How do I get something taken off my criminal record?
Many people ask me “How do I get something taken off my record?”. In South Carolina, as with most states, this process is called an “expungement.” Regardless of what a friend of a friend has told you about expungements, the process is statutorily driven, meaning you can get anything taken off of your record as long as the legislature says you can. In other words, as long as there is a statute providing for the expungement, you can apply for it to be removed from your record.
In South Carolina, expungement of a criminal charge is not the norm. Generally anything that is on your record stays on your record for life. As with all rules, however, there are some exceptions. As of this writing, the following exceptions are statutorily available and are as outlined below:
1. Your charge was dismissed, nolle prossed or the defendant was found not guilty or dismissed after successful completion of a diversionary program.
Section 17-1-40 of the South Carolina Code says that for any charge, regardless of the nature of the offense, the arrest can be taken off of your record and all public records destroyed if your case was dismissed by the Solicitor, Prosecuting officer, or if you were found not guilty. Section 17-22-150(a) allows an expungement after the successful completion of Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) and 17-22-530(A) addresses Alcohol Education Program (AEP). Section § 44-53-450(b) is for a first offense simple possession of Marijuana and you have completed the requirements imposed by the court for a conditional discharge.
2. You were convicted of a first offense misdemeanor under the Fraudulent Check Law and one year has lapsed from the date of conviction with no other fraudulent check charges.
Section 34-11-90 allows you to get an expungement for a bad check arrest and conviction if it was a first offense misdemeanor, one year has lapsed from the date of conviction and no other fraudulent check convictions are on your record during the one-year period.
3. You were convicted of a first offense magistrate or municipal level offense (carrying a penalty of not more than 30 days imprisonment or a fine of $1000, or both) and three years has elapsed after the date of conviction and you did not receive any other conviction during that period.
This Statute allows most people to get first time offense off of their record as long as the offense was a magistrate or municipal level offense and it does not involve:
Offenses involving the operation of a motor vehicle
Offenses in title 50 (“Fish Game and Watercraft”)
Criminal domestic violence (see below)
For a criminal domestic violence charge to be expunged from your record, the same rules apply, except there must be a five-year delay from the date of conviction prior to applying for an expungement.
4. You were convicted of an offense to which you were sentenced pursuant to the Youthful Offender Act and five years has lapsed from the date of the completion of your sentence.
If you were sentenced pursuant to the Youthful Offender Act, you can apply for expungement if 5 years has lapsed from the date of the completion of your sentence and you have no other convictions during that time frame. The same exceptions dealing with motor vehicles, Fish, Game and Watercraft, as well as Criminal Domestic Violence apply here as well.
Expungement Application Process
I have reproduced the procedure from the instructions on the expungement form below. While the expungement process is not all that complicated, it can be time-consuming and aggravating trying to track down all of the documents and signatures that are required. If you need help with an Expungement in South Carolina, contact our office for assistance.
Contact our office for assistance.
§ 17-22-950, the Summary Courts are required to automatically issue orders of expungement for cases tried in their courts when the defendant is found not guilty, or if the charges are dismissed or nolle prossed. In all other situations, expungements are processed through the Solicitor’s office in the circuit in which the offense was committed.
In exchange for an expungement service that is provided by the solicitor’s office, the applicant must pay the following amounts to the solicitor in the form of separate certified checks or money orders:
• a non-refundable administrative fee of $250.00 made payable to the solicitor,
• a non-refundable SLED verification fee of $25.00 made payable to SLED, when applicable,
• a filing fee of $35.00 made payable to the county clerk of court, when applicable.
Fee Exemption: Pursuant to § 17-22-940(B), SC Code, any person who applies to the solicitor’s office for an expungement of general sessions charges pursuant to Section 17-1-40 is exempt from paying the administrative fee, unless the charge that is the subject of the expungement request was dismissed, discharged, or nolle prossed as part of a plea arrangement under which the defendant pled guilty and was sentenced on other charges.
The solicitor will send the application to SLED in order to verify that the offense is eligible for expungement, as provided by the South Carolina Code of Laws.
SLED will return the application to the solicitor and indicate if the offense(s) is eligible for expungement.
If the offense is determined to be eligible for expungement by SLED, the solicitor will obtain all necessary signatures, including the signature of the PTI Director, AEP Director, the summary court judge, and the circuit court judge.
Once the order is signed by the circuit court judge, the solicitor will file the order with the clerk of court.
The solicitor will provide copies of the expungement order to all pertinent governmental agencies as well as the applicant or the applicant’s attorney.
Pursuant to Section 17-22-950, SC Code, the summary courts are responsible for expunging the records of all criminal cases handled in their courts, including offenses found in title 56 (Traffic), Title 50 (DNR) which are disposed of pursuant to Section 17-1-40. The summary courts are also required to automatically issue orders of expungement for cases tried in their courts when the defendant is found not guilty, or if the charges are dismissed or nolle prossed.
EXPUNGEMENT ORDERS SHOULD NOT BE FORWARDED TO S.C. COURT ADMINISTRATION (SCCA): (1) for magistrate or municipal court convictions/dispositions, because SCCA does not retain information which identifies defendants by name or SSN for these charges; or (2) for general sessions convictions/dispositions because disposition data (including expungements) is sent to SCCA electronically, and expungements are automatically entered into SCCA records; or (3) for family court convictions/dispositions because disposition data (including expungements) is sent to SCCA electronically, and expungements are automatically entered into SCCA records.