North Carolina Court Records
Are Criminal Records Public In North Carolina?
Under the North Carolina Public Records Law, criminal records are made available to citizens for inspection and copying upon request. Most criminal records in North Carolina can be accessed online and at relevant law enforcement agencies. At the county levels, criminal records may also be accessible by contacting the County Clerks of Court.
However, not all criminal records may be accessed in North Carolina. Some criminal records have been expunged and are hence not accessible. Note that certain authorized agencies and employers may carry out background checks on potential employees with criminal records. Some records of criminal investigations conducted by law enforcement agencies or records of criminal intelligence data gathered by public law enforcement agencies may be exempted from disclosure in line with G. S. § 132–1.4. Per North Carolina General Statute § 7B–3000, juvenile records are also not available for public access online.
According to Article 30 of the North Carolina Statutes, the only persons who can access a juvenile criminal record without obtaining a court order are:
- The subject of the record
- The juvenile’s attorney
- The juvenile’s parent, guardian, custodian, or an authorized representative of the juvenile’s parent, guardian or custodian
- The prosecutor
- The court counselors
- Probation officers in the Section of Community Corrections of the Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice of the Department of Public Safety
What Is Included In A Criminal Record In North Carolina?
Criminal records in North Carolina are official documents detailing the criminal activities committed by an individual within the state. The information in the document is as collated by all the local and state law enforcement agencies, courts, detention, and correctional centers.
A North Carolina criminal record includes:
- The subject’s full name and the known aliases
- Biographical information such as the subject’s race/ethnicity, age, and gender
- A set of fingerprints
- Past criminal offenses and indictments
- Previous and current warrants and arrest records
- Conviction records
- Incarceration and jail details
- Probation records
How To Look Up My Criminal Records In North Carolina?
Like several states in the United States, North Carolina has a central repository for collating and maintaining criminal records. The State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) is the Department of Public Safety (DPS) division tasked with the responsibility of keeping criminal records in the state. The specific unit of the SBI charged with this duty is the Criminal Information and Identification Section (CIIS).
The SBI only permits individuals to obtain personal criminal records from the CIIS while persons requesting criminal records of others are required to do so directly at the superior courts. Note that certain employers are statutorily authorized to request records from the SBI. Persons seeking to obtain criminal records must do so through the SBI using a fingerprint-based background check. Under 12 NCAC 041.0404, North Carolina calls this process a “Right to Review.” The process is a search of previous arrest(s) and associated disposition(s) available for which the SBI received a fingerprint card from an arresting agency in North Carolina. Note that the criminal records obtained through the “Right to Review” process do not contain criminal histories maintained at the national level or by other states in the United States.
To obtain a criminal record from the SBI, the following guidelines apply;
- Get fingerprints completed using an FD–258 Applicant Fingerprint Card. Fingerprints must be complete and legible, including all ten fingers. Exceptions are made for persons with finger amputations or deformities. In situations where fingerprints are insufficient or not accurately filled out, they will be returned to the applicant, and another set will be required to obtain the record. Proof of identity, such as a state-issued photo ID will be required to have fingerprints taken at a local law enforcement agency.
- Include a written request to the CIIS accompanied by a certified check or money order of $14 (for each request) made payable to the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation. The SBI does not accept personal checks. Applicant’s written request must include complete name and address, race, sex, and the date of birth. Including a Social Security Number (SSN) is optional. If an SSN is included, the SBI maintains that it will only be used to assist with accurate identification or exclusion of the possible criminal record.
- Complete the Right to Review Request Form on page 4 of the SBI Right to Review Packet.
Mail all the documents listed above to:
NC State Bureau of Investigation
Criminal Information and Identification Section
Attention: Application Unit - Right to Review
Post Office Box 29500
Raleigh, NC 27626–0500
Note that requests will be sent back if any of the items listed are missing or incomplete. The SBI is not authorized to send criminal records to third parties; hence, requests will be sent to applicants only. The SBI does not offer in-person deliveries as requests are returned by first-class US Mail. For more information about criminal record request to the SBI, call at (919) 582–8600 or send an email to CIIShelp@ncsbi.gov.
Persons may also request a certified county-wide criminal record from the superior court in the county of residence. As well, court information is accessible on the public access terminals in the superior court clerk’s office. To obtain the certified copy from the court, complete the Request for Certified Criminal Records Search Form (AOC-CR–314) and accompany it with a $25 fee by mail to the clerk of the county in which the record is located. The processing fee may be paid by money order or certified checks but not personal checks. In-person requests for criminal records may also be made at the superior courts’ locations in North Carolina. For in-person requests, the processing fee may be paid by credit card, cash, money order, or certified check.
The North Carolina Administrative Office of Courts (NCAOC) provides a list of third-party vendors or companies from which requesters may obtain unofficial criminal records. The records from these companies are obtained from the NCAOC on an ongoing basis under a licensing agreement. The NCAOC maintains that the records are accurate reflections of the data in the databases of the clerks of court in North Carolina but does not guarantee the information provided by the companies to requesters are accurate or current. Note that charges apply and may vary from vendor to vendor.
How Can I Get My Criminal Record For Free In North Carolina?
North Carolina does not make provisions for waivers to obtain criminal records from the SBI. However, many agencies do not require to pay fees to obtain routine copies of criminal records from the SBI.
Individuals may obtain a criminal record from the SBI by paying a nominal fee of $14. Relevant fees apply to obtain criminal records at the county level from Clerk of Court in the various counties of North Carolina.
How To Search Criminal Records Online In North Carolina?
North Carolina provides several options for the public to search for criminal records online. Criminal records may be accessed through online resources such as the Offender Public Information Search, the North Carolina Sex Offender Registry, or the Interstate Compact Offender Tracking.
The public may search criminal records of state prison inmates, probationers, and parolees through the Offender Public Information Search tool. The database is maintained by the North Carolina Department of Public Safety and the former North Carolina Department of Correction. It holds criminal records dating back to 1972. The database also includes information on escapes and captures, absconders, and inmate releases. Note that the database does not include county jail information. The tool allows users to find criminal information by performing a search by name or inmate ID.
The North Carolina Sex Offender Registry contains criminal record information on sex offenders in the state. The State Bureau of Investigation maintains the database. The registry lets the public access criminal records by permitting users to find offenders by address, name, sex registration number, or latitude/longitude.
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple record(s). To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:
- The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
- The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that the person resides in or was accused in
Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.
How To Get Criminal Records Expunged In North Carolina?
Eligible ex-offenders in North California may appeal to have their criminal records expunged under the state’s General Statutes NCGS 15A–145. Under the code, expungement requires the destruction of most physical and electronic records of a court case. This erasure applies to courts in the state, state, and local law enforcement agencies, the Division of Motor Vehicles, the Department of Public Safety, and other agencies identified by the petitioner in the expungement petition. However, the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts (NCAOC) retains a confidential copy of those granted an expunction. Hence, except under certain limited circumstance, an individual that has been granted expunction may truthfully deny or refuse to acknowledge a criminal incident without the fear of perjury.
In December 2017, Governor Ray Cooper signed Senate Bill 445 into law. Before the passage of the bill, persons could only petition for expunctions under Chapter 15A and Chapter 90 of the North Carolina Statutes. The 2017 Bill expanded expungement possibilities for an individual to multiple times. Senate Bill 445 also reduced the waiting period to file for the expunction of a misdemeanor conviction from fifteen years to five years. The waiting period for a felony conviction was also cut from fifteen years to ten years.
North Carolina has continued to make forward strides in helping citizens clear their criminal records. In June 2020, the Governor signed the Second Chance Act, S. L. 2020–35, into law. This recent change has expanded opportunities and streamlines the procedure for obtaining expunction. Under the new law, an individual may file to expunge any misdemeanor or Class H or I felony committed before December 1, 2019, between the ages of 16 and 18. This expunction is only possible after an active sentence or probation, and all court-ordered restitution for the offense has been paid.
Also, persons with one or multiple dismissals of misdemeanor or felony offenses may petition for an expunction, effective from December 1, 2020. Persons who entered a plea agreement or with a finding of “not guilty” or “not responsible” for a misdemeanor or felony offense may file for an expunction. Individuals who have all charges dismissed in a case will have related records automatically expunged after December 1, 2021. Persons can file for an expunction of more than one non-violent misdemeanor seven years after the date of conviction, active sentence, or probation. Note that North Carolina expungement law does not cover convictions for offenses such as:
- Class A-G felonies,
- Class A1 misdemeanors,
- Weapons violations,
- Crimes related to contaminated food or drinks,
- Offenses involving methamphetamines and heroin,
- Felony-related assaults, and
- Any offense that requires a person to register as a sex offender
To expunge a criminal record in North Carolina, the following steps apply:
- Complete a Petition and Order of Expunction (non-violent or non-violent misdemeanor) form or a Petition for Order and Expunction (charge(s) dismissed) form, whichever is applicable.
- Obtain a copy of the criminal history record from the State Bureau of Investigation (NCSBI) in order to accurately completing the expunction form.
- Include an affidavit of good moral character since the date of conviction
- Include verified affidavits from two unrelated persons. The affidavits must state that they know the character and reputation of the petitioner in the community to be good.
- Include another affidavit stating that there are no outstanding restitution orders or civil judgments
- File the complete petition to win the court where the case was handled.
Usually, within 30 days, the District Attorney responds if there is an objection to a petition. Otherwise, approval is granted, allowing the expunction of a criminal record from local and state-wide databases. Note that there is a processing fee of $175 payable to the Clerk of Court when the application is filed. Persons who cannot afford to pay the processing fee may complete the Petition to Proceed as an Indigent form and submit along with the expunction petition.
Who Can See My Expunged Criminal Record In North Carolina?
Even though an expungement clears the public record of an individual of arrest, charge, or conviction, the Administrative Office of Courts in North Carolina maintains a confidential file to which judges may sometimes have access under certain specific purposes. One privilege of expunction in North Carolina is the restoration of a person’s status as though the expunged criminal incident never happened.
By law, North Carolina law prohibits private employers and educational institutions from asking prospective employees about expunged criminal records or convictions. Therefore, citizens may truthfully deny the occurrence of a criminal incident except in limited situations such as in applications for federal immigration purposes. Other exceptions are highlighted in the North Carolina General Statutes §15A–151.
However, expunged conviction records may be available to law enforcement agencies for purposes of employment or licensing. Non-conviction records are usually not disclosed to any persons, including law enforcement agencies, under any circumstance.