A bipartisan group of lawmakers overturned one of South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster’s vetoes. The governor vetoed a bill earlier this summer that would expand criteria for record expungement.
Expungement is a way for criminal offenders in South Carolina to have charges removed from their public record.
The director of the SC Appleseed Justice Center explained why it’s crucial in decreasing prison recidivism.
“We’re saying look you’ve been able to manage not to re-offend all this time. we want you to be able to get on with your life and be able to get a job,” said Sue Berkowitz.
Initially, only minor first offenses were eligible for expungement. So charges like simple possession of drugs could be cleared for a criminal record.
But lawmakers have been pushing for an amendment to add more charges to the list. Now offenders with simple possession of a controlled substance or possession with intent to distribute are eligible for expungement along with a few other charges.
Berkowitz added, “The only one that i would consider violent would be criminal domestic violence which could be expunged after five years.”
The bill made it through the 2018 legislative session but was stopped in its tracks when Governor Henry McMaster vetoed the proposal.
In a brief interview Governor McMaster told WSPA 7News why he made that decision. “Sometimes these are crimes that are very serious crimes and are pleaded down and that’s what the conviction is for and we have to recognize that facts are facts.”
The bill also decreases the wait time to have some charges expunged.
Supporters of the law sa it will increase economic opportunities for both the state and offender.
“Our hope is that this is going to open up employment opportunities for people who have been closed out and for employers who have been trying to find applicants,” said Berkowitz.
The bill will become law on December 27, 2018, 6 months after the final vote. Charges that require registration on the sex offenders list are not eligible for expungement under this amendment.
Criteria for youthful offenders is also included and can be applied retroactively to charges before the date the law goes into effect.
Third-degree criminal domestic violence is the lowest degree charge of domestic violence and is typically not associated with major bodily injury.