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Can I Get a Felony Expunged?

 Having a criminal conviction on your record can be a major impairment. It can impact your ability to get an education, start a career, secure a loan, and find housing. In short, it may be a barricade to improving your personal and professional situation. However, there is a way to get certain convictions removed from your record. The process is called expungement.

How does the process work, and are you eligible to apply for an expungement? At Truslow & Truslow, we want to break down the expungement process for you and reveal which felonies may be eligible to be removed from your criminal record.

What Is Expungement?

Expungement is a court order that removes an arrest or conviction from your criminal record. In South Carolina, the order is generally called an “Order for Destruction of Arrest Records” and must be signed by a judge. The document dictates that all agencies destroy records pertaining to an individual’s arrest, mug shots, fingerprints, and other official records. In essence, an expungement can give an individual a “clean slate.”

Records Eligible to Be Expunged in South Carolina

Only certain charges and convictions are eligible to be expunged. These offenses include:

  • Non-Convictions. Non-convictions, such as charges that were dropped, dismissed, or resulted in a not-guilty judgment. While you may not have been convicted of any crime, just being accused of an offense can be enough to damage a reputation. Non-convictions are eligible for expungement from a person’s record even if that person was never convicted of an offense.
  • Misdemeanor Convictions. A first offense misdemeanor that is punishable by not more than 30 days of jail time and a fine of $1,000 can potentially be expunged.
  • fraudulent checkFraudulent Checks. A first offense conviction for fraudulent checks charges may be expunged.
  • Blue Light Offense. A first offense for failing to stop for a law enforcement vehicle when signaled may be expunged.
  • Simple Drug Possession. A first offense conviction for simple possession of almost any type of drug or controlled substance might be expunged, as long as the individual does not have subsequent drug convictions for three years.
  • Possession With Intent to Distribute. A first offense conviction for possession with intent to distribute any drug could be expunged if the individual does not have other drug convictions for 20 years.
  • Charges resolved by successful completion of a court-order program. If an individual successfully completes a pre-trial intervention program, alcohol education program, or traffic education program, their conviction may be eligible to be expunged.
  • Juvenile Offenses. If the offense was non-violent, a juvenile may be able to have their record expunged if they are currently over the age of 18 and have no prior convictions that would carry a maximum sentence of five years.

If you have questions about whether your felony conviction can be legally expunged, consult with a skilled South Carolina defense attorney.

Records that Cannot Be Expunged

Some convictions cannot be removed from an individual’s criminal record. Examples of crimes that cannot be expunged include:

  • Driving under the influence
  • Driving with an unlawful alcohol concentration
  • Motor vehicle violations
  • Hunting, fishing, and gaming charges
  • Serious or heinous felony convictions

Felony convictions for most violent crimes, including murder can never be removed from a person’s criminal record.

What Is the Process for Expunging a Criminal Record?

To request an expungement, you must apply by contacting the Solicitors Office in the county where your charges originated. You will be asked to fill out an application and provide court documents about your conviction or charges. Jurisdictions may have different requirements and administrative fees. An attorney can help you determine which office you need to get in touch with and help you track down the records and paperwork you will need to provide.

Expungements can be a time-consuming process. They do not happen overnight and may take two to six weeks to complete. In some cases, the process may take even longer.

Do I Need an Attorney to Handle a Felony Expungement?

criminal background expungementStrictly speaking, no. You can handle an expungement request on your own. However, just because you can doesn’t always mean that you should. An attorney can be a valuable resource when applying for an expungement.

A skilled defense attorney can review your circumstances to make sure that an expungement is your best legal option and that you are eligible to apply. An attorney can also locate the Solicitors Office that has jurisdiction over your claim. In addition, an experienced attorney will be able to help you track down all the necessary documentation the Solicitor’s Office requires. Failing to provide all the correct paperwork can slow down the process and potentially end up in a rejection.

You may also want to consult with an attorney to talk about other legal options if you are not eligible for an expungement.

Reach Out to Truslow & Truslow Today

You don’t have to live in the shadow of your conviction forever. Expungement may be an available option to help you get out from under the cloud of a criminal record. To discuss whether your felony conviction or criminal charges are eligible to be expunged in South Carolina, contact Truslow & Truslow.

We want to offer you a confidential consultation. Call our office at (803) 256-6276 to schedule yours today.

What Qualifies as Drug Paraphernalia?

Understanding what qualifies as drug paraphernalia can be tricky. While the possession of drugs is a criminal offense in the state of South Carolina, the possession and distribution of drug paraphernalia is considered a civil offense and is punishable by a fine of up to $500. In general, drug paraphernalia is defined as any instrument or device which aids in the ingestion or administration of illegal substances.

Determining what can and cannot be considered drug paraphernalia depends on many factors, including your access to the paraphernalia and the circumstances surrounding your charge.

South Carolina Laws

According to Section 44-53-110, “Paraphernalia” is used to cover any device, instrument, object, or instrument intended or designed to help a person take, smoke, ingest, make, or prepare any controlled substance. The law specifically excludes cigarette papers and pipes for smoking tobacco from this definition.

According to Section 44-53-391,  it’s illegal to sell, advertise for sale, manufacture, own, possess, deliver, or have with the intent to deliver or sell, paraphernalia.

According to Section 44-53-391, when a court or some other authority makes a determination about whether a particular object is actually paraphernalia, they’ll consider the statutes and any other relevant factors. They may also evaluate other information, such as:

  • How close the object was to any controlled substances
  • Any statements about its use made by whoever owned or controlled the object
  • Whether or not any controlled substance residue was on or in the object.

Types of Charges

Determining what is and is not drug paraphernalia depends largely on the circumstances surrounding your charge. In general, many of the following artifacts may be considered drug paraphernalia:

  • Bongsdrug paraphenelia charge attorney
  • Plastic bags
  • Needles
  • Small spoons
  • Syringes
  • Lighters
  • Glue
  • Small mirrors
  • Straws
  • Pipes (but not tobacco pipes)
  • Bowls

In addition to the type of paraphernalia you’re caught with, there are circumstantial factors that may play a role in determining whether or not you’ll be charged. These factors include:

  • Constructive possession vs. active possession: The type of possession you’re determined to have can be an important factor in a drug paraphernalia charge. Constructive possession is when you have drug paraphernalia within your control, but perhaps not within your immediate possession. An example of such a circumstance would be holding paraphernalia in the glove compartment of your vehicle. Active possession is when you are caught with drug paraphernalia on your person with the intent to use it or administer drugs with it.
  • Connection to Drug Possession: If a court is considering your drug paraphernalia charge, they will also take any previous drug possession charges into consideration. They may consider factors such as the amount of an illegal substance with which you were caught, the number of times you’ve been charged with drug possession, and your intent to sell or distribute.
  • Use and Intent: Even though there are some instruments and devices that are often associated with drug use, many types of drug paraphernalia have purposes outside of their connection to illegal substances. For example, plastic bags and straws may not always be intended for use with drugs and therefore may not always be charged as drug paraphernalia.

Penalties for a Charge

Individuals may be ticketed and fined up to $500 for possession of paraphernalia. Corporations charged with possession and/or distribution of paraphernalia may be punished with a fine of up to $50,000. While this is not a criminal charge, it is a civil citation and will be listed on your record.

Need Help? Call Truslow & Truslow

When you’ve been issued a citation for possession or distribution of drug paraphernalia, you’re likely uncertain about what to do next. After all, you don’t want that citation on your permanent record.

The attorneys at Truslow & Truslow are here to help. We’ve been representing clients like you for many years, working to get the citation dropped or otherwise minimized. We have a variety of strategies we can use to argue that the citation was invalid, including illegal search and seizure, that the items weren’t yours or weren’t knowingly in your possession, and others.

When you call us at (803) 256-6276, you’ll get a confidential consultation with one of our attorneys so that you can determine the best course of action in your drug paraphernalia ticket case.

Don’t try to handle this on your own. You need an experienced attorney to look out for your rights and to make sure you don’t fall into any traps that will make the citation stick to your record when it could have been done away with. Let us help. Call today.

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