Relief from a Criminal Conviction (2023 Edition)

Convictions of Offenses by Human Trafficking Victims

G.S. 15A-145.9 authorizes expunction of convictions of offenses by victims of human trafficking (see Table 19). This type of expunction is available to a person who that meets the definition of the term “victim” in G.S. 14-43.10 or is a victim of a severe form of trafficking under the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act (22 U.S.C. § 7102(13)). See generally Sarah Martinson, Erasing Criminal Records Lets Trafficking Victims Rebuild, Law 360 (Feb. 7, 2021) (discussing benefits of relief for trafficking victims).

There is no limit on the number of convictions that may be expunged and no requirement that they occur during the same session of court. There are no disqualifiers for prior convictions or prior expunctions and no waiting period. G.S. 15A-145.9(e) states that the court may call on a probation officer for additional investigation of the person’s conduct since the conviction and may review any other information the court deems relevant; however, G.S. 15A-145.9(f) requires the court to grant the expunction if the person meets the criteria in the table below, which require that the person not have any outstanding warrants but do not otherwise include a requirement of good conduct after the conviction.

G.S. 15A-145.9 excludes convictions of “traffic offenses” from the offenses eligible for an expunction. Most expunction statutes use the term “traffic violation,” which in this guide’s view means a misdemeanor conviction under Chapter 20 of the General Statutes. See Appendixes: Frequently Asked Questions (Traffic Violations and Driving While Impaired (DWI)). Although the General Assembly may have intended to use the terms interchangeably, in this instance the term “traffic offense” may cover both felony and misdemeanor convictions. The reason is that the list of exclusions in G.S. 15A-145.9 is patterned after the list of exclusions from the definition of nonviolent offense in G.S. 15A-145.4 and G.S. 15A-145.5, which excludes any offense involving impaired driving as defined in G.S. 20-4.01(24a) as well as felony offenses involving a commercial vehicle. The legislative drafters of G.S. 15A-145.9 may have used the term “traffic offense” as a shorthand way to refer to impaired driving and other traffic offenses, whether misdemeanors or felonies.

As in some other relief statutes, eligibility for an expunction depends on the class of the offense to be expunged. The question has arisen whether the court should consider the class of offense at the time of offense or the class at the time of the petition for expunction. This guide’s view is that the class of offense at the time of offense controls. See infra Appendixes: Frequently Asked Questions (Offense Class)

G.S. 15A-1415(b)(10) provides that a person may make a motion for appropriate relief (MAR) to vacate a nonviolent offense as defined in G.S.15A-145.9 if the defendant's participation in the offense was a result of having been a victim of human trafficking under G.S.14-43.11, sexual servitude under G.S.14-43.13, or the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act (22 U.S.C. § 7102(13)). G.S. 15A-1416.1 sets forth the procedure for making a motion for appropriate relief on this ground.


Table 19. Convictions of Offenses by Human Trafficking Victims

Matters Subject to Expunction

Principal Restrictions on Expunction

Applicable Statutes and Forms

  • Conviction of nonviolent misdemeanor or felony as defined in G.S. 15A-145.9(a), excluding
    • a Class A through G felony or Class A1 misdemeanor;
    • an offense that includes assault as an element;
    • an offense requiring sex offender registration, whether or not the person is currently required to register;
    • an offense involving certain sex-related or stalking offenses;
    • an offense involving certain racially motivated offenses;
    • an offense under G.S. 14-401.16 (contaminating food or drink);
    • a traffic offense; and
    • an attempt to commit any of the above offenses
  • Person was coerced or deceived into committing the offense as a direct result of having been a trafficking victim
  • No outstanding warrants
  • No outstanding restitution orders or civil judgments representing amounts ordered for restitution