Typically our job as archivists involves maintaining and providing access to those records deemed permanent and transferred to the State Archives. But, as usual, there are exceptions to every rule. Recently I received a Petition and Order of Expunction which requires that “any and all entries relating to the petitioner’s charge or conviction shall be expunged from the records of the court,” and that all State or local government agencies “expunge any and all records of the petitioner’s criminal charge and any conviction resulting from the charge” upon receipt of the order for expunction.
The ability to petition to have a record of an offense expunged is provided for under the laws of North Carolina. If the courts grant the petition, this essentially erases the offense from the person’s official record. As a result of this court order, we are required to destroy all loose files pertaining to the particular offence being expunged, redact any entries in any Court volumes that may be in our care and destroy any digital or microfilm copies of the records involved, even those we maintain as archival preservation copies in our vault.
Expunctions have not come our way very often in the past, but they may become more common place. Up to 2011, there were five types of expunctions available, most of which involved alcohol and drug misdemeanors for people under 21 or cases that were dismissed or had a verdict of not guilty. However, in 2012, North Carolina passed General Statute 15A-145.5 allowing the expunction of some nonviolent felonies and nonviolent misdemeanors which had been concluded fifteen years prior, as long as the perpetrator had no other offences.
An expunction ensures that all official sources of an offense are destroyed, including the paper ordering the expunction. However, since a person is only allowed one expunction in their lifetime, there is a confidential record of expunctions maintained by the NC Administrative Office of the Courts. A record destroyed thus becomes a record created.