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 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?
Strictly 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.