How to Expunge my Public Records in North Carolina

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In North Carolina, public records are not only maintained by the state repositories. Several independent public record vendors also keep some public records in the state, and they are publicly accessible for free or at a small cost. Typically, most public records contain personally identifying information of the persons named on them. A public record can also carry sensitive data which its subject would prefer to make confidential. In such an instance, a person can make efforts to delete their publicly available information. However, deleting a public record in North Carolina is technically impossible, but public access can be restricted. Simply put, a public record cannot be deleted but can be made private.

Having sensitive information in the public domain can be very uncomfortable. However, to remove a record from public view, the person named on it must first identify the information they want to remove. Generally, people seek to delete their public records in North Carolina mostly for the following reasons:

  • To avoid becoming victims of stalking and domestic violence.
  • To conceal data that may put them at risk.
  • To remove their juvenile arrest records, especially for minor crimes.

The best way anyone can take their public record off the public domain in North Carolina is to visit the office of their county clerk and inquire the following:

  • Which documents can be amended to bear their P. O. Box instead of residential address
  • What information can be completely removed or redacted from a record
  • What information can be changed

The county clerk will typically provide guides on how to restrict public access to a person's public record after these inquiries.

What is a Public Record in North Carolina?

In North Carolina, a public record is any document generated or received by any government agency while conducting official business. Public records are public in North Carolina to offer people the opportunity to hold the government accountable for their actions. A North Carolina public record can be in any form, including maps, letters, papers, photographs, electronic data, and audio recordings. The North Carolina Public Record Law provides a right of access to public records. The law applies to all records created or received in connection with government business transactions. Chapter 132 of the N.C Gen. Stat. defines the scope of the state's public record law. Hence, any record that comes within the purview of the statute is subject to public disclosure unless an exception provides otherwise. Some exemptions to the North Carolina Public Records Law include:

  • Trade secrets
  • State and local tax information
  • Criminal investigation records
  • Criminal intelligence information records
  • Recordings and photographs of autopsies

In North Carolina, all state, county, city, and town agencies must allow inspection of public records and issue copies where available. The public record law does not specify a particular procedure for requesting public records. If a requested public record contains confidential information, the agency may redact the private portion before disseminating it. However, no agency is required to disclose a completely confidential public record. In North Carolina, government agencies do not charge for public records inspection but charge requesters for obtaining copies. However, the fees are always reasonable. Typical public records in North Carolina include:

  • Vital records (death, birth, marriage, and divorce records)
  • Licencing records
  • Voting records
  • Criminal records
  • Arrest records
  • Court records
  • Financial records (bankruptcy, lien, and banking records)

Interested persons can apply to seal or expunge their public records in North Carolina as the need arises.

Does North Carolina allow Expungement?

Yes. Senate Bill 445, signed by Governor Roy Cooper in December 2017, permits people to get an expungement in North Carolina. Expungement is the process of erasing a charge, conviction, or arrest from a public record. When information is expunged from a person's record, they no longer have to disclose that information on a school admission or job application. The bill also reduced the waiting time required for people to become eligible for expungement. Senate Bill 562, passed in North Carolina's General Assembly in 2020, which is also called the Second Chance Act, expands eligibility for expunging non-violent criminal convictions. Expungement is also known as expunction.

How do I Expunge My Criminal Record in North Carolina?

North Carolina criminal record expungement can take a long time because of the lengthy court process involved. There are various expungement statutes in North Carolina. While some allow expungement of a wide range of offenses for a smaller group of persons, others allow only certain types of offenses to be expunged. Some other statutes permit expungement based on how a charge ended. For instance, some laws address the expungement of charges, while some speak to the expungement of convictions. The various North Carolina Statutes applies to the following records:

While some North Carolina expungement laws allow a person to file a petition for record expungement shortly after a case is over, others require waiting periods. A person who wishes to expunge their criminal record should file a petition with the clerk of court in the county where their conviction took place. The petitioner must include all charges and file numbers on the petition form. They must also provide details of their offense in the appropriate section of the petition form. The processes of expungement in North Carolina, however, vary slightly for each expungement statute. There are also a few local variations in the procedures by county.

Typically, judges hold hearings for most North Carolina criminal record expungement applications to determine whether the petitioners have changed for the better. For some, they may only review the petitioners' records and decide without court hearings. Once a judge signs an expungement order in North Carolina, the clerk of the court will provide the petitioner a copy of the order. The clerk will also serve the order on relevant government bodies. Generally, the clerk of the court and all public offices served with the expungement order will destroy all information regarding the criminal record, the expungement process, and the expungement order itself.

Although a few expungement statutes do not require a fee in North Carolina, the general filing fee is $175. An individual is allowed to file for expungement without paying the required fee but must complete the Petition To Proceed As An Indigent Form.

Will my Expungement Record Show up on a Background Check in North Carolina?

No. A person whose criminal record appears on their background check can find it hard to land gainful employment, obtain a professional license, or find a home. Employers who conduct non-FCRA compliant background checks may face severe financial fines. North Carolina expungement records do not show up on background checks. Once a person's record is expunged, everything about it, including the expungement record and order, is destroyed. Such a record will no longer appear on any public database, and the person named on it will not have to disclose it.

How to Seal a Record in North Carolina

Sealing is a process of hiding a record from the view of the general public. Certain government agencies can still see sealed records, unlike expungement that erases public information as if it never happened. In North Carolina, sealing is not the official term used for obscuring a person's record from the public. However, the process of North Carolina expungement is more or less the same as what many other states will term sealing. North Carolina arrest sealing (expungement) is possible if the arrest did not lead to a conviction

Who Can See My Sealed Record in North Carolina?

Although expungement may clear a person's name off the public domain, their criminal record does not entirely go away. An expunged record in North Carolina is accessible to law enforcement agencies and other persons or entities required under federal law to consider criminal records. This is why the term expungement is sometimes casually referred to as sealing in North Carolina. However, employers, landlords, or schools cannot see a person's expunged (sealed) record.

How to Delete Bankruptcy Records in North Carolina

Bankruptcy records are public records in North Carolina. Since bankruptcy is filed in court, it always ends up showing up on a person's credit report. Generally, once a bankruptcy record becomes public knowledge, it is hard to delete, whether legitimate or not. Filing bankruptcy in North Carolina usually wipes out a person's debt with a few exceptions. It does not clear debts resulting from intentional and malicious harm. Bankruptcy does not also wipe out fines, some taxes, alimony, and money owed or child support.

Since bankruptcy records are publicly available in North Carolina, they will always have adverse impacts on their subjects' credit reports. Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies are the most common types filed in North Carolina. A legitimate Chapter 7 bankruptcy stays on a person's credit report for a decade, after which it is deleted. Similarly, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy tarries on a credit report for seven years, after which they disappear. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) allows a person to challenge any erroneous bankruptcy on their credit report. To delete such a bankruptcy record, the affected individual should contact the court and request a letter confirming that such bankruptcy is bogus. Once obtained, the person can write a dispute letter to credit bureaus challenging the error and ask them to delete it.

What are Consumer Protection Laws in North Carolina?

The North Carolina Identity Theft Protection Act is a law protecting consumers from security breaches. The Act requires government agencies at both the state and local levels and businesses to promptly notify consumers of any security breach involving their personal identifying information. The Identity Theft Protection Act explains a security breach as the unlawful disclosure of unredacted records carrying a person's identifying information. Such information may include driver's license number, social security number (SSN), taxpayer identification number (TIN), and state identification number. Others are digital signatures, passport number, fingerprints, account number, personal identification number (PIN), and credit/debit card number.

A business can communicate a security breach to an affected consumer via telephone, mail, or email. For any security breach involving a consumer's identifying information in North Carolina, a business must notify the consumer by providing the following information:

  • An appropriate description of the incident
  • The type of consumer's personal information breached
  • The business' effort in preventing further illegal access to the consumer's personal information

How to Delete Lien Records in North Carolina

In North Carolina, a lien provides a creditor the authority to take possession of a debtor's property if they fail to settle their debts. Liens are a form of collateral held by lien holders and are public records in North Carolina. A lien can be instituted by the government,  banks, and small businesses.
Anyone who wishes to delete their lien record in North Carolina must pay off their debt in full. They can negotiate with their creditor to pay a lower amount if they cannot pay in full. The debtor should complete a release-of-lien form and then have the lienholder sign off in the presence of a notary. Once done, the person seeking to delete their lien record should immediately file lien release at the county Register of Deeds Office. However, if a lien record came by as a result of fraud, an affected person can obtain a court order to lift it. Interested persons can search the Register of Deeds Offices in North Carolina for lien records.

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