanor conviction under G.S. 15A-145.5 for driving while impaired (DWI)? As the statute is currently worded, the answer is yes. Continue reading →
A new guide on obtaining relief from a criminal conviction—Relief from a Criminal Conviction: A Digital Guide to Expunctions, Certificates of Relief, and Other Procedures in North Carolina—is now available from the School of Government. This online tool explains in one place the mechanisms available in North Carolina for obtaining relief from a criminal conviction, including expunctions, certificates of relief, and petitions to restore rights or eliminate restrictions.
Features of this guide include:
- Keyword searching
- Links to internal and external cross-references
- Printable pages throughout the site
- Accessibility from anywhere your electronic device can connect to the Internet
The guide is available at no charge here.
The new guide supplements the School’s Collateral Consequences Assessment Tool (C-CAT), an online tool created to help attorneys, service providers, affected individuals, and others assess the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction, such as bars to employment and professional licensure and loss of public benefits, among others. [Editor’s note: C-CAT was previously introduced on this blog here.]
To use C-CAT, you must go through a simple subscription process. The free subscription period, which was initially set to expire December 1, 2012, has been extended indefinitely. (A subscription will NOT convert automatically to a paid subscription. Should the School decide to charge for C-CAT, you will have the opportunity to decide whether to buy a paid subscription.)
You can subscribe to C-CAT at no charge here.
For your convenience, you can access both C-CAT and the new Relief from a Criminal Conviction Guide at the above website. (You may use the relief guide without subscribing to C-CAT.)
If you have questions or suggestions about either tool, please let us know.