in the Supreme Court on 9 April 2019.
discretionary review pursuant to N.C. G.S. § 7A-31 of a
unanimous decision of the Court of Appeals, __ N.C.App. __,
808 S.E.2d 154 (2017), dismissing the State's appeal from
an order of expunction entered on 10 August 2016 by Judge
Mary Ann Tally in Superior Court, Onslow County.
H. Stein, Attorney General, by William P. Hart, Jr.,
Assistant Attorney General, and Adren L. Harris, Special
Deputy Attorney General, for respondent-appellant.
Law PLLC, by Jason Christopher Yoder, for
petitioner, J.C., was granted an expunction of arrest, trial,
and conviction records from a prior conviction and from
previously dismissed charges pursuant to N.C. G.S.
§§ 15A-145.5 and 15A-146, respectively. The statute
authorizing expunction of his dismissed charges was first
enacted in 1979 "to provide for the expunction of arrest
and trial records of youthful offenders when charges are
dismissed or when there are findings of not guilty."
See Act of Feb. 20, 1979, Ch. 61, 1979 N.C. Sess.
Laws 34. At issue here is the proper application of the
statute authorizing expunction of his conviction, N.C. G.S.
§ 15A-145.5. This law was enacted in 2012 "to allow
for expunction of nonviolent felonies or nonviolent
misdemeanors after fifteen years for persons who have had no
other convictions for felonies or misdemeanors other than
traffic violations under the laws of the United States, this
State, or any other jurisdiction, as recommended by the
Legislative Research Commission." See Act of
July 2, 2012, Ch. 191, 2011 N.C. Sess. Laws 901 (Reg. Sess.
2012). The statute authorizes a court to order
that a person "be restored, in the contemplation of the
law, to the status the person occupied before such arrest or
indictment or information." N.C. G.S. §
15A-145.5(c) (Supp. 2018).
the State has sought appellate review of expunction orders
through petitions for writ of certiorari, which the Court of
Appeals has allowed on several occasions. See State v.
Frazier, 206 N.C.App. 306, 697 S.E.2d 467 (2010)
(reversing grant of expunction when trial court erroneously
applied statute to a conviction occurring before the
effective date of the statute); In re Expungement for
Kearney, 174 N.C.App. 213, 620 S.E.2d 276 (2005)
(reversing order granting expunction of conviction and
affirming expunction of dismissed charge); In re
Robinson, 172 N.C.App. 272, 615 S.E.2d 884 (2005)
(reversing erroneous expunction of multiple, unrelated
offenses occurring over a period of years); In re
Expungement for Spencer, 140 N.C.App. 776, 538 S.E.2d
236 (2000) (reversing order granting expunction to defendant
who was over the age of twenty-one at the time of the
first time, in this case the State seeks to appeal as a
matter of right the trial court's order granting
J.C.'s expunction with respect to his conviction for the
offense of indecent liberties with a child. The Court of
Appeals dismissed the State's appeal, holding the State
had no right to appeal the expunction order. The State filed
a petition for discretionary review with this Court, as well
as a petition for writ of certiorari. We granted the
State's petition for discretionary review to determine
whether the Court of Appeals erred in dismissing the
State's appeal from an order granting expunction under
N.C. G.S. § 15A-145.5. Because we conclude that the
State does not have a right of appeal in orders granting
expunctions under N.C. G.S. § 15A-145.5, we affirm the
Court of Appeals' decision.
and Procedural Background
June 1987, petitioner pleaded guilty in Superior Court,
Onslow County to one count of indecent liberties which
occurred on 24 May 1986. In exchange for J.C.'s guilty
plea, the State dismissed a second indecent liberties charge,
as well as an incest charge. The trial court sentenced J.C.
to a three-year term, which was suspended for three years
subject to supervised probation. On 11 June 2015, J.C. filed
a petition in Onslow County under N.C. G.S. § 15A-145.5
seeking expunction of the offense to which he pleaded guilty.
J.C. also filed a petition seeking an expunction under N.C.
G.S. §§ 15A-145(a) and 15A-146 regarding the two
charges against him that were dismissed.
to section 15A-145.5, a person who has been previously
convicted of a "nonviolent felony" as defined in
the statute may "file a petition, in the court of the
county where [he] was convicted, for expunction of [the] . .
. conviction from the person's criminal record if [he]
has no other misdemeanor or felony convictions, other than a
traffic violation." N.C. G.S. § 15A-145.5(c). The
statute contains a number of conditions, including that the
qualifying offense not have been:
(1)A Class A through G felony . . . .
(2)An offense that includes assault as an essential element
of the offense.
(3) An offense requiring registration pursuant to Article 27A
of Chapter 14 of the General Statutes, whether or not the
person is currently required to register.
(4) Any of the following sex-related or stalking offenses:
G.S. 14-27.25(b), 14-27.30(b), 14-190.7, 14-190.8, 14-190.9,
14-202, 14-208.11A, 14-208.18, 14-277.3, 14-277.3A, 14-321.1.
(7)An offense under G.S. 14-401.16. . . . .
(8)Any felony offense in which a commercial motor vehicle was
used in the commission of the offense.
Id. § 15A-145.5(a)(1)-(8) (Supp. 2018). In the
affidavit accompanying his petition, J.C. asserted that the
felony for which he was convicted "[wa]s a Class H
felony" which "did not include assault as an
essential element of the offense" and "does not
require registration pursuant to Article 27A of Chapter
14." Petitioner averred that his conviction also did not