Expunction is the legal term for what many people refer to as “expungement.” The terms are interchangeable and refer to a legal resolution where non-violent charges can be removed from a person’s record.
Whether an individual is eligible for expunction depends on the severity of the charges. Typically expunction cases deal with theft of property, such as misdemeanor larceny, which is the most common.
Misdemeanor or felony drug charges are also common offenses for which individuals seek expunction.
At a glance, here is some minimum criteria for expunction eligibility for convictions:
- It must be the individual’s first nonviolent felony or misdemeanor
- For a single misdemeanor, the individual must have served their sentence and have had 5 years of good behavior since the date of the conviction.
- For felony convictions, the individual must have served their sentence and have had 10 years of good behavior from the date of the completion of their sentence.
- The individual has no outstanding warrants or pending criminal cases against them.
As you can see, it takes time to become eligible for expunction, and it’s not something available to someone who was just convicted of a misdemeanor or felony.
Any charges that have been dismissed can be expunged. In fact, starting semi-recently in NC this process is automatic when charges are dismissed.
Exceptions & Where Expunction Is Not Viable
Expunction is only available for those charged with nonviolent crimes. Any violent crimes, such as armed robbery, assault, driving while impaired, and certain types of drug charges are not eligible for expunction.
The distinction between violent and nonviolent is important for another reason. When it comes to cases of embezzlement, for instance, it’s only considered nonviolent if the amount embezzled is under $100,000.
Once the amount embezzled is $100,000 or more, the crime is then legally considered a violent crime – whether there was actual violence or not. (This is because the crime becomes a Class C felony rather than a Class H.)
As such, embezzlement charges over $100,000 are not eligible for expunction.
Other exceptions include:
- Class A-G felonies, because these are considered serious offenses that cannot be expunged.
- Offenses that require sexual offender registration.
- Felonies that involve possession of methamphetamines, heroin, or possession with intent to sell cocaine.
- Charges where a commercial vehicle was used in the commission of the crime
Specific Ways Expunctions Help Individuals
The top reasons people seek expunctions, or expungements, tend to be because their felony charge prevents them from obtaining work.
Transportation jobs that require a CDL license, anything that involves handling money – such as working at a bank or serving as a treasurer – are all jobs someone with a felony cannot get. Jobs in security are also difficult or impossible to attain for those with a felony charge.
In addition, anyone with a felony cannot legally own or purchase a firearm. Many people realize this about handguns but may not realize it also includes things like simple hunting rifles.
For these types of circumstances, it makes sense to seek an expunction because removing the felony then opens up a lot of opportunities.