If you have a criminal record, you know how many opportunities you have lost because of it. You might be having trouble finding an apartment or a job, and you might not be able to own a gun or serve on a jury. You might also be forced to deal with people thinking less of you because of a mistake you made in the past.
It could be even worse if you are enduring this treatment for a crime you were never convicted of committing. Arrest records are also available to the public in many cases, and some people assume that if you were arrested, you must be guilty.
The law recognizes the inherent unfairness of many of these situations and offers a remedy. In some circumstances you could apply for an expungement, which wipes your record clean. In cases where expungement is not an option, applying for a pardon could be possible with the help of a skilled defense attorney. To learn more about whether these options are available to you, schedule a free consultation with a Greenville expungement lawyer today.
Expungement Clears Your Criminal Record from the Public Eye
An expungement removes a criminal conviction or arrest from your criminal record so that it no longer available to the public and will not appear in a criminal background check. Thus, the record should no longer affect your access to housing, employment, professional licensing, higher education, or credit. A knowledgeable Greenville attorney could explain the specifics of this process in more detail and work to help you secure expungement.
Eligibility for Expungement
In matters that occurred after 2009, authorities automatically expunge records if the prosecutor opted not to press charges or if a judge dismissed charges. South Carolina Code §17-1-40 says that if charges were settled in a plea agreement, you must apply for expungement—it is not automatic.
If a case was prosecuted, you must apply for an expungement even if a trial led to an acquittal. Expungement is only available in limited cases. If one of the following circumstances applies, you could apply for expungement:
- You were a first-time offender and completed a diversion or pre-trial intervention program
- You were a first-time offender convicted of an offense that carried a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and a $1,000 fine
- There was a conditional discharge of simple possession of a controlled substance charge
- You were convicted of simple possession of a controlled substance
- You were a first-time offender conviction for failing to stop for law enforcement
- You were convicted as a non-violent youthful offender
Further restrictions on seeking an expungement might apply, depending on the offense. For example, an offender convicted of simple possession or failure to stop must wait three years and receive no convictions in the interim before they could apply for expungement. A Greenville attorney could help you determine whether applying for expungement is possible in your particular case.
Pardon Could Be an Option
Many convictions are not eligible for expungement. Some examples are violent crimes, including most domestic violence offenses, motor vehicle offenses, and sex crimes. If an offender has served their sentence and maintained a clean record, they could apply for a pardon.
A pardon does not clear a record—anyone requesting a background check could still access your criminal history. However, the fact that you have received a pardon will be part of the criminal record. The pardon indicates that the state believes you have paid your debt to society and been rehabilitated. A pardon also restores your eligibility to own a gun, run for public office, receive a professional license, and serve on a jury.
Greenville expungement attorney Christopher L. Jones could help you complete the written pardon application and accompany you to your pardon hearing. In most cases, the pardon application process takes six months to a year.
Work with a Greenville Expungement Lawyer to Regain a Clean Slate
You should not and do not have to pay for a mistake forever. If you have stayed on the right side of the law since being arrested or convicted of a crime, seeking expungement or a pardon could help you move forward.
Let a Greenville expungement lawyer with experience as a former prosecutor and municipal judge explain your options for reclaiming your record and reputation. Reach out today to schedule a free consultation with Christopher L. Jones.