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Criminal Records in North Carolina

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Need more information? Check out our guides to North Carolina arrest records and North Carolina background checks.


An individual acquires a criminal record in North Carolina by getting arrested and fingerprinted by a law enforcement officer in the state. Henceforth, any additional arrests and/or criminal convictions will be added to their North Carolina criminal record. 

There are a number of ways a North Carolina resident can look-up their own criminal record or the record of another person in the state, but the North Carolina state government does not offer a searchable online database of criminal history information available for remote viewing.

The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation maintains the state’s central repository of criminal history information, however, criminal history is also kept at the county level by individual courts. 

What is a criminal record?

A criminal record is an official document detailing a person’s criminal convictions, pending criminal cases, prior arrests, and other interactions with law enforcement agencies. Additional names for a criminal record include criminal history record, rap sheet, and a police record.  

As with marriage records and court records, criminal records are generally public records in the United States and can be accessed through a criminal background check. However, public access to specific criminal record information varies from state to state. 

In terms of enabling access to criminal history information, the State of North Carolina lies somewhere in between a true open records state and a state that only allows individuals to access a copy of their own criminal record. 

What is included in a North Carolina criminal record?

As criminal records are kept by law enforcement agencies at all levels of government in the United States, a North Carolina criminal record may vary in format and content depending on the law enforcement database from which it is accessed.

Generally, a North Carolina criminal record will include the following information: 

  • A person’s full name and possible aliases
  • Personal information such as age, date of birth, sex, ethnicity, height, weight, and other physical characteristics
  • Fingerprints and mugshot
  • Misdemeanor criminal offenses and convictions
  • Felony criminal offenses and convictions
  • Past and outstanding arrest warrants
  • Pending and dismissed charges

Why would someone access a criminal record?

There are many reasons to access a criminal record.

  • Most commonly, people search criminal records as a way to run a background check on a particular person.
  • They’re also used by law enforcement to identify or locate people involved in unsolved crimes or by the court system to determine an appropriate sentence after a conviction. 
  • An individual may want to access his or her own record as well. It’s not uncommon for people to request their own criminal records to see what information is public.
  • In some cases, a record could be inaccurate or include outdated information. If that’s the case, it’s important to have the record corrected.

What’s the difference between an infraction, misdemeanor, and felony?

Arrests and convictions listed on a criminal record are separated into three categories: infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies.

To give a better understanding of the information listed on a criminal record, here’s a quick overview of each category of offense:

  • Infraction – An infraction is a minor violation of the law that is regulated at the state level. Punishment for an infraction is usually just a fine or a written warning, rather than a jail or prison sentence. Examples of infractions include minor traffic violations, public nuisance offenses, and littering. 
  • Misdemeanor – A misdemeanor is a crime that is more serious than an infraction, yet less serious than a felony. Generally, a misdemeanor punishable by a term of imprisonment of less than a year, or by a term of probation. An individual convicted of a misdemeanor is more likely to serve time in a county or local jail than in a federal or state prison. Examples of misdemeanors include driving under the influence, most drug abuse violations, and petty theft.
  • Felony – A felony is the most serious type of crime, often characterized by the use of a weapon during a crime, serious injury to a victim, and/or holding a person against their will. Felony convictions typically result in a term of imprisonment of more than one year in a state or federal prison. Examples of felonies include rape, murder, and grand theft.  

What is the difference between a North Carolina arrest record and a North Carolina criminal record?

While an arrest record is an official document including the details of a specific arrest, a criminal record is a more comprehensive document that includes a person’s entire criminal background known to law enforcement agencies. 

How do I search for a North Carolina criminal record?

Those who wish to obtain a North Carolina criminal record have three options in the state:

  1. Request a single-county Certified Background Check from a Clerk of Superior Court Office. A person can fill out and submit Form AOC-CR-314 by mail or in-person to the clerk’s office of the local courthouse to obtain a certified copy of their own criminal record or that of another person. However, the criminal record will only include charges from within that county. There is a $25 fee per request. 
  2. Search and view criminal records using a public access computer at a local courthouse. North Carolina courthouses have public access computers that individuals may use to view and print their own criminal record, or the criminal record of another person. Unlike a record received by submitting an official request, the search is not certified. 
  3. Request a non-certified, statewide criminal background check for your own criminal record from N.C. S.B.I. Also known as a Right to Review. There is a $14 fee to submit a request. Visit this page for instructions. 

How do I obtain a physical copy of a North Carolina criminal record?

Using any of the three methods described in the above section, a person can obtain a physical copy of North Carolina criminal background check search results. 

Why can’t I access a North Carolina criminal record?

If you are unable to obtain the North Carolina criminal record you are looking for, it may be that no criminal record exists under the name in the state or that specific county (in the case of a single-county search), or the criminal record has been sealed or expunged. 

How do I search for North Carolina criminal case court records?

The North Carolina Judicial Branch does not provide a searchable online database of court records available for remoting viewing. Instead, you must visit the local court clerk’s office and use a self-service public access terminal to look up criminal case court records. Users can use the terminal to search cases by case number or party name. 

Use this North Carolina Judicial Branch Directory to find the address and contact information of your local court clerk’s office. Making a direct request to the court clerk, rather than using the self-service public access terminal, is another option.  

Does North Carolina allow criminal records to be sealed or expunged?

A number of North Carolina General Statutes allow individuals to petition to have one or more criminal charges expunged from their criminal record. The expungement process is complicated and involves arresting agencies, the S.B.I., and the North Carolina court system. 

In order to initiate the expungement of criminal charges, one must file a petition in the county where the arrest occurred. Visit this page for further information and FAQs on the expungement process and find petition forms with instructions here.  

How can I have false information on a North Carolina criminal record corrected?

You can request information on how to correct false information on a North Carolina criminal record from the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation by calling (919) 662-4509.

As many criminal records are maintained at the county level in North Carolina, contacting the clerk of court in the county where the disputed arrest occurred is another option. View this directory to find the contact information of every North Carolina district court.   

How long are North Carolina criminal records kept on file?

North Carolina criminal history information is maintained indefinitely unless a petition to expunge the criminal charge is successfully passed. However, due to the state’s method of maintaining criminal history information, charges that come up in a single-county search may not appear in a non-certified statewide search.