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Relief from a Criminal Conviction

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).[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.[2]

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. The General Assembly added this provision in 1999, when it converted the 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). The revision to G.S. 15A-145 goes further, allowing an expunction of a conviction of a Class 3 misdemeanor as well as a conviction of the Class 1 misdemeanor version of the offense, which is by a person under 19 years old. 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 comparable 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.

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. The 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. Effective for petitions filed or pending on or after December 1, 2015, S.L. 2015-150 (H 273) amends G.S. 15A-145 to confirm that a person may not obtain an expunction of a conviction of an offense involving impaired driving as defined in G.S. 20-4.01(24a). The meaning of traffic violation, including impaired driving, is discussed further in Appendixes: Frequently Asked Questions (Traffic Violations and Driving While Impaired (DWI)).

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, 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] The 2009 Consolidation Act, S.L. 2009-577 (H 1329), revised G.S. 15A-145(a) to clarify that the offense to be expunged need only have occurred before the specified age—in most instances, before the defendant turned 18 years old. Previously, the statute stated generally that the person was eligible for an expunction if he or she had not attained the indicated age, leaving it unclear whether the offense date, charging date, conviction date, or other date was controlling.