SC Expungement Law Should be Updated

The expungement process in South Carolina is something lawmakers have been conflicted over for some time. In August 2014, an expungement study committee met in Columbia to discuss streamlining or expanding the current process. The committee, made up of senators and representatives, heard over 20 speakers. Most argued that the current expungement law prohibit people from finding jobs due to minor prior arrests.
At the time, The Post and Courier quoted Sue Berkowitz, director of the South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center, as saying, “It makes it really impossible for someone to go back into society…We recognize what a barrier having this record is to getting back into society and being able to get a job.”

However, strong arguments were presented by the opposition as well. Laura Hudson, executive director of the South Carolina Crime Victims’ Council, told the Post and Courier, “more than 70 percent of offenders break the law again…I’m very annoyed that the victims are not being considered; that it’s all about some varmint…I can’t understand why we have all of this breath being wasted on people who have proven they will not follow the law.”

Not much progress has been made over a year later. The committee heard many recommendations this October, not long before the deadline of December 31 arrives. According the the Post and Courier, “Efforts to keep some offenders from being permanently marked with a criminal record were dismissed Monday as too cautious and lacking in innovative ideas. Rep. Todd Rutherford said a task force’s recommendations for changes to the state’s expungement laws “essentially do nothing” and had already been suggested to lawmakers before.”

While both sides have raised valid points, there is one thing everyone seems to agree on. No one feels that a small misdemeanor charge should hinder someones ability to find a job. Republican Sen. Paul Thurmond stated to the Post and Courier, “There are certainly scenarios in which simply because you utilized a previous expungement, all of a sudden you find yourself with a minor misdemeanor charge that you have no ability to address…All options should be on the table to delineate between someone that clearly needs to have it on their record and someone who doesn’t need to have it on their record.”