How Long Does a Felony Stay on Your Record in North Carolina?

how long does a felony stay on your record

Having a felony conviction on your record can feel like a weight that follows you everywhere – from job applications to housing opportunities and beyond.

But in North Carolina, a felony will stay on your criminal record permanently unless you are eligible for and obtain an expungement.

Expungement – the legal process of sealing or destroying your criminal records – provides a path forward and allows you to leave your past mistakes behind for good. At McMinn, Logan & Gray, PLLC, we’ve helped countless individuals through the expungement process and leave their past mistakes behind. Here’s what to know.

What is Expungement, and Why is it Important?

Expungement is the legal process of sealing or destroying your criminal records, essentially clearing your slate. With an expunged conviction, you can truthfully answer “no” on applications that ask about past arrests or convictions.

This opens doors that may have previously been closed, allowing you to pursue better jobs, housing, education, and more without the stigma of a criminal record holding you back.

Eligibility for Felony Expungement in North Carolina

In our state, you may be eligible to expunge one non-violent felony conviction after waiting ten years from the date of conviction or the completion of any sentence imposed, whichever is later. However, certain violent felonies and drug crimes are ineligible, and having additional felony convictions on your record can also affect your eligibility.

The rules for misdemeanor expungements are a bit more lenient, with a shorter 5-year waiting period and the potential to expunge multiple misdemeanor convictions under specific circumstances outlined in the First Step Act.

North Carolina’s Expungement Laws and Process

North Carolina’s expungement laws are complex, with specific statutes (like N.C.G.S. 15A-145.5) that outline the requirements and procedures. The process typically involves filing a petition with the court, along with affidavits and a filing fee (currently $175 for most cases).

The court will then notify the district attorney, who may choose to file objections. If no objections are raised and you meet all eligibility criteria, the judge will grant an expungement order, effectively sealing or destroying your criminal records.

While the process may sound straightforward, navigating the intricacies of the law and ensuring you have the proper documentation can be challenging. That’s where our team comes in – we’ve helped clients through countless expungement cases and know how to efficiently guide you through each step.

Changes Under the Second Chance Act and First Step Act

Recent legislative changes have expanded expungement opportunities in North Carolina. The Second Chance Act, effective December 2021, allows for the automatic expungement of certain dismissed charges and not-guilty verdicts without the need to file a petition.

Additionally, the First Step Act provides a path for expunging multiple misdemeanor convictions after a 7-year waiting period, granting a true “second chance” to those who have maintained good behavior.

Expanded Opportunities for Expungements

Beyond felony and misdemeanor expungements, North Carolina also allows for the expungement of certain juvenile records and provides relief for older, lower-level felony charges.

If you were charged with a misdemeanor or low-level felony (Class H or I) before December 1, 2019, and have completed your sentence, you may be eligible to have those records expunged – giving you a fresh start.

Life After an Expungement – Regaining Opportunities

An expungement can be truly life-changing, allowing you to regain opportunities that may have been out of reach. With a clean record, you’ll no longer have to disclose your past conviction on applications for employment, housing, education, or professional licenses.

However, it’s important to note that expungements are not a perfect solution. Some background checks may still uncover sealed records, and certain agencies (like law enforcement or the military) may have access to your expunged files. But for most purposes, an expungement can provide the fresh start you’ve been seeking.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I expunge a violent felony conviction?

Unfortunately, no. Under North Carolina law, violent felonies are not eligible for expungement.

How much does it cost to get an expungement?

For most expungement cases, there is a filing fee of $175. However, if you’re expunging a dismissal or acquittal, there is no filing fee.

How long does the expungement process take?

The process can take up to 10 months from the time you file your petition, though many cases are resolved more quickly.

Will an expungement clear my record completely?

While an expungement will generally clear your public record, some government agencies and law enforcement may still have access to your expunged files. However, for most purposes (employment, housing, etc.), your record will appear clean.

Clear Your Record With McMinn, Logan & Gray, PLLC

If you’re ready to leave your past mistakes behind and embrace new opportunities, reach out to the experienced team at McMinn, Logan & Gray, PLLC today.

We’ll guide you through every step of the expungement process, increasing your chances of success and helping you reclaim your future. Contact us now to schedule a consultation and take the first step toward a fresh start.

Author Bio

Derek M. Gray

Derek Gray is a Partner of McMinn, Logan & Gray, a North Carolina criminal defense law firm. With more than 15 years of experience in criminal defense, he has zealously represented clients in various legal matters, including DUIs, misdemeanors, felonies, domestic violence, and other criminal charges.

Derek received his Juris Doctor from the North Carolina Central School of Law in 2007 and is a member of the North Carolina State Bar Association. With his experience as a former Assistant District Attorney, he has represented more than 1,000 criminal defense clients in North Carolina and received more than 100 5-star Google ratings.

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