You can get an expungement in SC for certain types of minor convictions that we will discuss below.
No one should be stigmatized for a minor first offense conviction for their entire life – any criminal conviction on your record can prevent you from getting a job and brand you as a criminal to anyone that looks up your record.
Some convictions will have more serious consequences, like:
- Losing your right to own and carry a firearm;
- Preventing you from obtaining professional licenses that are required for employment;
- Lost housing opportunities; and
- Preventing you from getting financial aid for college.
Even if you were charged with a crime that was later dismissed or you were found not guilty at trial, there may be a record of the arrest on your criminal history that is accessible to the public.
How do you go about getting an expungement in SC, and what types of convictions qualify?
What Types of Charges Qualify for an Expungement in SC?
Non-convictions, such as dismissals (nolle prosse), acquittals, and completion of pretrial diversion programs, are eligible to be expunged from your record in SC. Certain types of convictions for minor offenses can also be expunged, although there is a waiting period that varies depending on the type of conviction.
Non-Convictions can be Expunged
If your charges were dismissed or if you were found not guilty at trial, all records of your arrest and prosecution can be expunged from your record.
If your case was in the magistrate or municipal court, the clerk of court should automatically begin the expungement process and a copy of the final expungement order should automatically be mailed both you and your attorney – if that hasn’t happened after a reasonable amount of time, you may need to contact an attorney and have them look into it for you.
If your case was in General Sessions Court, you must initiate the expungement process by completing a form and submitting it to the appropriate Solicitor’s Office or by retaining an attorney to follow through on the expungement process for you.
Your arrest record can also be expunged if you completed a pretrial diversion program in Horry County or anywhere in SC such as:
- Pretrial Intervention;
- The Alcohol Education Program;
- The Traffic Education Program (traffic school);
- Drug Court; or
- A Conditional discharge.
When you complete a pretrial diversion program, however, you must also get your expungement through that program – it is not automatic and you will need to follow up with the program to ensure that your arrest is expunged.
Youthful Offenders (YOA)
Expungements under SC’s Youthful Offender Act (YOA) have been through some changes in recent years.
Currently, any person who is sentenced under the Youthful Offender Act will be eligible for an expungement five years after the completion of their sentence (including any prison term, probation, or parole). It is not enough to be eligible for a YOA sentence – you must actually be sentenced under the Youthful Offender Act.
Any person who was convicted before June 2, 2010, who would have been eligible for a YOA sentence (even if they did not receive a YOA sentence) is now eligible for an expungement (in 2010, the legislature changed the YOA law to require that a person be sentenced under the law before they can get an expungement – this fixes what amounted to an ex post facto violation in the 2010 law).
First-Time Offenders in Magistrate or Municipal Court
First-time offenses in the magistrate or municipal court that carry 30 days or less as a potential sentence can be expunged three years from the date of conviction.
A first-offense domestic violence 3rd-degree conviction can also be expunged, but the waiting period is five years instead of three.
A fraudulent check charge can be expunged, and the waiting period is only one year from the date of conviction.
In General Sessions Court, a charge of failure to stop for a blue light can be expunged, if there was no bodily injury, three years after completion of the sentence.
Can Drug Convictions be Expunged in SC?
Simple possession of marijuana or other minor drug convictions can be expunged if you complete a conditional discharge or a pretrial diversion program in SC, and simple possession of marijuana (less than an ounce) can also be expunged three years after the date of conviction.
Under the 2018 amendments to SC’s expungement laws, additional minor drug convictions can be expunged if they are a first offense:
- Possession of any controlled substance can be expunged after three years;
- Possession of a prescription drug without a prescription can be expunged after three years; and
- Possession with intent to distribute any controlled substance can be expunged after twenty years.
What is the Process for Getting an Expungement in SC?
First, you must complete a form with the Solicitor’s Office that handled your prosecution. When they approve the form, it is then sent to SLED, who must also sign off on the Order. SLED then returns it for a judge’s signature.
Once the Order has been approved and signed, it must be forwarded to all agencies that had any involvement in your arrest and prosecution, including the jail, department of corrections, Solicitor’s Office, SLED, and any police departments involved in your arrest.
The Order directs each agency to destroy all records of your arrest and prosecution, although SLED is permitted to keep a non-public record of your expungement to prevent people from getting multiple expungements.
You can do this on your own, but many people choose to consult with and retain a criminal defense attorney for the peace of mind of knowing that it has been done correctly and someone is following through to ensure that the records are destroyed.
Expungement Lawyer in Conway, SC
If you have convictions on your record that you believe may be eligible for expungement, Johnny Gardner can evaluate your case and help you to get your record clean.
Contact criminal defense Lawyer Johnny Gardner today for a free consultation to find out how we can help.