In the age of the internet, it is easier than ever for potential landlords, employers, higher education admissions offices and youth volunteer organizations to gain access to public records regarding your experiences with the law.
Even petty misdemeanors, non-convictions and arrests that never brought formal charges can be accessed and associated with your public identity, regardless of the amount of time that has passed since the incident.
Fortunately, South Carolina has an expungement policy that, when successful, can permanently remove these records from public view. Reference our blog post about the expungement eligibility for more information about what charges can and cannot be expunged.
How can I expunge a charge or arrest from my permanent record?
The expungement procedure is a relatively lengthy one, and the internet is quick to update, so it is important to start the process as soon as possible.
First, it is important to be aware of the type of court that had jurisdiction over your charge. If your charge resulted in a non-conviction in either a Magistrate or Municipal court, you must contact the clerk’s staff of that court, who will provide you with the necessary paperwork and processing information.
All other scenarios require you to contact the Solicitor’s office in the judicial circuit where the charge originated. The state of South Carolina is divided into 16 judicial circuits, with each circuit having jurisdiction over specific counties. A complete list of South Carolina Solicitors, organized by circuit, can be found here.*
While different circuits have different requirements for the expungement of a charge, all will require you to fill out an application form. The office will check your eligibility and then have the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) do the same. Depending on the charges and the circuit, you may be asked to present court documents or certificates signifying the completion of a community program.
Once your eligibility is confirmed, the Solicitor’s office obtains approval by both the circuit Solicitor and a Circuit Court judge. Once the expungement has been judge-approved, then he or she will order destruction of public records relating to the charge, although nonpublic records of the charge and expungement date will still be accessible by authorized law and court officials.
Upon completion of the process, you should receive an expungement order from the Solicitor’s office. It is recommended that you request a copy of your personal record from SLED one to two months after you receive the order to verify the expungement has been completed.
Expungement requires a $250 administration fee to the Solicitor’s office, as well as a $35 filing fee to the Clerk of Court and a $25 fee to SLED, made payable by separate money orders presented upon application at the Solicitor’s office.
Furthermore, it’s important to note that every case is unique. We always recommend you review the specifics of your offense with an experienced attorney to determine if you qualify.
*Relevant information obtained from the South Carolina Bar.