To Expunge or Not to Expunge
Understanding the Impact of Arrests, Charges, and Convictions on Your Future
In addition to the direct consequences of a conviction for a crime (i.e., jail time, probation, fines, and community service), those who are found guilty often face indirect effects, known as collateral consequences, as well. These sanctions and disqualifications can negatively affect their ability to lead their lives as they had before receiving their criminal charges.
First and foremost, there’s the social stigma of being a convicted criminal. On top of that, a person could face disenfranchisement, loss of a professional license (medical, nursing, driving, etc.), loss of access to student loans, and eviction from public housing. They might have trouble finding or keeping employment or living in a certain area due to their arrest record being a matter of public record. Those convicted of violent crimes here lose their right to own so much as a handgun. The state of South Carolina even imposes a lifetime ban that prevents those with a drug-related felony from receiving benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Most of these collateral consequences, unfortunately do not only affect convicted felons; they can apply to individuals incarcerated for misdemeanors, as well as those who’ve never even been to jail. Perhaps most troubling, these effects tend to follow the individual around for the rest of their life.
Fortunately, certain types of crimes can be expunged here in South Carolina. If you’re interested in having an arrest, a charge, or a conviction erased from your criminal record, read our comprehensive guide here and then contact us at the Sahn Law Firm to find out more.
Your Guide to Expungement in South Carolina
To get something expunged means to erase an arrest, a charge, or a conviction from your criminal record through a court order. Having your South Carolina criminal records expunged gives you a fresh start, meaning those indirect consequences of your previous actions can no longer follow you around and impede your opportunities. You can now be free to get a job, register for a professional license, find housing, and even own a gun.
Before we explore different types of expungement, it’s important to note that expungements here in the state only erase state charges or convictions, which means you’d have to handle any items on your criminal record from another state separately, depending on that state’s laws.
South Carolina only allows for certain types of convictions to be expunged, and those are typically for minor offenses. Here are some crimes that cannot be expunged:
- Driving Under the Influence (DUI)
- Crimes that require registering as a sex offender
- Pending criminal charges less than five years old
- Most domestic violence offenses, except for first offense DV in the third degree
- Crimes that follow a previous expungement for the same offense
Types of Expungement
Let’s examine the different types of expungement offered under South Carolina law.
- Type 1- This type of expungement is reserved for those individuals who were not convicted of their crime by being found not guilty, having their charge dismissed, or having their charge not prosecuted. This type of expungement is free.
- Type 2- This type of expungement is for those individuals who have successfully finished a pretrial intervention program and met all requirements. Your charge will be marked as not prosecuted.
- Type 3- This type of expungement is for drivers who have successfully completed a traffic education program. Your charge will be marked as not prosecuted.
- Type 4- This type of expungement is for those who have successfully finished an alcohol education program. Your charge will be marked as not prosecuted.
- Type 5- This type of expungement only applies to those convicted of writing a fraudulent check as a first offense misdemeanor. One year has to have passed since your conviction, and during that time, you can have no other convictions. If you’re eligible, the court will grant your expungement, though the conviction will remain on your nonpublic record.
- Type 6- This type of expungement is for those individuals who have been given a conditional discharge for a first offense misdemeanor for drug possession. If you’re eligible, the court will grant your expungement, though the conviction will remain on your nonpublic record.
- Type 7- This type of expungement is for individuals who’ve committed a first offense misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of $1,000 and 30 days in jail. Type 7 also covers first offense domestic violence in the third degree. Three to five years must have passed to seek expungement, depending on your charge, and during that time, you cannot have received any other convictions. If you’re eligible, the court will grant your expungement, though the conviction will remain on your nonpublic record.
- Type 8- This type of expungement is for individuals who were convicted for first offenses under the Youthful Offender Act (YOA). Five years must have passed since the completion of your sentence, and during that time, you cannot have received another conviction. The state will maintain the conviction on your nonpublic record.
- Type 9- This type of expungement is for drivers who were convicted of a first offense for failure to stop your vehicle when signaled by law enforcement. This is, in fact, the only traffic offense that can be expunged. The state will maintain the conviction on your nonpublic record.
- Type 10- This type of expungement is for victims of human trafficking who, as a result, were convicted for either human trafficking or prostitution.
- Type 11- This type of expungement is for individuals who were convicted as first offenders of simple possession or possession with intent to distribute. The time limit that must have elapsed before you can seek expungement varies based on your charge, and during that time, you cannot have received another conviction. The state will maintain the conviction on your nonpublic record.
Expungements typically cost between $285 and $310 in filing fees and administrative fees, depending on the type.
You might be wondering: if the whole point of an expungement is to get a clean slate, why do some convictions remain on your nonpublic record. The reason is simple. You can only apply for most types of expungement once, so the state has to keep track.
Steps to Expungement
While it’s possible to seek an expungement on your own, we recommend doing so with the help of an attorney who has experience handling matters related to criminal law. Your South Carolina criminal defense attorney can help you determine if you’re eligible for expungement here in the state. If your crime cannot be expunged, your lawyer can then help you seek a potential pardon instead.
Once you and your lawyer have determined what type of expungement applies to your unique situation, you will need a copy of your criminal record from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, or SLED, and an application from the solicitor’s office. You must apply in the county where your charge or conviction went on record. Your criminal defense attorney will help you determine which solicitor’s office you should visit, as well as guide you through the completion of the application. Part of your application will be an “Order for the Destruction of Arrest Records.”
To pay for your expungement and the fees involved, you’ll need a money order. The state does not accept cash or personal checks. Your attorney will help you calculate your total cost so that you can be prepared.
Once your application is complete, the solicitor’s office will review it to determine whether you’re eligible for expungement. If yes, a judge will sign your order and send you a copy in the mail. Please note this process can take a few weeks to a few months.
You are now no longer legally required to admit to the charge or conviction that you had expunged, which means that you can answer “no” when asked if you have a criminal record (assuming that was your only charge or conviction). Your booking record, mug shots, and fingerprints will be destroyed, and the public will no longer be able to search your arrest record on the internet (after about 30 days or so).
Sahn Law Firm Is Here to Help
Criminal defense attorney Michael Sahn and his expert legal team at Sahn Law Firm have helped to free countless individuals from the direct and indirect consequences of a criminal charge or conviction. Dealing with the technical and bureaucratic process of an expungement can be intimidating, and if you make a single mistake, you risk wasting your time and money. Let us help you get your South Carolina criminal record squeaky clean once more.
Call us today for a free consultation to help you determine which type of expungement will apply to you and your record. We will walk you through the entire legal process and assist with all communications from the state. Don’t hesitate. If you’ve been struggling to get your life back on track after your arrest, an expungement can literally be life-changing. You deserve a fresh start.
Once your record is clean, you’ll be able to breathe so much easier! We’re ready to help.