How to Expunge my Public Records in South Carolina

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There are many reasons for anyone to make efforts to delete their records from the public. Record deletion is any process that either permanently destroys a record or hides it from the view of the general public. In South Carolina, having information publicly available can make the persons whose names appear on the records vulnerable to spear phishing, identity theft, and cyber attacks. It is now even worse with the various independent public record vendors that keep public records in South Carolina. Anyone can order publicly available information online and use it at will. The more people can access other persons' data, the easier it is to impersonate them or even target them for scams. In South Carolina, deleting confidential records from the public domain is especially crucial to prevent harassment, stalking and get a fresh start to life.

To delete a public record in South Carolina, the record subject should identify the agency holding such a record and inquire about the process. Typically, different public records are governed by varying laws. Hence, public record agencies have diverse procedures for deleting the public records in their custody. To get started, the person named on the public record requiring deletion should ask the following questions:

  • The information that can be changed
  • The information that can be removed
  • The content of the record that can be redacted
  • The feasibility of removing their home address from public documents and replace it with a mailing address

What is a Public Record in South Carolina?

Public records in South Carolina are official documents produced or maintained by the government that can be accessed by the general public. South Carolina public records exist as electronic records online and as physical paper documents in state-run repositories. These records are made public to ensure transparency in governance.  It also provides a means by which the general public can better understand the activities of public bodies. The South Carolina Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requires the government at all levels to provide access to government documents. It gives the general public the right to view and obtain public records kept by government agencies within the state. Per the FOIA, a public record requester in South Carolina need not declare a statement of purpose. However, certain limitations on the use of public records exist in the state. Some typical public records in South Carolina are:

  • Voting records
  • Criminal records
  • Court records
  • Vital records (birth, divorce, and marriage)
  • Licensing records

Generally, it is presumed that all records in South Carolina are public, but the FOIA exempts some records. The South Carolina Freedom of Information Act exemptions include:

  • The working documents of the legislature
  • Law enforcement records
  • Income tax returns
  • Medical records
  • Death records
  • Scholastic records
  • Adoption records

Since most records are publicly available in South Carolina, any person desiring to hide their information from the public domain can apply for expungement.

Does South Carolina allow Expungement?

Yes, South Carolina allows expungement. An expungement is a court-issued order for the destruction of records. Generally, an expungement cleans all evidence of a charge against a person, although there are some exceptions. However, not all public records are eligible for expungement in South Carolina. Once a record is expunged, the expungement order signed by a judge is sent to all relevant state, county, and municipal law enforcement agencies to destroy it. Some records can have negative impacts on the persons named on them if left unaddressed. Hence, expungement is beneficial for persons who want to keep their records clean of convictions.

How do I Expunge My Criminal Record in South Carolina

If a criminal record is expunged in South Carolina, it will no longer be visible to the public. Typically, only minor offenses can be expunged in South Carolina. Currently, the state does have provisions for expungement for persons who commit crimes that result in registering for the South Carolina Sex Offenders Registry. Driving Under the Influence (DUIs) cannot also be expunged in South Carolina. Similarly, a person with pending criminal charges that are not up to five years cannot get an expungement in the state.

The charges and convictions that may be eligible for expungement in South Carolina and their requirements include:

  • Not convicted - A person was not prosecuted, the charge was dismissed, or not found guilty
  • Completed Pre-Trial Intervention Program (PTI)
  • Completed the Traffic Education Program (TEP)
  • Completed the Alcohol Education Program (AEP)
  • Fraudulent check - A first offense misdemeanor for issuing a fraudulent check. The offender must not have been convicted of another criminal charge in one year since the first conviction.
  • General misdemeanor - A crime with a maximum penalty of $1000 or 30 days. The offender must not have been convicted of another criminal charge in three years since the initial conviction
  • Simple possession - Conviction of first offense misdemeanor drug possession in which the offender a conditional discharge and completed the terms of the discharge
  • Failure to stop - Conviction of first offense failure to stop a vehicle for the police. The offender must be free of conviction of another criminal in the three years since completion of their sentence
  • Youthful offender - Conviction of a first offense under the Youthful Offender Act (YOA). However, the offender must not have been convicted of another crime in the five years since completing their sentence.
  • Human trafficking victim - Crime involving a person who was a victim of human trafficking and convicted of prostitution or trafficking in person if the offense was a primary result of being a victim

To get a South Carolina criminal record expungement, an interested person must apply in the county where a conviction was put on their record. Each county in South Carolina is a part of a circuit, and each of them has a solicitor. The offender should obtain a copy of their criminal record from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) to help them determine what they can expunge and where to get it done. Getting a criminal record from SLED costs $25.

Once an offender figures out the conviction to expunge from their criminal record, they should get an application at the solicitor's office and fill it out. The application must be completed with the offender's correct address. The address filled out on the application should be one that the offender can get mails since the expungement will be sent there if they eventually get it. Note that there are fees that must be paid to the solicitor depending on the South Carolina criminal records expungement being sought. Proof of payment must be submitted with the application at the solicitor's office. Afterward, the solicitor's office will review the offender's application for eligibility and then send it to a judge. If the judge approves it, the offender will get a copy of the expungement order in their mail.

Will my Expungement Record Show up on a Background Check in South Carolina?

Typically, no. Expungement records do not show up on any standard background checks or non-FCRA compliant background checks in South Carolina. An expungement process is supposed to give an individual a clean record and provide them with a fresh start to life. Generally, only criminal justice agencies in South Carolina can use expunged information against an employee. Many other employers are not permitted to do that.

How to Seal a Record in South Carolina

A sealed record gives the impression that a conviction or arrest has been cleaned, but it is still there. When a person's record is sealed, it is not readily accessible to the general public. However, South Carolina's primary method of concealing a person's public information and restricting undue access to the public is expungement. The expungement process in South Carolina takes a long time and is only available in a limited set of conditions. When anyone has an expunged record in South Carolina, a court order typically requires it to be sealed.

Who Can See My Sealed Record in South Carolina?

When a record is sealed in South Carolina, all county, municipal, or state law enforcement agencies will take it out from their records. By law, a person with an expunged record is not required to confess to having a criminal record if asked. However, in South Carolina, an expunged record still exists. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and a few other federal agencies can see it, although under specific situations.

How to Delete Bankruptcy Records in South Carolina

Bankruptcy is a legal process that allows debts to be discharged or restructured under federal law. It helps certain persons to reorganize their financial affairs and have a new start in terms of finances. In South Carolina, anyone who files bankruptcy gets some benefits and protections. Typically, creditors will cease all collection attempts against a debtor once a bankruptcy is filed. All papers filed in a South Carolina bankruptcy case are a matter of public record, and as such, are accessible to the general public. Bankruptcy records are usually available to the public via credit reporting agencies. However, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) promotes the privacy and accuracy of all information maintained by credit reporting agencies. Interested members of the public can equally view a bankruptcy record online in South Carolina.

Generally, a bankruptcy record impacts a person's credit rating for between seven to ten years, depending on the type of bankruptcy filed and the credit reporting agency. There are several chapters of the Bankruptcy Code, but the most common are Chapters 7 and 13. These bankruptcies are hard to delete if they are legitimately filed. A person who filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in South Carolina will wait for ten years from the date of filing to have it deleted. Similarly, it takes seven years for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy to be discharged.

In South Carolina, anyone who has reasons to think that the bankruptcy record on their credit report is an error can challenge it at the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion). To do this, such a person should write a dispute letter to all credit reporting agencies providing their complete name and address. They must also state the inaccurate bankruptcy record in dispute and request deletion.

What are Consumer Protection Laws in South Carolina

Consumer protection laws are meant to prevent businesses from engaging in unfair practices and protect consumers from identity thefts and other consumer frauds. Laws exist in South Carolina to ensure that the public has a right to access information maintained by a government agency. However, there are exceptions to the right to access some records to protect the privacy of individuals.

The South Carolina Personal Financial Security Act prohibits obtaining money, property, or services by fraudulent pretenses. It is unlawful for anyone to obtain another person's identifying information to access or attempt to access their financial resources for personal gains. In South Carolina and by this law, identity theft is an automatic felony punishable by imprisonment up to ten years or a fine as decided by the court, or both.

The Family Privacy Protection Act of 2002 forbids individuals or entities from any personal data copied from the South Carolina Secretary of State's Office for commercial solicitations. According to the Act, anyone who violates it commits a misdemeanor. To protect South Carolina residents, the SC Secretary of State's Office collects information about each visit to their websites. They do this to track the activities on the website, particularly for individuals who obtain other persons' personal information.

How to Delete Lien Records in South Carolina

A lien provides security and permits a creditor to claim a debtor's property to satisfy the debtor's obligation. Simply put, a lien is a legal claim against a debtor's property. A creditor has the legal right to sell a debtor's property who fails to repay their debt. A lien record in South Carolina is a public record. It notifies other potential creditors of existing claims on a debtor's property. Besides private creditors, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and local government can also place liens on taxpayers' properties for having unpaid taxes. This particular type of lien is dangerous as the IRS gets to collect towed tax before other creditors.

To remove a lien record in South Carolina, a debtor should pay off their debt and delinquent tax, whichever is applicable. If the debtor cannot settle their obligation at once, they may negotiate with their creditor. Most often, many creditors will accept less than owed if the negotiated amount is substantial.
In South Carolina, any person can search a tax lien record online using the State Tax Lien Registry provided by the South Carolina Department of Revenue. Property lien records are available at all South Carolina Register of Deeds Offices in every county. They record liens and other documents regarding property transactions.

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