Previously, we discussed why you should have a your criminal record expunged but how do you go about the process and how can a criminal defense lawyer help? As far as various public documents are concerned, in South Carolina, you can sometimes erase the past. Under state law, you may have your criminal record expungemed for a variety of first offenses, minor violations and charges that did not result in convictions. Those convicted of serious crimes, however, do not have these options. let’s start with a few questions…
What Is Expungement?
Unlike many other states, which only seal records from public view, South Carolina permits expungement only. Under the expungement procedure, the records themselves are destroyed, as if the offense never happened. The expunged information does not show up during pre-employment background checks or licensing investigations, and job applicants legitimately could answer “no” when queried about criminal convictions.
Who Is Eligible for Expungement?
In South Carolina there is a tiered system for expungement. The waiting periods are dependent upon the nature of the violation. A person who was arrested but not convicted is eligible for expungement immediately and it is granted without the fee that those convicted of offenses are required to pay. Waiting periods for convicted offenses are as follows:
Marijuana conviction—completion of the sentence
Conviction for writing a bad check—one year
Minor conviction resulting in no more than 30 days in jail—three years
First juvenile offense or adult domestic violence—five years
Hunting violations never can be expunged, and the only motor vehicle violation that can be expunged is a first offense of failing to stop for law enforcement.
How Do I Obtain an Expungement?
The first step is to make an appointment with a criminal defense lawyer. It is not required that you use a criminal defense lawyer to have your record expunged. However, the probability of a successful expungement may be increased by using a criminal defese lawyer since the process is different depending on the location and type of crime. A criminal defense lawyer will begin the process by figuring out if your offense is eligible for expungement.
Next, your criminal defense lawyer will file your request—nonconvictions in the municipal or magistrate court that handled the case. Everything else will go to the solicitor’s office that covers the county in which the conviction occurred. South Carolina is divided into 16 solicitor circuits, and each circuit has its own paperwork and requirements so it is imperative to make sure you contact that correct location. This is why a criminal defense lawyer is a good idea.
Once your request has been recieved, the solicitor’s office forwards your request to SLED. SLED will investigate to verify that the offense is eligible for expungement. If it is found to be eligible, the request will then go to the circuit judge, who will approve or deny the expungement. Upon approval, you will receive a copy of the expungement order. Your criminal defense lawyer should check your records with SLED a month or two later to ensure that the expungement has been applied correctly.
Seeking Legal Counsel
South Carolina expungement procedures are lengthy, and the requirements can vary from county to county. You should consult a local criminal defense lawyer for answers to specific questions about how to proceed in your location.