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Expungements and Pardons
In South Carolina, under some circumstances, it is possible to have an arrest or even a conviction erased from your record. In other cases it is only possible to get a pardon.
What is an expungement? It means that you get an Order signed by a judge that orders the police department, jail, clerk’s office, solicitor’s office, and any other agency involved in your case to destroy their records of your arrest, prosecution, or conviction.When Can I Get an Expungement in SC?
SC law says that you can get an expungement for the following types of cases:Dismissals or Acquittals
If your case is dismissed by the prosecutor or judge – or – if you are acquitted by a jury at trial, all records of your arrest and prosecution can be expunged.
If your case was in magistrate or municipal court, the clerk is supposed to automatically start the process, get an expungement order signed, and forward it to you and your attorney. Some courts don’t always do it – if they are not processing your expungement, you may need to get your attorney to help you make it happen.
If your case was in General Sessions Court, the expungement is not automatic – you or your attorney will need to begin the process.Misdemeanor Convictions in Magistrate or Municipal Court
Most misdemeanor convictions in the magistrate or municipal court can be expunged after three years if you have no other convictions on your record.Pre-Trial Intervention Programs
There are a number of pretrial diversion programs in SC that result in dismissal of your charges and expungement of your record once you complete the requirements of the program. These include:
- Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI);
- Alcohol Education Program (AEP);
- Conditional discharges for minor drug offenses;
- Drug court; and
- Traffic Education Program (TEP).
If you were 24 years old or younger at the time of a conviction, you were sentenced under the provisions of the Youthful Offender Act (YOA), and if you have had no other convictions, your record can be expunged five years after the completion of your sentence.How Does an Expungement Work in SC?
After the initial application is filed and the filing fees are paid (there are no filing fees for dismissals or acquittals), the circuit solicitor’s office and SLED must sign the order and certify that you are eligible for an expungement. Then, the administrative judge for your circuit will review the order and sign it.
After the order is signed by the judge, it is forwarded to all law enforcement agencies that had any connection with your case, ordering them to destroy their records.What Else Should I Know?
Under SC law, you can deny that you were ever arrested or convicted if your charges have been expunged.
But. if you are applying for a government job or to join the military, you should disclose the conviction or arrest and the expungement – lying on your application can cost you the job.
Expungement orders only apply to government agencies – if your arrest information is still found on non-government websites, you may have to take additional steps to take down the information.
Despite the expungement order, law enforcement is allowed to keep a non-public copy of your file for a period of time for use in defending against civil litigation, and SLED will keep a non-public record of your conviction and expungement to ensure that you do not enter PTI or other diversion programs more than once.What if I Can’t Get an Expungement in SC?
If your record does not qualify for expungement under SC law, you may still be eligible for a SC pardon.
Although a pardon does not erase your record, your record will reflect that you received a pardon and all of your civil rights will be restored. This means that you will have the right to own a firearm or concealed weapon permit (CWP), and you can’t be denied an occupational license based on the conviction.Do I Need to Have an Attorney to Get an Expungement?
You are not required to have an attorney to apply for an expungement or a pardon, although it may be a good idea.
Expungement applications are submitted first to the solicitor’s office for the county that the case was in, and pardon applications are submitted to the Department of Probation, Pardon, and Parole.SC Expungement Lawyer – SC Pardon Lawyer - Offices in Myrtle Beach and Columbia
Lacey Thompson focuses her practice exclusively on criminal defense cases in SC, including helping her clients to obtain expungements and pardons.
If you have questions about whether something on your South Carolina criminal record can be expunged, call the Thompson & Hiller Defense Firm now at (843) 444-6122 or contact us online, and we will review your case and tell you if it is possible.