At a recent county council meeting it again was brought up about the obstacle having a criminal record can present to persons trying to find employment in Fairfield County either with the nuclear plant or otherwise.
Council members asserted the need to inform the public more about what crimes can be expunged and what they can do to make an expungement occur.
According to Sixth Circuit Solicitor Douglas Barfield, expungement is a statutory process governed under S.C. law.
Any fees involved in expungement of records are set by the legislature and go into effect statewide.
In an identity fraud case, the fee perhaps could be waived but in all other cases, fees apply.
Expungement eliminates the record of an arrest and of the booking process.
Booking records, files, mug shots and fingerprints are destroyed and the applicants criminal record does not have any references to arrest and conviction deleted from it.
Barfield said that every person has a criminal record in the S.C. computer system whether they have committed a crime or not, but the sheet would be blank if the person had never been arrested.
If one’s record is expunged, that process occurs via an order for destruction of arrest records by a circuit court judge.
The order is to destroy records held by the arresting law enforcement agency, the solicitor’s office, the magistrate or municipal court where the warrant or ticket originated, the jail or detention center involved in the case, and the order provides the person whose record is being expunged with a personal copy of the expungement.
Barfield cautions that in the Internet age documentation could still exist in a nongovernmental form that would link someone to an expunged crime, but his office and the other state offices do remove all governmental record of an expunged crime from one’s file.
Not every crime can be expunged. Sometimes a pardon can be issued, however, a pardon has different legal effects.
A pardon is a change to one’s record that reflects that the government has forgiven an offense and restored any civil rights such as the right to vote that may have been denied due to the sentence being served.
A record of the offense would still remain in the system if one were pardoned which may in fact still affect one’s efforts to secure employment in today’s tight job market.
Applicants need to supply as much information as they can if they are looking to have their record expunged. Barfield said they should bring their criminal record documentation with them to the solicitor’s office because then the workers there can determine right away if a particular crime can be expunged.
Criminal history is available online from the S.C. Law Enforcement Division at www.sled.gov for a $25 fee which must be paid by a money order made payable to SLED, the solicitor and the clerk of court.
The following offenses are eligible for expungement according to Barfield:
• Charges against the applicant that were dismissed or resulted in not guilty verdicts provided the charges were not dismissed as part of a plea bargain.
• Charges in summary by magistrate and/or municipal courts which are dismissed or result in not guilty verdicts by the magistrate or municipal court (in this instance those offices would handle expungement rather than the solicitor’s office).
• Charges for which applicants complete pretrial intervention, an alcohol education program or a traffic education program can be expunged.
• First offense drug charges of applicants under age 25 who complete probation under a conditional discharge are discharged and dismissed and can be expunged. This is a one-time expungement and does not apply to Schedule I or Schedule II narcotic controlled substances.
• Failure to stop for a blue light provided it was a first offense and did not result in great bodily injury or death.
• A first offense conviction in magistrate or municipal court.
•A first offense misdemeanor fraudulent check (under $5000) can be expunged.
• Charges against applicants convicted and sentenced under the Youthful Offender Act for a first offense can be expunged. These charges apply to persons age 17 to 25 years of age. The expungement can only occur once and only five years after the completion of the sentence, including probation and parole. The applicant must have no other conviction within that five-year period. Ineligible offenses in this category include: offenses involving the operation of a motor vehicle, violation of fish, game and wildlife laws; violent crimes; and criminal domestic violence other than CDV firs offense.
Barfield encouraged citizens who believe they are eligible for expungement to pursue the process. He said it is a tool his office uses which is designed to give offenders a second chance at being positive citizens and contributors to society.
For more information, contact the solicitor’s office at Post Office Box 607, Lancaster, S.C. 29721 or 803-416-9367.