More offenses eligible for expungement following veto override

South Carolina lawmakers have expanded the number of offenses that qualify for expungement.

Soon more South Carolinians will be able to get past offenses removed from their public criminal records. As WJBF News reports, that’s thanks to a bipartisan group of lawmakers voting to override Gov. Henry McMaster’s veto of a bill that will expand the number of low-level offenses eligible for expungement. While Gov. McMaster and some other critics had criticized the bill, many others, including businesses in South Carolina in need of workers, had backed the bill, arguing it ensured that past mistakes did not end up becoming life sentences.

Lawmakers override governor’s veto

State lawmakers had already passed bill H3209, which expanded the list of low-level felonies eligible for expungement, when Gov. McMaster decided to veto the bill. The governor argued that because many serious crimes are pleaded down to low-level felonies, the bill would be light on serious offenders. However, there was overwhelming bipartisan support in the Legislature for the bill. Ultimately, the House voted 108-1 and the Senate 35-5 to override the governor’s veto.

As a result, many more low-level felonies will soon be eligible for expungement. Furthermore, the wait times for expungement will be lowered for many offenses. The changes will go into effect on December 27, 2018. However, not all convicted offenders are eligible, including any charges that require sex offender registration. Expungement is also contingent on offenders not reoffending during the waiting period.

Creating economic opportunities

While social reform advocates were understandably supportive of the bill, the measure also received a large amount of support from South Carolina’s business community. As the Charleston Regional Business Journal reports, with unemployment under five percent in many areas of the state, employers are struggling to find qualified workers to fill positions. Unfortunately, a criminal record, even for a non-violent offense, often keeps otherwise reliable and hardworking people from landing jobs, which in turn tends to lead to a higher likelihood to reoffend. Without expungement, critics described such records as a life sentence for relatively minor crimes.

Expungement does not clear a criminal record entirely. It simply means that offenses that have been expunged won’t be viewable to the public, such as by a potential future employer or landlord. Police would still be able to see records of offenses that had been expunged.

Criminal defense law

Criminal charges always need to be taken extremely seriously. Not only can a conviction lead to prison time and fines, but a criminal record can make it hard to find work or a place to live. A criminal defense attorney can assist clients who are facing serious criminal charges and advocate for their best interests, rights, and freedoms.