Relief from a Criminal Conviction (2023 Edition)

Misdemeanor Convictions for Offenses Committed before Age 18 or 21

G.S. 15A-145(a) and (b) authorize expunctions of misdemeanor convictions based on the age of the person at the time of the offense (see Table 1). A person who satisfies the requirements may obtain an expunction of multiple convictions if they arose out of the same transaction or occurrence or were consolidated for trial or judgment.[1]

For most offenses, the person must have committed the offense before turning 18. For misdemeanor possession of beer or wine by an underage person in violation of G.S. 18B-302(b)(1), an expunction is available if the offense occurred before the person turned 21. This relief is available if the person committed the offense at age 19 or 20, which is a Class 3 misdemeanor, or if the person committed the offense when under age 19, a Class 1 misdemeanor.[2]

G.S. 15A-145 contains a waiting period with two parts. It states that an expunction petition cannot be filed “earlier than: (i) two years after the date of the conviction or (ii) the completion of any period of probation, whichever occurs later.” Under this formulation, a person always must wait two years after being convicted before petitioning for an expunction. If the person has not completed probation within that time, he or she must wait the additional time it takes to complete probation. This provision does not require the person to wait an additional two years after completing probation. For a further discussion of waiting periods, see Appendixes: Frequently Asked Questions (Waiting Periods).

As in many of the expunction statutes, G.S. 15A-145 treats traffic violations differently than other criminal convictions. Under G.S. 15A-145, a conviction of a traffic violation is neither an offense subject to expunction nor a bar to expunction of other convictions. This guide takes the view that the term “traffic violation,” as used in the expunction statutes, means any misdemeanor conviction under Chapter 20 of the General Statutes unless otherwise specified. To clarify any ambiguity, G.S. 15A-145 was amended to state that “[n]othing in this section shall be interpreted to allow the expunction of any offense involving impaired driving as defined in G.S. 20-4.01(24a).” See S.L. 2015-150 (H 273) (amending G.S 15A-145 for petitions filed or pending on or after Dec. 1, 2015). The meaning of traffic violation, including impaired driving, is discussed further in Appendixes: Frequently Asked Questions (Traffic Violations and Driving While Impaired (DWI)).

For a discussion of the exclusion of offenses subject to sex offender registration, see Appendixes, Frequently Asked Questions (Offenses Subject to Sex Offender Registration).


Table 1. Misdemeanor Convictions for Offenses Committed before Age 18 and 21

Matters Subject to Expunction

Principal Restrictions on Expunction

Applicable Statutes and Forms

  • Conviction of
    • misdemeanor other than traffic violation committed before age 18 and, effective for petitions filed on or after Dec. 1, 2021, other than offense requiring sex offender registration, whether or not the person is currently required to register, or
    • misdemeanor possession of alcohol (malt beverages or unfortified wine) under G.S. 18B-302(b)(1) committed before age 21


  • Offense occurred before age 18 or 21, depending on offense
  • No prior felony or misdemeanor conviction other than for traffic violation
  • Petition may not be filed until completion of any probation or two years after conviction, whichever is later
  • Good behavior and no felony or misdemeanor conviction other than for traffic violation for two years after conviction
  • No outstanding restitution orders or judgments representing restitution


[1] See Opinion Letter by North Carolina Attorney General to James J. Coman, SBI Director (Oct. 13, 1995) (so stating). The findings of fact portion of the AOC form for expunctions, AOC-CR-286 (Dec. 2023), reflects this approach. Cf. In re Robinson, 172 N.C. App. 272, 275 (2005) (declining to rule on whether G.S. 15A-146(a), as then written, allowed expunction of “multiple related charges arising from a single occurrence or which have been consolidated for trial” because issue was not before the court).

[2] The General Assembly added this expunction in 1999, when it converted a possession violation from an infraction to a Class 3 misdemeanor if committed by a 19 or 20 year old. See S.L. 1999-406, sec. 7–8 (H 1135). G.S. 15A-145 goes further, allowing an expunction of a conviction of both the Class 3 misdemeanor and Class 1 misdemeanor version of the offense. In 2006, the General Assembly created the offense of consuming an alcoholic beverage by an underage person, a violation of G.S. 18B-302(b)(3), and applied the same punishments based on the defendant’s age. See S.L. 2006-253, sec. 26 (H 1048). The General Assembly did not revise the expunction statutes, however. As a result, a person convicted of possessing beer or wine under G.S. 18B-302(b)(1) may obtain an expunction if under the age of 21 at the time of offense, but a person convicted of the offense of consuming beer or wine under G.S. 18B-302(b)(3) must have been under the age of 18 because that offense is subject to the general age requirement for expunctions under G.S. 15A-145.