Expungements in South Carolina

Can you get your criminal record expunged in SC?

Expungements (referred to as “expunctions” in some other states) result in the destruction of all records of your arrest, prosecution, and conviction by all government agencies like police departments, jails, prisons, clerks’ offices, and prosecutors’ offices, although SLED may be allowed to keep some records to prevent a person from getting an expungement or attending pretrial intervention more than once.

Below, we will cover the basics of expungements in SC, including:

  • The types of criminal convictions that can be expunged,
  • How long you must wait before you can get an expungement, and
  • The procedure for getting an expungement in SC.

What Types of Convictions Can Be Expunged in SC?

Only certain types of convictions are eligible for expungement in SC – mostly minor offenses, and there is a waiting period that varies depending on the type of conviction.

The most common types of expungements in SC include minor convictions in the magistrate or municipal courts, minor drug offenses, and YOA convictions.

Magistrate and Municipal Court Convictions

SC Code § 22-5-910 provides for expungements of most first offense convictions for lower court (magistrate and municipal court) offenses after three years, but this only includes offenses that carry a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail.

Lower court offenses that do not qualify include:

  • Any offense that carries more than 30 days as a potential penalty, and
  • Traffic offenses – including driving under the influence (DUI) and driving under suspension (DUS) convictions.

Domestic Violence Convictions

A first offense domestic violence third degree (the least serious DV offense) can also be expunged, but you must wait five years from the date of conviction before applying.

Some Drug Offenses Can Be Expunged in SC

A 2018 amendment to SC’s expungement laws expanded the types of drug convictions that can be expunged in SC, which now includes:

  • Simple possession of any controlled substance, including marijuana, cocaine, meth, crack cocaine, and prescription drugs after three years, and
  • Possession with intent to distribute (PWID) any controlled substance after 20 years.

Youthful Offender Act (YOA) Convictions

SC Code § 22-5-920 allows for expungement of most Youthful Offender Act convictions five years after the date of conviction or the date of completion of the person’s sentence (whichever is later).

A YOA conviction cannot be expunged if it:

  • Involved a motor vehicle,
  • Is classified as a violent crime,
  • Involved domestic violence, or
  • Requires sex offender registry.

Other Convictions That Can Be Expunged in SC

SC Code § 22-5-910 also lists other types of convictions that can be expunged (and the SC Code sections authorizing the expungements), including:

(1) Section 34-11-90(e), first offense misdemeanor fraudulent check;

(2) Section 44-53-450(b), conditional discharge;

(3) Section 22-5-910, first offense conviction in magistrates court;

(4) Section 22-5-920, youthful offender act;

(5) Section 22-5-930, first offense simple possession or possession with intent to distribute drug convictions;

(6) Section 56-5-750(F), first offense failure to stop when signaled by a law enforcement vehicle;

(7) Section 17-22-150(a), pretrial intervention;

(8) Section 17-1-40, criminal records destruction, except as provided in Section 17-22-950;

(9) Section 63-19-2050, juvenile expungements;

(10) Section 17-22-530(A), alcohol education program;

(11) Section 17-22-330(A), traffic education program;

(12) Section 17-22-1010, Youth Challenge Academy and Jobs Challenge Program; and

(13) any other statutory authorization.

Other Types of Expungements in SC

Other types of criminal records can be expunged besides convictions – if your case has been dismissed or if you are acquitted at trial, those records can also be expunged regardless of the type of criminal charges.

Dismissals and Acquittals Can Be Expunged in SC

If your case has been dismissed by the prosecutor or by the court, you can have all records of your arrest and prosecution expunged.

If your case was in General Sessions Court, you must apply for the expungement through the Solicitor’s Office in the county where you were charged (or have your attorney submit the paperwork on your behalf).

If your case was in a magistrate or municipal court, SC law requires the court to automatically process your expungement and provide a copy of the expungement order to you and your attorney.

Many courts are ignoring this statutory requirement, however – if your record has not been expunged after a reasonable amount of time has passed or if you did not receive a copy of your expungement order, you may need to inquire with the clerk of court or have your attorney contact the court to ensure your record is expunged.

Pretrial Diversion Programs Resulting in Expungement

The successful completion of any pretrial diversion program in SC results in the 1) dismissal and 2) expungement of your charges, including:

  • Pretrial Intervention (PTI),
  • Alcohol Education Program (AEP),
  • Traffic Education Program (TEP),
  • Conditional discharges in magistrate, municipal, or General Sessions court, and
  • Drug court.

If you complete a conditional discharge in the magistrate or municipal court, the court that handled your case will process your expungement.

If you completed any other pretrial diversion program, however, you must pay an additional fee to the office where you completed the program, and they will process the expungement – it is not automatic.

How Do You Get an Expungement in SC?

The process for getting your record expunged depends on the case you have. For example:

  • For a conviction, dismissal, or acquittal in General Sessions Court, you must apply through the solicitor’s office in the county where you were charged,
  • For a conviction in the magistrate or municipal court, you must apply through the solicitor’s office in the county where you were charged,
  • For a dismissal or acquittal in the magistrate or municipal court, the court should automatically process your expungement and provide both you and your attorney with a copy of the expungement order (if they do not, you may need to contact the court or retain an attorney to help you get it done), and
  • If you completed a pretrial diversion program, you must apply for the expungement through the program that you completed.

Once an expungement application is approved by the solicitor’s office, they will forward it to SLED for approval. Once SLED approves, they will send the expungement order to a circuit court judge for signature.

Once the order is signed by a judge, it will be forwarded to all government agencies that have any record of your case, which could include jails, prisons, SLED, the Clerk of Court, and the Circuit Solicitor or Attorney General’s Office.

What About Websites or Publications That Are Privately Owned?

Your mugshot may appear online on websites that are not owned and operated by the government.

Most of these sites will remove your information if you provide them with a signed expungement order, but 1) some may refuse (the Order doesn’t necessarily apply to them although you may be able to sue for invasion of privacy or defamation in some cases), and 2) some may charge you a fee to remove your information.

Do You Need an Attorney for an Expungement?

You are not required to retain an attorney to handle your expungement, but many people do because:

  • They want to ensure it is done right the first time,
  • They may have difficulty communicating with the solicitor’s office or court handling the expungement,
  • They are not sure which offenses can be expunged,
  • They need someone who will follow through and make sure that the convictions or other court records are destroyed.

Obtaining expungements for our clients is a regular part of our law practice, and we are available to answer your questions, communicate with the solicitors’ office, SLED, and courts on your behalf, and help you get your record expunged.

Questions About Expungements in SC?

The criminal defense attorneys at the Thompson & Hiller Defense Firm focus exclusively on criminal defense cases in SC, including obtaining expungements for our clients. We have obtained dismissals, pre-trial diversion resulting in dismissals, or acquittals following trial in hundreds of criminal cases, and we have a record of proven results.

If you have been charged with a crime in SC or if you think you may be under investigation, call us now at 843-444-6122 or contact us through our website for a free initial consultation to find out if we can help.