This summer, after months of contentious debate, the South Carolina Legislature overrode a veto* by the governor to pass a law allowing more people to have their criminal records expunged. Could a new expungement law help you go back to work?
Expungement removes a crime from a person’s record, ensuring that it will not show up on background checks for jobs, housing applications, and many other searches. The new law is a welcome relief for people whose past criminal convictions have kept them from employment, education, and other opportunities for years. But who is eligible?
At The JeffcoatFirm, we want to help South Carolinians understand their rights and options as they deal with criminal charges and convictions. With that in mind, here is a breakdown of the new law and how it might help you get back to work.
If you decide to apply to have your record expunged, our experienced Columbia expungement lawyers can help you through the process.
What Is Changing About South Carolina’s Expungement Law?
The new law greatly expands the number of people who can have their records expunged in South Carolina. Previously, expungement was mostly limited to people who were charged with but not ultimately convicted of a crime, those who completed special programs as required by court, and those convicted under a small number of specific laws.
Under the new law, people can now apply for expungement for:
- Convictions for crimes that are no longer on the books
- Multiple different expungeable offenses at the same time
- One-time, lower-level drug offenses, after getting clean
- One-time conviction of drug possession with intent to distribute, after getting clean
- Related convictions that came along with a conviction under the Youthful Offenders Act but were not covered under that law
In addition, the new law allows people seeking expungement to set up accounts to receive private donations to cover up to $125 of the $250 expungement fee. It also protects employers from frivolous lawsuits related to hiring people with expunged records and people seeking employment from having to disclose their expungements to employers.
Nothing is changing with regard to violent crimes, more serious drug charges, and DUIs. All of the changes under the new law will take effect in January 2019.
Who Is Eligible for Expungement in South Carolina?
Expungement is not an option for everyone. There are some requirements. These requirements can vary according to the conviction you are trying to get expunged.
Here are the eligibility requirements for some of the expanded types of expungement under the new law:
- Lower-level drug possession. You must have been drug-free for at least three years. Only a first offense can be expunged.
- Drug possession with intent to distribute. You must have been drug-free for at least 20 years. Only a first offense can be expunged.
- Youthful convictions. You are only eligible if you have never received another conviction. You cannot apply for expungement until five years after the completion of your sentence.
In general, to be eligible for any kind of expungement, you must have served your time and cooperated with the courts as to all the requirements they have given you throughout the trial process and after your conviction.
For a more detailed list of who can get an expungement, visit our page on expungement law.
How Do I Get an Expungement in South Carolina?
In order to get a conviction expunged from your record, you will have to file an application with the Solicitor. The actual process of applying for an expungement is more complicated than you might think, but a lawyer can help you through the process.
In addition to filling out the paperwork, you will have to pay a $250 fee. Although the new law just passed by the legislature will allow you to set up an account to receive private donations of up to $125 toward this fee, you will have to pay the remaining balance out-of-pocket. You will also have to pay a $25 fee to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) and a $35 fee to the county clerk.
How Long Does It Take to Get an Expungement?
The expungement process can take a long time, and the amount of time will vary depending on who is assigned to your case in the Solicitor’s Office and in the courts. After you submit your petition, someone in the Solicitor’s Office will check your eligibility, and if they approve, they will have SLED check your eligibility as well. If SLED approves, the Solicitor will ask a judge for approval. If the judge approves, they will order the conviction expunged, and records of it destroyed.
If there is a hang-up anywhere in this process – particularly if anyone denies your eligibility somewhere along the way – it can slow things down quite a bit. However, an experienced expungement lawyer can help you get through the process effectively and efficiently. It will be worth it in the end when your record is cleared.
How Can an Expungement Lawyer Help?
The expungement process can be long, tedious, and confusing. Proving your eligibility and navigating the twists and turns is not easy. An experienced expungement lawyer will be familiar with the process and will know exactly which laws apply in your case and exactly how to prove that you are eligible for expungement.
In other words, a lawyer can keep you from wasting your valuable time and money on an application that might ultimately fail because you, like most people, do not have experience with the intricate details of the process.
Contact an Expungement Lawyer in Columbia Today
If you are newly eligible for expungement in South Carolina, don’t waste a single moment. The sooner you get your record cleared, the sooner you can get back to work in a well-paying, fulfilling job.
The Columbia expungement lawyers of The Jeffcoat Firm have years of experience helping former offenders get their records expunged, and we’re already geared up for the new law to take effect. For more information on how we can help, contact us online or call us now.