Frequently in our practice we come across a common misconception-background checks only show convictions, not charges. This could not be further from the truth. Each and every time you are charged with a crime, it is reflected on your record. This is true from a simple traffic infraction to a felony. It does not matter that the charges were dismissed or the charged individual was found to be not guilty.
This is where expunctions (also called expungements) come into play. Expunctions are a tool within the law to clean records. Some of these charges (i.e. simple traffic infractions) are not worth an expunction, but many charges (i.e. DWI’s, misdemeanors and felonies) are worth an expunction.
Why Are Expunctions Important?
We come across many reasons why our clients want to clean their records, but here are the most common reasons:
- Having background checks done by schools, potential employers, etc.,
- Experiencing difficulty with getting a job,
- Being falsely accused of a crime,
- Desiring to have a “clean record,”
- Experiencing embarrassment, and
- Wanting to put the past behind and moving forward in life.
We have found, in our years of practice, that many potential employers do not understand how to read the background check and/or do not understand the difference between charges and convictions. Frequently, it is assumed that if a charge comes back on a background check, it means a person was convicted. Additionally, some employers who, understand background checks, voice concerns about hiring an individual who was in a situation to get criminal charges in the first place.
What is the difference between a charge and a conviction?
Charge: Formal accusation from the State of North Carolina alleging that you have committed a crime. The accusation only has to meet a probable cause standard for someone to receive charges.
Conviction: Verdict that an accused individual is guilty of the charge(s), either through a plea or trial. Guilt has to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. It is a much higher burden of proof than probable cause.
Who is eligible for an expunction/expungement?
· Any individual whose outcome of a charge is anything other than guilty – No Conviction.
· Certain individuals who have a conviction but meet specific criteria as outlined by North Carolina law.
North Carolina has recently changed its laws to allow a person to expunge all charges on their record that were dismissed or found to be not guilty. The law previously allowed for only one expunction in a lifetime. Therefore, any charges can be expunged if they were:
· Voluntarily Dismissed
· Deferred Dismissed (Requires an additional fee to the State of North Carolina)
· No Probable Cause was found
· Acquitted (Not Guilty)
Who is eligible for an expunction/expungement with a conviction?
The law in North Carolina also has changed for expunctions of certain convictions. Individuals who are eligible for this type of expunction must meet specific criteria. If all criteria are not met, an expunction will not be granted. Only one of these expunctions will be granted in a lifetime.
· No other misdemeanor or felony convictions (other than traffic violations) before or after the conviction you want expunged. This basically means that the conviction you want expunged needs to be the only conviction on your record. However, you can have other charges on your record that did not result in a conviction.
· Wait 10 years for a felony conviction and 5 years for a misdemeanor conviction from the date of conviction.
· You fully completed your sentence (incarceration, probation, etc.).
· No outstanding warrants or pending criminal cases.
If these criteria are met, the conviction you want expunged also has to meet specific criteria. Generally speaking, no Class A-G felonies or A1 misdemeanors will be eligible. Other types of serious drug offenses, sex offenses, assault offenses, and DWI are not eligible as well.
You will need an attorney for this type of expunction to determine eligibility, draft affidavits, and go in front of a court on your behalf.
Consulting with an experienced attorney like those at Greenwood Law will help you to navigate these eligibility requirements. Expunction/Expungement law can be difficult to understand. Having an experienced attorney like those at Greenwood Law will ensure that your expunction is done correctly and as quickly as possible because we have a lot of experience. Please call us today at 336-794-6138 to know your rights and eligibility.