There is a wide range of minor criminal offenses that are eligible for expungement in South Carolina, including minor drug offenses, magistrate or municipal court offenses, and charges that are dismissed through pretrial diversion programs.
What is an expungement?
If your South Carolina convictions are eligible for expungement, you can have all records of your arrest, prosecution, and conviction destroyed, including records held by the police department, jail, prison, clerk’s office, and solicitor’s office.
In this article, you will learn:
- What types of charges are eligible for expungement in South Carolina,
- What an expungement means in South Carolina, and
- The process for getting an expungement in South Carolina.
Basics of Expungements in South Carolina
There is a broad range of criminal offenses that are eligible for expungement in South Carolina, including minor drug offenses, magistrate or municipal court offenses, Youthful Offender Act (YOA) convictions, and charges that have been dismissed or acquitted at trial. It is important to remember that expungements are not guaranteed – you apply for an expungement.
What Types of Charges are Eligible for Expungement in South Carolina?
Dismissals and Acquittals
If your case was dismissed by the court or the prosecutor, all records of the arrest, prosecution, and dismissal can be expunged from your record. Similarly, if you are acquitted at trial, you can have all records of the arrest, prosecution, and trial expunged from your record.
Pre-Trial Diversion Programs
There are various pretrial diversion programs in South Carolina that will result in dismissal and expungement of your charges once you successfully complete the program. These include:
- Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI),
- The Alcohol Education Program (AEP),
- The Traffic Education Program (TEP),
- Drug Court, and
- Conditional discharges.
If you complete a pretrial diversion program, you must also get your expungement through that program (and pay the associated fees).
Magistrate and Municipal Court Offenses
A first offense conviction for most magistrate or municipal court offenses can be expunged if there are no other convictions for three years – this only includes magistrate or municipal court level offenses where the potential penalty does not exceed 30 days.
This does not include domestic violence convictions or traffic offenses – a first offense domestic violence third degree conviction can be expunged after five years, and traffic offenses (with the exceptions of first offense failure to stop for a blue light, reckless driving through PTI, or other traffic offenses through the TEP) cannot be expunged.
A 2018 amendment to South Carolina’s expungement laws expanded the types of drug convictions that can be expunged. Under the new law, a first offense conviction for:
- Possession of any controlled substance can be expunged after three years,
- Unlawful possession of a prescription drug can be expunged after three years, and
- Possession with intent to distribute any controlled substance can be expunged after 20 years.
Youthful Offender Act (YOA) Offenses
South Carolina’s expungement laws for Youthful Offender Act convictions have been through several revisions over the years. Under the current law:
- A YOA conviction can be expunged after five years if there are no other convictions;
- If you were not sentenced under the Youthful Offender Act, even if you would have qualified, you are not eligible for a YOA expungement; but
- If you were convicted before June 2, 2010, and you would have been eligible for a YOA sentence, you can now have your record expunged.
YOA expungements do not apply to statutory violent crimes (listed in SC Code Section 16-1-60), traffic offenses, or sex offenses that require registration on the sex offender registry.
There are other miscellaneous offenses that are eligible for expungement in South Carolina, including:
- First offense misdemeanor fraudulent check charges,
- First offense failure to stop for a blue light,
- Juvenile expungements, and
- Expungements pursuant to the Youth Challenge Academy and Jobs Challenge Program.
What if I’m Not Eligible for an Expungement in South Carolina?
If your conviction is not eligible for an expungement (and your deadline has passed to seek post-conviction relief (PCR)), your only option may be to apply for a pardon.
A pardon does not destroy or erase your criminal record, but it will restore your civil rights (including your right to own and carry a firearm and to obtain occupational licenses), and your criminal history will show that your offenses have been pardoned.
How Do You Get an Expungement in South Carolina?
You can apply for an expungement:
- Through the solicitor’s office in the county where you were convicted,
- Through the pretrial diversion program where your charges were dismissed, or
- You can retain an attorney to assist you with the expungement process.
What is the Process for Expungements in South Carolina?
Once your application is completed and any associated fees have been paid, the solicitor’s office will process your application.
If the solicitor’s office approves the application, it is forwarded to SLED for their review and signature – SLED keeps a record of all expungements so that you cannot complete pretrial diversion or obtain an expungement of a minor conviction more than once.
Once SLED approves the application, it is returned to a circuit court judge in the county where you were convicted. The judge then signs an Expungement Order that orders all government agencies to destroy your records (with some non-public exceptions like SLED’s records to prevent multiple expungements and copies of reports that police departments can retain for a period of time to defend against potential lawsuits).
Once the Order is signed, it must be forwarded to the police department that made the arrest, the jail where you were held, SLED, the solicitor’s office that prosecuted you, the Department of Corrections, and any other agencies that were connected with your case.
Are Expungements Automatic?
If your case was dismissed or if you were acquitted in the magistrate or municipal court, the expungement process is supposed to be automatic. Despite this, many courts do not automatically process expungements – if your magistrate or municipal court dismissal has not been expunged within a reasonable period of time, you may need to take further action.
If your case was dismissed or if you were acquitted in General Sessions Court, the expungement is not automatic – you must apply for an expungement through the solicitor’s office in the county of conviction.
If your case was dismissed through a pretrial diversion program, the expungement is not automatic, and you must apply for expungement through that program.
If you want to expunge a conviction after the waiting period, it is not automatic, and you must apply for an expungement through the solicitor’s office in the county of conviction.
Questions About Expungements in South Carolina?
If you believe that you have a conviction, dismissal, or acquittal that is eligible for expungement in South Carolina, we can help you to determine whether your charges can be expunged, complete the application process on your behalf, and follow through with the various agencies to ensure that all records of your case are destroyed.
Call 843-761-3840 or use this form to contact us today to discuss your case and start working towards the best possible outcome for you.
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