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How Can I Clear My Record?

Screen Shot 2020 02 11 at 4.46.31 PMMaybe you are applying for jobs, maybe you’re applying to school, or maybe you’re just being proactive about your background. Either way, you may find that you have arrests or convictions listed on your background check that you want to get removed. There are a few things you should know when considering clearing up your criminal record in South Carolina.

Clearing your record generally means getting charges expunged from your record. When a person is arrested, at least in South Carolina, a couple of records are created which are accessible to the public. These might include mugshots and jail booking records as well as an official annotation on your criminal record. Expungement simply means the destruction of those records.

1. Dismissed charges and not-guilty verdicts shouldn’t be on your record

If you’re found innocent (not guilty) of the charges after a trial, you have a right to have your record cleared. In South Carolina, if the charges are dismissed or dropped outright, the person is entitled to an expungement. If a case is dismissed in the lower courts, expungement is supposed to happen automatically. If it’s dismissed in General Sessions, you must request the expungement in writing. In theory, you’re not supposed to have to do anything. However, there are a lot of cases going through the system and sometimes things are overlooked so that sometimes a record that should be expunged automatically does not get expunged.

2. Some convictions can be expunged under the right circumstances

If you have a summary court misdemeanor conviction, in South Carolina you can go back and expunge that after three-five years as long as your record has otherwise remained clear. If you have a circuit court misdemeanor which is on your record, then once you’re convicted of that you may not be able to expunge it; it’s a permanent record, it stays on your record and never goes away. In 2019 there were some changes to expungement laws which means that some circuit court charges can now be expunged if they fall under specific circumstances. If you’re not sure if your charged is eligible for expungement, you can contact an attorney or the Circuit Court Solicitor’s office to find out.

A DUI Conviction goes on a record in a couple of places. One place it appears is the person’s driving record. The other place it could appear is on a criminal history. For the driving record in South Carolina, it goes off the driving record after ten (10) years. For the criminal history, it may stay on there, though it won’t count against you in the event of another DUI arrest if it’s older than ten (10) years.

3. It’s best to avoid a conviction even when a record should be sealed

It’s a lot easier to get a charge off of your record if it’s been dismissed than if you’ve been convicted, no matter at what age that conviction happened. Even sealed convictions are not as straightforward as they may seem. For example, the charges of a juvenile conviction are not supposed to be available to anyone, but it seems that in many instances they leak out. Certainly, they come up in future court hearings where the DA has access to them. Many times, schools and other institutions are notified of certain conduct. Certainly, if someone is charged with any kind of sex offense, they could possibly be required to register as a sex offender and that does not end once the person is no longer a juvenile. Even though a juvenile conviction is supposed to be sealed, many times it isn’t.

4. Third-party websites are not included in expungement process – you have to do that yourself

If you’ve had your records expunged through the courts, either because the charged was dismissed or because you kept a clean record for three-five years after a conviction and were able to have that conviction expunged, you may still find that charge coming up on your background checks. Why? If a company is using a third-party background check, they may find that some third-party web-crawlers still have your arrest records on file. These third-parties are not notified of the expungement of records through the court order, so you will need to provide them with a copy of your Expungement order individually in order to get your records removed. This can take time and effort but is important if you want to make sure your record and background is completely clean.

If you want to get your record cleared but aren’t sure what to do first or whether your charge can be expunged, the Complete Legal Defense Team can help. Our attorneys can review your background to discover if there are any expungable records on it and if there are, we can help you get those records removed.

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