SC House and Senate Pass Amendments to Expungement Law

I supported this bill, and it was much needed – the SC legislature has passed a new expungement law that will allow more expungements of minor drug convictions and YOA convictions, prohibits consideration of expunged offenses when hiring employees, and protects employers from liability based on employees’ expunged offenses.

Why Did We Need Amendments to SC’s Expungement Laws?

Over the years, South Carolina and the entire country have created more and more crimes while arresting more and more people. Our prisons are full, and the rest of the world sees us as a prison-nation that incarcerates our citizens at ridiculous rates.

Is it really necessary to brand young people for the rest of their lives for one youthful mistake? The consequences of a criminal conviction in SC are severe, and they can last a lifetime – every person deserves a second chance after a youthful or one-time offense.

YOA Expungements in SC

South Carolina’s Youthful Offender Act (YOA) has always allowed expungement of a YOA conviction – prior to 2010, there was a 15-year waiting period, and, pursuant to Gay v. Arial, it was not required that you plead under the YOA, only that you were a youthful offender who would qualify for a YOA sentence.

In 2010, the legislature amended the expungement provisions of the YOA to allow for expungement five years after the completion of your sentence, but also added language that said you are not eligible unless you plead under the YOA – taking away thousands of SC citizens’ right to expunge their YOA convictions with a rule change that was unconstitutional and a violation of the Constitution’s ex-post facto clause.

The new amendments fix the ex-post facto violation and allow any person who would have qualified under the YOA prior to 2010 to have their record expunged five years after they complete their sentence (which would be as soon as the new law goes into effect).

For every person convicted after the 2010 amendment, you must still plead guilty under the YOA to qualify for the expungement.

Expungement of Drug Convictions in SC

The new amendments allow for expungement of minor drug convictions:

  • First-offense simple possession of any drugs can now be expunged after three years;
  • First-offense possession of prescription drugs can be expunged after three years; and
  • First-offense possession with intent to distribute any drugs can now be expunged, but only after waiting 20 years.

Why did we need this? Minor drug convictions may be the most common types of youthful offense that are not repeated – many people try drugs, learn that it is bad for them, and never use them again. When a person has one offense but then demonstrates over time that it won’t be repeated, they deserve a second chance to live their lives without the stigma of a drug conviction.

SC Expungement Lawyer in Charleston

Grant B. Smaldone is a criminal defense lawyer in Charleston, SC who understands what’s at stake when you have convictions on your record. We can help you to clean up your record and expunge any offenses that qualify – if you think you may be eligible for a SC expungement, call now at (843) 808-2100 or send us your information to find out if your record can be expunged.