Please use this summary of North Carolina expunctions as an initial guide to understanding the criteria and filing requirements of the various expunctions in North Carolina. This summary is intended to provide accurate, general information. However, this summary does not fully address the provisions of each expunction statute. In addition, laws and legal procedures are subject to frequent change and differing interpretations, and the NC Justice Center cannot ensure the information in this summary is current, particularly beyond 2019.

2019 Summary of NC Expunctions

A CRIMINAL RECORD often gives rise to significant barriers to gainful employment, affordable housing, family unification, and a variety of other benefits and opportunities essential to productive citizenship. For assistance in understanding the statutory barriers to particular benefits or opportunities that may arise due to a specific criminal record, please use the UNC School of Government’s Collateral Consequences Assessment Tool.

In North Carolina, an expunction is the destruction of a criminal record by court order. An expunction (also called an “expungement”) of a criminal record restores the individual, in the view of the law, to the status he or she occupied before the criminal record existed. With rare exception, when an individual is granted an expunction, he or she may truthfully and without committing perjury or false statement deny or refuse to acknowledge that the criminal incident occurred. The primary exception to this is for purposes of federal immigration. Please see North Carolina General Statutes §15A-151 for other exceptions.

Contrary to common belief, opportunities to expunge a criminal record in North Carolina are not common. Instead, criminal records eligible for expunction in North Carolina are generally limited to the following three categories:

  • A first-time conviction of a nonviolent offense
  • A first-time conviction of certain offenses committed before age 18/22
  • A charge that was dismissed or disposed “not guilty”

This summary provides details of the following twelve expunction statutes:

  • Juvenile Record………………………………… NCGS §7B-3200 .…………… [p. 5]
  • Misdemeanor Under Age 18…………………… NCGS §15A-145 ………..…… [p. 6]
  • Gang Offense Under Age 18…………………… NCGS §15A-145.1…………… [p. 6]
  • Controlled Substance Under Age 22 …………… NCGS §15A-145.2………….. [p. 7]
  • Toxic Vapors Under Age 22………………………. NCGS §15A-145.3………….. [p. 8]
  • Nonviolent Felony Under Age 18……….……… NCGS §15A-145.4………….. [p. 9]
  • Nonviolent Offense……………………………… NCGS §15A-145.5…………… [p. 10]
  • Prostitution Offense……………………………… NCGS §15A-145.6…………… [p. 11]
  • Cond. Discharge for Threat of Mass Violence….. NCGS § 15A-145.7……………[p. 11]
  • Charge Resulting in Dismissal or Not Guilty ….. NCGS §15A-146…………….. [p. 12]
  • Identity Theft……………………………………. NCGS §15A-147…………….. [p. 12]
  • DNA Records……………………………………. NCGS §15A-148…………….. [p. 13]
  • Pardon of Innocence……………………………. NCGS §15A-149…………….. [p. 13]

In addition, this summary provides the following information and resources:

  • Overview of Recent Legislative Reforms ……………..……………………….……….[p. 4]
  • Certificate of Relief……………………………. NCGS §15A-173……………… [p. 14]
  • Indigent Fee Waiver ………………………………………………………………….. [p. 14]
  • Petitioning for Expunction of a Criminal Record…………………………………… [p. 3]
  • Eligibility Overview………………………………………………………………….. [p. 15]
  • Reviewing a Criminal Record to Determine Expunction Eligibility: Decision Tree… [p. 15]
  • Completing Form AOC-CR-281 Using a CIPRS Report…………………………….. [p. 16]
  • How to Read an ACIS Criminal Record Report……………………………………….[p. 17]
  • Petition for Expunction of Nonviolent Offense, Sample……………………………… [p. 18]
  • Petition for Expunction of Dismissed Charges, Sample……………………………… [p. 19]
  • Petitioner’s Affidavit, Worksheet…………………………………………………….. [p. 20]
  • Petitioner’s Affidavit…………….……………………………………………………. [p. 21]
  • Affidavit of Good Character, Worksheet……………………………………………… [p. 22]
  • Affidavit of Good Character…………….…………………………………………….. [p. 23]

Also included in this summary are answers to questions regarding terms, interpretations, and procedures that frequently arise in petitioning for relief under North Carolina’s expunction laws. These frequently asked questions are located on pages 24 through 29.

The primary goal of this expunction guide is to increase access to expunction relief for North Carolinians with criminal records by providing members of the North Carolina bar with the information necessary to practice in this area of law. While the number of individuals eligible for expunction is limited by relatively rigid eligibility criteria, the vast majority of individuals actually eligible for expunction relief do not obtain it. The number of expunction orders in FY 2016/2017 is displayed below and startlingly small relative to the estimated 25 percent of adults in our state with a criminal record. If you are an attorney and find this guide helpful, I urge you to consider assisting low-income North Carolinians with  pro bono or reduced-fee legal services.