Why it is important to expunge a dismissed North Carolina criminal charge, and how to do it yourself

Posted by Sean P. CecilJul 07, 20201 Comment

It would be easy to assume that once a North Carolina criminal charge is dismissed there is nothing more to be done. However, even dismissed charges show up on background checks that have become routine in employment, housing, and other decisions. Some background checks might even show, for instance, that a charge was dismissed because the subject completed diversion. It might be fair for the prospective employer in that situation to assume that the case was dismissed not because the subject did not commit a crime but because they jumped through the right hoops. That's not a great look, and might cause them to choose another candidate. 

It is my strong advice that almost everyone* should petition the court to expunge** a dismissed charge as soon as possible. This can be achieved quite easily, with or without a lawyer. I myself will get a dismissed case expunged super cheap. 

To petition the court for expunction of a dismissed charge, go to the AOC Form CR 287 and either download or fill in the form online.  To complete the form, you will need the case number and the (former) defendant's full name, date of birth, social security number, and driver's license number.  You will also need the name of the criminal charge, the date of the incident that led to the charge, and the date that it was dismissed. Finally, you will need to include the information for the law enforcement agency that issued the citation or made the arrest, and if you were booked, the information for the local sheriff's department. 

The petition must be filed in the same county and court  the criminal charge was filed. If the dismissal was the result of successful completion of a diversion (such as a 90-96, deferral agreement, conditional discharge, etc.) a filing fee of $175.00 will be required unless the subject has previously been determined to be indigent or accompanies the petition with a Petition to Proceed as Indigent. If you were represented by appointed counsel, ask that lawyer to help you with the petition- they can help you avoid the filing fee by certifying that they were appointed to represent you on the Petition to Proceed as Indigent; otherwise that form must be notarized. 

Once you have the correct forms filled out and signed, take them to the clerk of the court where the charge was originally filed and file the Petition to expunge. Bring two copies, and keep one with a clerk's date stamp. Keep close track of the extra copy, because if the expunction petition is granted, the extra copy and the Order of Expunction should be the only record of the criminal allegations remaining. Once an expunction is granted, several rights attach, including the right to not have arrest or other information be reported by background check companies in pre-employment or other criminal history reports. (See, generally, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. section 1681, and N.C. Gen. Stat. 15A-152.)

Hopefully soon, dismissed cases will be automatically expunged by law and will not continue to haunt folks. It is not clear whether that will apply to past charges that were dismissed; this seems unlikely because of the administrative costs involved. The bottom line is that EVERY dismissed charge should be expunged as soon as possible! Feel free to give me a call if you have any questions about this article, or want an old charge expunged. 

* I understand that expunction may actually hurt some folks in certain immigration situations, so for non-citizens it would be a safe bet that they should seek immigration counsel before, during AND after resolution of a North Carolina criminal case.

** Expungement and expunction are interchangeable for the purpose of this article. 

 Edit 1/26/2021: The appropriate form has been altered to because the law changed as of December 2020. The link has been updated above.