A certificate of relief removes some of the civil disabilities that arise from a criminal conviction, especially in the employment context. Below is a brief description of the benefits, eligibility, procedures, and evidentiary standards for certificates of relief in North Carolina. If you need help getting a job and an expungement is not available then a Certificate of Relief Might Help. If you believe you are eligible for a certificate of relief, please call the law Offices of Wiley Nickel at 919-585-1486.
Transforms all automatic civil disabilities into discretionary civil disabilities, EXCEPT:
- Sex offender registration
- Possession of a firearm by a felon
- Motor vehicle license, revocation, or ineligibility
- Criminal Justice Officer and Sheriffs certification
- Employment as corrections or probation officer
- Employment as prosecutor or investigator in NCDOJ or District Attorney’s Office
- Any disability enacted by federal law or in the NC Constitution
- Considered favorably in discretionary decisions (ex. most occupational licensing decisions)
- Provides evidence of due care to private employers in negligent hiring lawsuits
- Demonstrates that the recipient is not an “unreasonable risk to the safety or welfare of the public”
Certificate of Relief is NOT an expunction or pardon
- An individual granted a certificate of relief still has a criminal conviction on their record that is visible to anyone.
- 1 misdemeanor or 1 Class G, H, or I felony conviction= eligible
- 2 misdemeanor or 2 Class G, H, or I felony convictions (convicted in same session of court)= eligible
- 2 or more convictions in different sessions= not eligible
- 1 Class A, B, C, D, E, or F felony conviction= not eligible
- A Petition and Order for a Certificate of Relief is filed with the court by our office.
- A district attorney may appear at the hearing; the victim of the underlying crime may also appear
- Petitioner must prove by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not):
- Twelve months have passed since the person completed his or her sentence
- The person is engaged in or is seeking to engage in a lawful occupation or activity
- The person has no criminal charges pending
- The person has complied with all requirements of the person’s sentence
- Granting the petition would not pose an unreasonable risk to the safety or welfare of the public or any individual
Many people who seek to have records of their charges expunged do not fit into the narrow categories available to have their charges expunged. If a criminal conviction is preventing you from gaining employment or hurting you in some other way a "certificate of relief" could be the thing to get you moving forward with your life. Call to speak with an attorney at the law offices of Wiley Nickel at 919-585-486 for a free consultation to see if a certificate of relief can help where an expungement cannot help.
The basic requirements for relief, contained in new G.S. 15A-173.2 for a "certificate of relief" are as follows:
- The person must have been convicted of no more than two Class G, H, or I felonies or misdemeanors in one session of court and have no other convictions for a felony or misdemeanor other than a traffic violation.
- The person must petition the court in which the convictions occurred (District or Superior Court)
- The person must establish certain matters by a preponderance of the evidence, including that twelve months have passed since the person completed his or her sentence, that the person is engaged in or is seeking to engage in a lawful occupation or activity, and that the person has no charges pending.
If granted, a certificate of relief applies to two types of collateral consequences: “collateral sanctions,” defined as a penalty, disability, or disqualification imposed by operation of law, such as a mandatory bar on obtaining a license for a particular occupation; and “disqualifications,” defined as a penalty that an agency, official, or court may impose based on the conviction, such as a discretionary bar on an occupational license. A certificate of relief relieves the person of all automatic “collateral sanctions” except for those listed in new G.S. 15A-173.3 (for example, sex offender registration requirements and firearm disqualifications); those imposed by the North Carolina Constitution or federal law (for example, the state constitutional ban on holding the office of sheriff if previously convicted of a felony and the federal bans on federally-assisted housing and food stamp benefits for certain convictions); and those specifically excluded in the certificate. A certificate of relief does not bar an entity from imposing a discretionary “disqualification” based on the conviction, but the entity may consider the certificate favorably in deciding whether to impose the disqualification. A certificate of relief also does not result in an expunction or pardon of the conviction; a person must use other mechanisms, if available for the conviction in question, to obtain those forms of relief.