Many of us wish certain things we did in the past could just disappear; especially if our regrettable behavior resulted in being convicted of a criminal offense. Criminal convictions can be erased from your record, but only in a few specific situations. Before getting to the details, you ought to know the general difference between an expungement and a pardon.
Expungements are granted by court order usually through a process run by your local Solicitor’s Office. That process ultimately is decided by a judge who must sign an Order granting the expungement. The process is primarily administrative with an application process, waiting period and eventually a decision that is sent to you in writing.
Pardons are granted by the S.C. Department of Probation, Pardon and Parole. The application process is extensive and your case must be presented at a hearing in Columbia, South Carolina before a committee. Pardons require a lot of time and preparation for your criminal defense attorney and are difficult to obtain. Your main goal in seeking a pardon should be to restore your basic civil rights that have been taken away due to a serious felony conviction (for example, right to vote, gun ownership, right to run for public office, etc.). Pardons do not result in the destruction (or expungement) of your criminal history and a record will be kept of the arrest and conviction on the charge, as well as the pardon.
Expungements are allowed by law in only in a few specific scenarios, and generally require the destruction of all records pertaining to criminal proceedings before the charge is dismissed. There are five specific situations where an expungement may be available to you:
- You successfully complete a Pre-Trial Intervention Program;
- You have been convicted of certain offenses in the magistrate’s or municipal court;
- You have been convicted of a first offense fraudulent check;
- You have been granted a conditional discharge on a controlled substance violation; and
- You have been charged with certain offenses that involve points violations of your hunting or fishing privileges.
Driving Under the Influence convictions are not eligible for expungement. If you were convicted and sentenced under the S.C. Youthful Offender Act, you may be eligible for an expungement depending on the offense.
If you are interested in seeking an expungement or a pardon, a qualified and experienced lawyer can help you determine if you are eligible and can further evaluate the likelihood of obtaining that goal.