South Carolina is trying to render jobs more accessible for certain criminal offenders. Per a report from WISTV, a local TV news station in Columbia, South Carolina, state lawmakers recently passed a law that will modify the state’s existing expungement legislation.
South Carolina is already one of the leading states in the country regarding expungement accessibility. The law permits a person to expunge a criminal infraction from their record if they meet certain criteria. These criteria require the offense to be a “low-level crime” and a first offense. The legislation defines “low-level crime” as any crime that carries a sentence of 30 days or less in jail. Offenders are eligible to expunge these qualifying offenses from their records “following a period of good behavior.”
The new law makes a subtle but significant change to the legislation. As written, the law only allows expungement for a first offense. The new law removes the “first offense” language, making any low-level crime eligible for expungement. Offenders may even be able to expunge multiple convictions at once. “Low-level crime” will still be defined the same way it was in the original law.
The modified expungement law appeared dead on arrival earlier this year. Both houses of the South Carolina General Assembly approved the bill only to have it vetoed in May by Governor Henry McMaster. McMaster said he was hesitant to approve a bill that would make it possible for courts to delete large numbers of criminal records. The houses of the General Assembly overrode the governor’s rejection, officially passing the new law at the end of June.
The goal of the new law is to make finding a job easier for ex-offenders. Legislators feel there is a stigma attached to even minor criminal convictions. When most employers see these convictions, they immediately become less open to hiring a candidate. By making expungement more accessible, the new South Carolina law could make second (or third, or fourth) chances easier to obtain for those with criminal records.
The accessibility of expungement tends to vary from one state to the next. No matter the location, ease of expungement depends on the offender’s situation. The severity of the offense and the amount of time that has elapsed since the crime was committed are factors courts commonly consider when weighing the possibility of expungement. Certain crimes, including any felony, cannot be expunged. At backgroundchecks.com, we help job seekers check their expungement eligibility through our MyClearStart tool.
Typically, repeat offenses have been among the factors that would result in an expungement petition being denied. By removing “first offense” from the language of its expungement law, South Carolina is rewriting how expungement can work, a shift which could impact thousands of job applicants throughout the state.