Expunging a Criminal Record in South Carolina

A criminal record will cast a devastating shadow over a person’s life. Finding a steady job, housing, and even a relationship can all be made exceedingly difficult. Long after a person has served time, he or she may find these personal endeavors to be elusive. However, in South Carolina, the slate can often be wiped clean.

Attorney Erika Baldwin examines the requirements for expunging a criminal record in our state. If you have questions about whether your record can be expunged, contact Baldin Law today!

Understanding Expungement

Expungement is a legal process allowing individuals to have certain criminal records shielded from public view. Arrests, charges, and convictions can in many cases be placed under seal. This effectively removes them from public records, although law enforcement can view them for limited purposes. Otherwise, the records can only be disclosed pursuant to a court order.

By expunging criminal records, it becomes easier to obtain housing, a job, and more. This enables individuals to rebuild their lives by opening up previously foreclosed opportunities.

Who May Qualify for an Expungement?

Whether an individual is eligible for expungement depends on certain criteria set forth in South Carolina state law. These include:

  • The nature of the offense
  • The sentence received
  • The time elapsed since conviction

Most expungements will generally require at least one of the following to apply:

  • First-time conviction
  • No subsequent convictions within a certain timeframe
  • A person who qualifies under the Youthful Offender Act (YOA)
  • Participation in a diversion program, such as pre-trial intervention
  • Acquittals and dismissals of charges
  • A certain type of offense

Specific Examples of Records That Can Be Expunged

In light of the above considerations, here are some specific charges and convictions that may be expunged.

Not Guilty, Dismissed, and Nolle Prossed Charges

Charges dismissed after 2009 are usually done so automatically. An expungement for a charge prior to that date may require an application process. A nolle prossed charge is one that is dismissed but could be re-charged later.

Misdemeanor Offenses

Convictions for misdemeanors with a maximum sentence of 30 days and/or a $1000 fine may be eligible. You have to wait three years and have no other convictions during those three years before applying for the expungement. The time is five years if the conviction was for domestic violence.

Youthful Offender Act (YOA)

As mentioned above, YOA is a special program for certain individuals convicted of a crime before age 25. Your sentencing sheet should inform you whether you received a Youthful Offender Act sentence. An applicant for expungement must follow these steps:

  • Wait until five years have passed since you completed your sentence. This includes probation or parole.
  • Have no other convictions while serving your sentence or in the five years after completing your sentence.

Fraudulent Checks

A first-offense misdemeanor charge for passing a fraudulent check is eligible for expungement. An applicant must wait one year and have no other convictions.

Failure to Stop for a Blue Light

A first conviction for failure to stop is also eligible. Among other criteria, the applicant has to wait three years and have no other convictions.

Victims of Human Trafficking

These are specifically victims of human trafficking who were charged and convicted of human trafficking or prostitution. They may be eligible to get their records expunged depending on the circumstances of their case.

Simple Possession and Possession With Intent to Distribute

A first offense of simple possession may be expunged 3 years after completing the sentence, with no convictions in those 3 years. Possession with intent to distribute is eligible 20 years after completing the sentence. There must be no other drug or felony convictions in that time.

Diversion Programs

Upon completion of the program, including fees and costs paid, the charge should be marked as dismissed or nolle prossed. These are a few common diversion programs that could result in a dismissed charge and expungement:

  • Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI)
  • Traffic Education Program (TEP)
  • Alcohol Education Program (AEP)
  • Conditional Discharge (for a first-offense drug possession charge)
  • Drug Court
  • Veterans Court

Do You Qualify for an Expungement? We Can Help

If you meet the above criteria, or you’re unsure, talk to attorney Erika Baldwin. We can also advise if other arrests, charges, or convictions could be eligible for expungement. Our firm can take care of the paperwork so you can finally turn the page. Connect with us today.

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