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Relief from a Criminal Conviction

Expunctions of Delinquency Matters

This part reviews the criteria for expunctions of delinquency proceedings—that is, proceedings in which a juvenile is alleged or adjudicated to be delinquent (see Table 20). The pertinent statutes are G.S. 7B-3200 through G.S. 7B-3202. Effective for offenses committed on or after December 1, 2015, G.S. 7B-2512 requires the court at disposition to notify the juvenile of the possibility of expunging the records of the case under G.S. 7B-3200. S.L. 2015-58 (H 879).

Generally, a delinquency adjudication is not considered a criminal conviction and therefore does not trigger the kinds of collateral consequences that follow a criminal conviction. See G.S. 7B-2412 (so stating). Records of delinquency proceedings are confidential and, unless an exception applies, may not be disclosed regardless of whether the records are expunged. See North Carolina Juvenile Defender Manual § 2.7, Confidentiality of Records (UNC School of Government, 2008). Still, expunction of court records may benefit a person who was the subject of delinquency proceedings.[1]

Because it is not a conviction, a prior delinquency adjudication should not bar an expunction of an adult criminal matter under statutes that make a prior conviction a bar. An expunction of a delinquency matter also should not bar a later expunction of most adult criminal matters. Although many adult expunction statutes make an expunction of an adult matter a bar to a later expunction—for example, G.S. 15A-145.5 bars an expunction if a person has a prior expunction under G.S. 15A-145 through G.S. 15A-145.5, which are all adult expunction statutes—only two adult statutes potentially make a prior delinquency expunction a bar. The main one is G.S. 15A-145.4, which deals with nonviolent felonies committed before age 18 and allows an expunction if a “search of the confidential record of expunctions conducted by the Administrative Office of the Courts shows that the person has not been previously granted an expunction.” See also G.S. 15A-145.6 (containing similar language for expunction of prostitution offenses). The confidential records of the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) include expunctions of delinquency matters. See G.S. 7B-3200(i) (requiring clerk of court to report delinquency expunctions to AOC). It is not clear, however, that the General Assembly intended for an expunction of a delinquency matter to bar relief under G.S. 15A-145.4 or whether it merely used the above language as a shorthand way of referring to all of the possible adult expunctions. Other parts of the statute support the latter interpretation. G.S. 15A-145.4(d)(2) allows the court to review the petitioner’s juvenile record in considering an expunction petition under that statute, but it does not require the court to deny the petition if the petitioner has a juvenile record. See supra Expunctions on Basis of Age: Nonviolent Felony Convictions for Offenses Committed before Age 18. It would be a curious result if a person with a juvenile record could obtain an expunction under G.S. 15A-145.4 but could not obtain one with an expunged record.

Notwithstanding that a prior delinquency expunction should have a limited effect, it may present a practical obstacle to an adult expunction because the AOC appears to report all prior expunctions to a judge considering an adult expunction petition. See, e.g., AOC-CR-266 (Oct. 2015) (indicating on expunction form for drug conviction, under report section on second page, that AOC reports all prior expunctions to court). A judge might take this information into account even though the adult expunction statutes do not make a juvenile expunction a consideration. In contrast, if the petitioner does not obtain a delinquency expunction, the court ordinarily will not obtain any information about prior delinquency proceedings, which are confidential except when a person is requesting an expunction under G.S. 15A-145.4.

As in many other expunction statutes, G.S. 7B-3200 treats traffic violations differently than other criminal convictions. An adjudication or conviction of a traffic violation is not a bar to expunction of a delinquency adjudication. This guide takes the position that the term “traffic violation,” as used in the expunction statutes, means any misdemeanor under Chapter 20 of the General Statutes unless otherwise specified. 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 further discussion of expunctions of juvenile proceedings, see North Carolina Juvenile Defender Manual Ch. 17, Expunction of Juvenile Records (UNC School of Government, 2008). See also Expunction Toolkit, a collection of materials on expunctions on the website of the North Carolina Office of the Juvenile Defender.

Table 20. Delinquency Adjudications and Dismissals without Adjudications

Matters Subject to Expunction

Principal Restrictions on Expunction

Applicable Statutes and Forms

  • Adjudication of delinquency for offense other than one that would be Class A through E felony if committed by adult
  • Petitioner must be at least age 18
  • Petition may not be filed until at least 18 months after petitioner was released from juvenile court jurisdiction
  • Good behavior and no subsequent delinquency adjudication or conviction of felony or misdemeanor other than for traffic violation
  • Dismissal of
    • juvenile petition alleging delinquency, or
    • juvenile petition alleging undisciplined status
  • Petitioner has reached
    • age 16 for expunction of records of dismissed delinquency petition, or
    • age 18 for expunction of records of dismissed undisciplined petition

 



[1] For a discussion of potential collateral consequences of a delinquency matter, see Expunction Toolkit on the website of the North Carolina Office of the Juvenile Defender. Fingerprints and photographs of a juvenile taken pursuant to G.S. 7B-2102 are not eligible for expunction under G.S. 7B-3200. The custodian must destroy the records, however, if the conditions in G.S. 7B-2102(e) are met. Other nontestimonial identification procedures are subject to destruction as provided in G.S. 7B-2108. See North Carolina Juvenile Defender Manual § 2.7E, Nontestimonial Identification Records (UNC School of Government, 2008). A juvenile still may be required to disclose an expunged delinquency adjudication if a respondent or witness in a delinquency proceeding. See G.S. 7B-3201(b); G.S. 7B-3202.