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What Is Expungement?

What Is Expungement?

Criminal charges can lead to lost employment, housing and opportunities. Not only do they come with a stigma, but they also remain on a person’s record for years unless removed. A criminal history also means that individuals may not be eligible for educational opportunities in the future.

However, record sealing and specifically expungement can help those convicted of a crime get a second chance. Keep reading for more information.


To understand expungement, it’s important to understand record sealing. Expungement and record sealing are not the same but are often confused because both of them can hide a criminal record from the public. Record sealing seals a crime from the public eye, but it still exists within the criminal justice system. Sealed records could show up on level two background checks.

To seal a record in South Carolina, a person must apply for a Certificate of Eligibility, which is a formal request for record sealing. Individuals can contact the local criminal court to determine whether they qualify for sealing if they do not qualify for a Certificate of Eligibility.

In some cases, a criminal record is sealed automatically including:

  • A criminal record with no felony convictions
  • The charge was never filed
  • Charge dismissal by a judge
  • A not guilty verdict
  • Acquittal from a judge

If a person is found guilty or pleads no contest to the charges they do not qualify for record sealing. Some criminal acts are automatically exempt from sealing including violent crimes. Record sealing isn’t a permanent solution, but members of the public cannot view a sealed record.


Expungement on the other hand deletes a criminal record. This means that the crime does not appear on a background check and is not accessibly by the public. Once a crime is expunged, the person may legally deny having ever committed the crime if asked. However, expunged records are still available to those within the criminal justice system and could be used in court if the individual reoffends.

In some cases, expunction does not provide protection from critical hiring managers. Many government jobs and healthcare organizations can deny employment based on an expunged crime. Those who act as public guardians or conservators and people applying for positions in the legal field may not be able to conceal an expunged crime from their prospective employer. In fact, most of these jobs use more extensive background checks that show expunged crimes.

Some juvenile crimes can be expunged but the individual must apply for expunction and be validated by the prosecutor. Minor crimes and infractions are also expungeable offenses especially if they are the result of self defense or if the person completed their diversion program.

Are There Crimes That Can’t be Expunged?

There are some crimes that cannot be expunged. In general, these crimes are more violent, have a larger scope, and cause greater harm or involve outside influences. These crimes cannot be expunged and the state will not accept a petition for expunction from someone with any of the following on their record.

Crimes that can’t be sealed or expunged include the following:

  • Arson
  • Aggravated assault
  • Aircraft piracy
  • Aggravated battery
  • Illegal use of explosives
  • Child abuse
  • Elder abuse
  • Homicide
  • Kidnapping
  • Homicide
  • Manslaughter
  • Lewd, lascivious, or indecent behavior in the presence of a child
  • Sexual battery
  • Robbery
  • Carjacking
  • Sexual assault of a minor
  • Burglary
  • Terrorism
  • Stalking
  • Domestic violence
  • Home invasion
  • Manufacturing substances in violation of state restrictions

Conspiracy to commit any of the crimes listed above is also considered a crime. If a person is charged with conspiracy to commit a crime like terrorism or manslaughter they are not eligible for expungement or record sealing.

Your Future Beyond a Criminal Record

If you have a criminal record, finding security and opportunities may feel impossible. It may be frustrating to move on and the state does not do much to protect the rights of convicted people. Sealing and expungement can help you move on and begin to take back your future. Filing for sealing or expunction is a complex process, and you should call an attorney to determine what steps you need to take.

Contact the Law Office of James R. Snell, Jr., LLC. today for more information.


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