Legislature Overrides Governor’s Veto of New SC Expungement Law

Last week, the SC Legislature overrode Gov. Henry McMaster’s veto of a bill that will allow people with low-level, nonviolent drug convictions to have their criminal records expunged.

In addition to allowing the expungement of minor drug offenses, South Carolina’s new expungement law modifies the Youthful Offender Act (YOA) to allow more expungements and offers protections for job-seekers who have non-violent convictions and employers who hire them.

McMaster said he vetoed the bill because it would hurt the state’s business owners, but this was news to the many business owners who supported and lobbied for the new law…

How Does the Expungement Law Affect Drug Convictions?

The new law will allow expungement of the following:

  • First-offense convictions for simple possession of a controlled substance, after three years;
  • A first-offense conviction for illegal possession of a prescription drug, after three years; and
  • Convictions for possession with intent to distribute any drug, after 20 years.

How Does the Expungement Law Affect YOA Expungements?

The new law also corrects an ex-post facto violation in a 2010 amendment that prohibited expungement of some YOA convictions.

That law said youthful offenders were eligible for expungement only if they pleaded guilty under the provisions of YOA. This meant that many youthful offenders who pleaded guilty with the understanding that their conviction would be expunged after 15 years suddenly found themselves with a permanent criminal record.

The new SC expungement law says persons who were convicted before June 2, 2010, who were eligible for a YOA sentence but did specifically plead under the Youthful Offender Act, are eligible to have those convictions expunged.

There is a waiting period of five years after completion of the sentence, which means people who were age 24 or younger when they were convicted of a non-violent crime before June 2, 2010, can have their record expunged six months from now.

How Does the Expungement Law Affect Job Candidates and Employers?

Under the new law, employers are prohibited from basing a hiring decision on an expunged offense.

According to a letter he sent to legislators, this is what drove McMaster to veto the bill.

“Second chances should be freely given when individuals have paid their debt to society; however, forgiveness should be informed by fact and should not be forced upon unwitting participants and prospective employers,” he wrote.

However, many business leaders say the law will not hurt employers – in fact, it will help them and the state’s economy by adding to the pool of job candidates.

The law will “make our state more economically competitive and continue our economic prosperity, while providing second-chance opportunities to thousands of our citizens,” Greenville Chamber of Commerce President Carlos Phillips said.

The law also protects employers from lawsuits by prohibiting expunged convictions from being used as evidence in “any administrative or legal proceeding involving negligent hiring, negligent retention, or similar claims.”

Whatever their reasons, we should all be relieved that lawmakers stood up to McMaster and overrode his veto. There is no reason that people convicted of minor, non-violent crimes should be branded for life with a permanent criminal record.

Criminal Defense and Expungement Lawyer in Charleston, SC

If you think that you may qualify for expungement of your South Carolina convictions, call Charleston expungement attorney Grant B. Smaldone now at (843) 808-2100 or contact us through our website for a free consultation to see if you are eligible.