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Is your domestic violence arrest public in South Carolina?

Is your domestic violence arrest public in South Carolina?

If you’ve been arrested for domestic violence, you may be wondering if the details of your arrest are public information. Will your employer, your neighbors, or your family find out about the arrest?  This article helps answer those questions- and explains what records are and what domestic violence records are not public information in South Carolina.

Executive Summary

All information regarding arrests, current criminal cases, and convictions, are public records in South Carolina. Typically, no one will find out about an arrest unless they go specifically looking for information about you or your case. The only want to erase the public information about your case is to have the charges dismissed, complete pre-trial diversion (PTI), or be found “not-guilty”. As criminal defense lawyers, that’s what we work towards helping our clients achieve.

Police Reports are Public Records

In many South Carolina jurisdictions, police have been trained to always file a police report whenever responding to a domestic dispute. This is even if no arrest was made. Police reports are public records. Anyone can be provided with a copy of your police report simply by requesting it from the police department.

The police report can contain a lot of information. In addition to disclosing whether or not an arrest was made, the police report can contain all sorts of details about what the police think happened. The report can summarize witness statements, including whether or not the police think someone had been using alcohol or drugs.

This means that if anyone knows about your domestic violence arrest, they can obtain a copy of the report. You won’t be notified if anyone requests a police report about your situation. Even though the report is public, police still may redact certain portions of the report including the names of minor children, or dates of birth.

RAP Sheets are Public Records

If you are taken to jail and booked for domestic violence (or any other crime), the jail will automatically upload that information to SLED in Columbia. SLED stands for the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division. This is the South Carolina agency that maintains RAP sheets, which is a record of arrests and criminal convictions. If you have to go through a background check for employment or professional licensing, it’s likely that they will review this record.

Anyone can request a copy of your RAP sheet from SLED. There is a $25 fee, and SLED operates a website that makes these reports instantly available. In order to request a RAP sheet, you’ll generally need to know someone’s full legal name and date of birth.

RAP stands for Record of Arrests and Prosecutions.

Jail Booking information are Public Records

South Carolina law requires that jails make publicly available the records of who has been detained and for what charge. Many jails have websites that contain listings of those in custody, including publishing their booking photograph.

Police Body Cam Footage are Public Records

Many police departments in South Carolina are equipping their officers will body cams. These cameras are often capable of recording in high definition. Just like police reports, the recordings are also going to be public records. Unlike police reports though it normally takes a written request and may take days or weeks in order to have the footage made available. But just like police reports, the footage will generally be made available to anyone who asks. Police car dashcam video can also be released in the same way.

Court Dockets are Public Records

South Carolina law requires that courts are open to the public. This means that anyone can come to the courthouse and sit in on any proceeding. While it may still be unusual to have spectators in many types of cases, criminal courts usually schedule multiple hearings for the same date and time. This means that there can be other people in the courtroom waiting for their case, who will be allowed to watch and listen to everything happening in your case. Many courts also maintain a list of current and former cases on a public website. Anyone can access those web pages and search criminal cases by the name of the defendant.

How can you seal your domestic violence records in South Carolina?

The only way to seal records related to a domestic violence arrest is through a process called expungement. You are eligible to have your case records expunged in the following circumstances:

  • Your domestic violence charge is dismissed or you are found “not guilty” in a trial.
  • You enroll in and successfully complete PTI (pre-trial intervention)
  • You have been convicted of DV 3rd and it has been more than five (5) years since the date of the conviction and you have had no other charges.

Our office automatically requests an expungement for our clients whose cases are dismissed or when they are found “not guilty.”

How We Can Help

The Law Office of James R. Snell, Jr., LLC, represents men and women who are criminally charged with domestic violence. There is hope available for every situation. We offer free consultations in our Lexington office for those who have been arrested. During this appointment, you will have time to meet with an attorney to discuss your specific situation and concerns. Contact us today to see how we can help.


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