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Relief from a Criminal Conviction

Types of Expunctions and Their Requirements

This guide groups expunctions of adult criminal matters into four main categories, corresponding to the main types of expunctions available under North Carolina law. The four categories are

  • convictions and other matters based on the age of the person at the time of the offense or the age of the offense;
  • dismissals, diversions, and other dispositions that do not constitute a conviction;
  • drug offenses; and
  • offenses involving certain circumstances, such as prostitution and gang offenses.

The guide discusses the different types of expunctions within each category, their basic preconditions, and the impact of recent legislative changes. A table with this information accompanies each type of expunction and identifies the applicable statutes and forms for requesting an expunction. The categories are not mutually exclusive. A matter may be subject to expunction on more than one ground. And, a person may receive more than one expunction if he or she meets the applicable statutory requirements. See John Rubin, How Many Expunctions Can a Person Get, N.C. Crim. L., UNC Sch. of Gov't Blog (Nov. 15, 2016) (discussing possible combinations of statutes allowing more than expunction).

The person requesting an expunction (the petitioner) must meet two basic requirements. First, the petitioner must show that the matter to be expunged is one covered by the particular statute. For example, G.S. 15A-145 provides for expunction of misdemeanor convictions for offenses committed before a person turned 18 years old. Second, the petitioner must show that he or she meets the preconditions for an expunction of that kind—for example, having no prior convictions of certain offenses or no prior expunctions under certain statutes. The sequence in which a person petitions for an expunction may make a difference in light of those preconditions. For example, a person may obtain an expunction under G.S. 15A-146, which authorizes expunction of dismissals, and later obtain an expunction under G.S. 15A-145, which authorizes expunction of misdemeanor convictions, because G.S. 15A-145 does not list an expunction under G.S. 15A-146 as a bar. The reverse is not true. A person may not obtain an expunction under G.S. 15A-145 and later obtain one under G.S. 15A-146 because the latter statute lists a G.S. 15A-145 expunction as a bar. See infra Appendixes: Frequently Asked Questions (Expunction of Misdemeanor Conviction and Dismissal).