We all make mistakes, especially early on in life. For people in South Carolina and especially young people, getting a second chance after a run-in with the law can change the course of their future. Unfortunately, even an arrest without conviction may show up on a person’s record, and without a clean record they may face obstacles when they later show up for a job interview, apply for a loan, or even vote. A student may also face obstacles when applying for financial aid.
Depending on how serious the crime was, how long it has been since conviction, the age of the offender and other considerations, individuals may be able to have criminal records sealed from public viewing. If you get in trouble with the law, it is important to know your rights and what you may need to do to defend them.
Expungement under South Carolina law
An expungement is the sealing of certain arrests, charges, or convictions that become inaccessible to the public without a court order. The records remain in the court system and only certain law enforcement or employers, such as the military or schools, may see them.
In South Carolina, it is possible to seek expungement for eligible charges, including:
- Not guilty, dismissed or nolle prossed charges prior to 2009. Such charges dismissed after 2009 are in most cases automatically expunged
- Completion of a diversion program such as a pre-trial intervention, traffic education program, alcohol education program or drug court
- Misdemeanor offenses with maximum sentences of 30 days with up to $1,000 fine, available after three years with no other convictions
- First offense conviction for a youthful offender under the age of 25 who has no other convictions for five years after sentencing, if the offense was nonviolent and is a misdemeanor, Class D, E or F felony, or felony with a maximum of 15 years in prison
- Convictions for a juvenile defendant 18 or older whose offense was nonviolent, who has completed a sentence and has no additional convictions
Only certain convictions may lead to expungement, so many individuals may not qualify. It is also possible to seek a pardon. Although it does not wipe clean a criminal record, a pardon will end the penalties from the conviction restores the individual’s civil rights, including the right to vote, perform jury duty, hold public office, or engage in a licensed profession.