Expungement Lawyer in South Carolina
Expungement is the complete destruction of all records that pertain to your arrest. If your request for expungement is granted, it will restore you to the position that you were in before you were arrested for an offense.
Once an expungement is granted, things such as your mugshot, booking records, and files must be destroyed. If you were asked about your criminal history in a background check, you would not need to acknowledge a prior offense because expungement makes it as if it does not exist at all.
Bannister, Wyatt & Stalvey, LLC is a criminal defense law firm serving Greenville, SC. Our attorneys can help explore whether expungement is a possibility for your records.
You Should Seek Expungement If It Is an Option
It is always in your interest to apply for expungement, although the process may be complicated. If you can erase your criminal record, you should always take advantage of the opportunity to do so. Our lawyers can help you through the process, avoiding the pitfalls that can derail your request. Contact us today to learn more.
The public can see your criminal record in a background check, which means that a prior mistake that you made can follow you around for life. A criminal conviction can make it harder for you to:
- Earn a living by qualifying for certain types of jobs.
- Find a place to live.
- Own a firearm.
Convictions on Your Record Can Present Challenges in Life
There are times when you may need to go through a background check. Some people may judge someone who has a criminal record. Some jobs may even be closed to you if you have a conviction on your record. Expungement can help you unlock new opportunities that you may have otherwise been denied.
If you have a conviction on your record, you may always need to overcome hurdles in life. People may reach a certain impression of you based on what happened years ago before you may even get a chance to explain. Even if you can address their concerns, you are better off not having to have the discussion in the first place.
South Carolina Laws on Expungement
The good news is that South Carolina law allows for the expungement of a wide variety of criminal convictions that can give you a clear record and help your future. The law wants to give you a second chance under some circumstances. However, your criminal conviction will not automatically be expunged if you meet the requirements. It is on you to take action to get your conviction expunged. You can and must apply to physically have your conviction expunged in order for your request to be considered. Our attorneys can work with you on your request for expungement.
The Categories of Offenses That Can Qualify for Expungement
To be eligible for expungement, an offense must specifically be on the list that is provided under South Carolina law. The state maintains eight categories of offenses for which you can apply for expungement. If the offense is not on the list, it cannot be expunged. Each category on the list for expungement has its own individual requirements.
Categories of offenses that may be expunged from your record under South Carolina law include:
- Charges that were dismissed, no-billed, or not processed (along with not guilty verdicts, which will still remain on your record until they are expunged)
- A first-offense misdemeanor conviction for Fraudulent Check (after one year)
- A conditional discharge for certain drug offenses
- A first-offense conditional discharge for disorderly conduct
- A conviction for a crime(s) that carries a maximum penalty of up to 30 days or a $1,000 fine
- A first offense conviction as a youthful offender for which a defendant is sentenced pursuant to the provisions of Youthful Offender Act
- A first-offense conviction for either simple possession of a controlled substance or unlawful possession of a prescription drug
- A first-offense conviction for possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance
- A first-offense misdemeanor conviction for Failure to Stop Motor Vehicle
As you can see, there is a broad range of offenses that can qualify for expungement. South Carolina law intends to give many people a second chance at life without the stigma that a conviction will bring.
You Must Meet All Requirements to Qualify for Expungement
Each of the above categories has its own individual requirements. For practically every possible offense, you will need a clean record between the time of the original conviction and the time when you are applying for expungement. By way of example, following a first offense for possession of a controlled substance, you can apply for expungement three years after the initial conviction, provided that you had no other convictions in the meantime for any other offenses.
For a misdemeanor that resulted in a jail sentence of 30 days or less, you can apply for expungement after three years, provided that you have no other conviction in the meantime (except for minor traffic offenses). If the offense were for third-degree domestic violence, the waiting period will be five years.
Offenses That May Not Qualify for Expungement in South Carolina
While there are many convictions that will qualify for expungement, there are some that may not be eligible, including:
- Certain traffic offenses
- Convictions that are classified as violent offenses under South Carolina law
- Convictions where you have still not met the full requirements (such as payment of restitution or court fees)
- Nearly all felonies
- Fish and wildlife offenses
The Process to Follow for Expungement of Your Conviction
Expungement falls under the jurisdiction of the Solicitor’s Office, which will make the actual decision about your request. First, you must find the appropriate Solicitor’s Office to apply to, because there are 14 of them located throughout South Carolina. The Solicitor’s Office, with jurisdiction over your offense, is the one that can expunge your conviction. Expungements are done at the discretion of the relevant solicitor.
Then, you will file the actual application for expungement. The application for expungement must include the following:
- The expungement application
- Certified disposition and documentation from the County Clerk of Court or the Judge’s Office that all of the conditional discharge requirements have been met
- The required fees (under most categories, you will need to pay a $250 administrative fee, along with a verification fee and a filing fee)
Expungement Can Be a Confusing Process, and It Is Not Assured
Expungement may present a challenge for some. Even if you otherwise meet the requirements, there are additional qualifications that you must meet that the Solicitor’s Office may use to make it tougher for you to gain expungement. Another of the key requirements is that you must have paid all required restitution and court costs. It can be very difficult for people to pay the money that they owe after going through the legal process. You may need an attorney to advocate for you when you are dealing with the Solicitor’s Office.
How Our Attorneys Can Help with Your Expungement Process
In addition, because of the many potential categories of offenses and the somewhat confusing requirements, you may not understand what is necessary to have your convictions expunged. You are dealing with a government official, so you should present an orderly application.
The attorneys at Bannister, Wyatt & Stalvey, LLC can help you by doing the following:
- Gathering your criminal records and learning more about your own history
- Reviewing whether you are eligible for expungement
- Applying for expungement on your behalf and making sure that your application is complete
Once your expungement application has been filed with the relevant solicitor, they will send it to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED). SLED will review your application and your record, and they will advise the solicitor whether the offense qualifies for expungement. In addition, the government will also determine whether you have met all the requirements for your conviction (such as paying fees and restitution). If you meet the requirements, the solicitor will inform the court, which will then issue an order of expungement.
How long can the expungement process take?
The entire process can take several months. In some cases, it can even take six months from start to finish. From your standpoint, the key thing is to send in a complete application that will not cause the solicitor to come back with any questions. Hiring an attorney to help with the process can keep you from encountering that roadblock and can give you the best possible chance of success.
How to Verify That Your Conviction Was Expunged
After you have received the expungement order, you can check your own records online to see if your conviction has actually been sealed. To access your own criminal records, you can visit the South Carolina Law Enforcement Office’s Criminal Records check page. There is a $26 charge to obtain your own criminal records. If the conviction still appears on your records in spite of an expungement order, you will need to follow up to ensure that it is removed. You should always verify your own records, so you can see what is publicly available about you. You should also check the public database and a commercial database to ensure that your conviction was removed.
You Can Seek a Pardon If You Do Not Qualify for Expungement
Another option if you do not qualify for expungement is to seek a pardon. In South Carolina, you do not need connections to the government to obtain a pardon. Here, a pardon has a somewhat different meaning than you would otherwise expect after years of following the news.
South Carolina has a Department of Probation, Pardon, and Parole Services. This department has its own special process for you to follow if you believe that you may be eligible for a pardon. Even if you cannot have your conviction fully sealed, you can have some of the rights restored that you lose from certain offenses. For example, you may lose the right to vote when you are convicted of certain crimes.
The Department will consider the circumstances of your case before reaching its decision. You will need to clearly articulate your reasons for a pardon and include letters of reference from three non-related individuals. However, a pardon does not seal the record from public view, so you may not get exactly what you are looking for without an expungement. Nonetheless, you may still want to act to secure as many of your rights as possible.
It matters how you write your application for a pardon. The way that you address the Department and how you frame your reasons can be persuasive. An experienced attorney can help with your application for a pardon to give you the best chance of success.
Contact a South Carolina Expungement Lawyer Today
The criminal defense attorneys at Bannister, Wyatt & Stalvey, LLC can help you with any questions that you may have about expungement or pardons, and we can guide you through the process. Hiring an attorney for these crucial matters is an investment in your future. You are already paying the fees associated with expungement requests, and an attorney can ensure that your application is correct and advocate for you if necessary.
To schedule your free initial consultation, you can send us a message online or call us today at (864) 523-7738.
When should I seek a pardon instead of an expungement?
You can seek a pardon if your request for expungement was denied or the offense that you were convicted of does not allow you to seek expungement.
Is all evidence of a conviction completely gone from everywhere?
The FBI will retain records of your arrest and conviction, but you will still have it removed from your record for things like job and housing applications.
Will I ever have to admit that I was convicted?
There may be certain rare circumstances where you will have to disclose a conviction, such as if you were trying to join the military. You should ask your attorney about the full ramifications of the expungement.