Of all the consequences of a criminal conviction, many people accused of a crime fail to consider the long-term effect of a criminal record. The harmful legacy of an arrest for drug possession, underage drinking or other crimes can stand in the way of job opportunities, housing options and educational aspirations.
For that reason, fighting a conviction based on a sound criminal defense strategy is the first best option for many defendants. But even in the aftermath of a conviction, clearing one’s criminal record can be an option worth exploring. Expungements are available in South Carolina under several circumstances:
- Successful completion of a pretrial intervention program
- Successful completion of an alcohol education program for convicted DUI offenders
- When three years have passed following a first offense misdemeanor that carries a penalty of 30 days or less or a fine not exceeding $500 (but not crimes based on operation of a motor vehicle; fish, game and watercraft violations; or domestic violence)
- Following a conditional discharge for certain controlled substance possession crimes
A bill passed by the South Carolina House last year and currently before the Senate would allow more nonviolent offenders to remove felonies from their records and help them clear a path to better job prospects. The bill targets low-level felonies such as property damage, receiving stolen goods, shoplifting and drug charges that do not involve trafficking. Eligible offenders would have to first receive a pardon from the parole board.
The bill’s primary House sponsor emphasized the importance of giving people a second chance and warned against creating a class of unemployable citizens who have no means to become productive. He cited a case involving a former student at the Citadel whose conviction for distributing an ADHD medication barred him — years later — from even visiting the property of a potential employer.
Exploring alternatives to incarceration and opportunities for clearing a criminal record is an important part of the representation provided by a criminal defense attorney. As expungement laws and other statutes change, individuals suspected or convicted of a crime might learn about rights and options that they may not have considered.