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South Carolina Arrest Records

Arrest records are vital in South Carolina's legal system. They document instances of individuals apprehended by law enforcement and offer crucial insights into a person’s past encounters with the criminal justice system.

According to the 2022 Crime in South Carolina report, South Carolina had a total arrest rate of 27.4 per 1,000 people. This figure reflects a 0.4% decrease compared to the previous year's total arrest rate of 27.5. In 2022, a total of 144,653 arrests were recorded, consisting of 134,803 adults and 9,850 juveniles. Conversely, in 2021, there were 140,557 arrests, with 132,363 adults and 8,194 juveniles. 

Are Arrest Records Public in South Carolina?

Yes. The South Carolina Freedom of Information Act, found in South Carolina Code of Laws Section 30-4, grants public access to arrest records, albeit with limitations. While a substantial portion of arrest records is available to the public, certain sections are restricted to specific entities such as the subject of the record and criminal justice agencies. There are instances where the entire record may be withheld from public scrutiny.

Section 30-4-40(3) of the South Carolina Code of Laws outlines scenarios in which an arrest record may remain undisclosed. These include situations where disclosure would:

  • Interfere with a prospective law enforcement proceeding
  • Constitute an unreasonable invasion of personal privacy
  • Deprive a person of the right to a fair trial or impartial adjudication
  • Compromise the identity of a confidential source
  • Endanger someone's life or physical safety
  • Disclose current law enforcement procedures or techniques, risking circumvention of the law
  • Reveal the contents of intercepted electronic, oral, or wire communications not disclosed during a trial.

What is Included in South Carolina Arrest Records?

An arrest record typically contains the following:

  • Personal details and physical description: This includes the full name, address, birth date, age, contact details, photograph, fingerprints, height, weight, race, eye color, hair color, and any identifiable marks like scars, tattoos, or birthmarks.
  • Arrest information: Details such as the bail amount, arrest date and time, and the arresting officer or agency.
  • Crime details: Information about filed criminal charges, the classification of the alleged crime (whether it's a felony or misdemeanor), and a description of the incident.
  • Court details: This section may include the next court date and the name of the court with jurisdiction over the case.

Find Public Arrest Records in South Carolina

Interested persons can find South Carolina arrest records through local and state resources as well as third-party sources. 

Local Sources of Arrest Records

Local law enforcement agencies maintain arrest records on file, necessitating individuals or entities interested in accessing such records to contact the police department or sheriff's office overseeing the arrest. Requests to local law enforcement agencies can be made by visiting their physical locations, where individuals must provide specific case details and potentially pay applicable fees to the records division or unit. Some agencies offer request forms on their websites, which can be submitted via mail, in-person, or email. 

State Resource for Finding Arrest Records

Additionally, individuals can inquire with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) for arrest records, as these records are also included in criminal background checks. Individuals can request arrest records from SLED, which provides comprehensive criminal history reports for South Carolina. 

Unlike local law enforcement records, SLED reports include both arrest and conviction information. Interested parties can access records through SLED's online database, CATCH (Citizens Access to Criminal Histories), or by submitting mail requests. The steps and details for accessing these records are as follows:

  • Accessing SLED CATCH: Individuals can access the SLED CATCH system online to view and print criminal records information from South Carolina. National criminal records checks are only allowed when specifically authorized by law. 
  • Search Criteria: The SLED CATCH system requires an exact match on the subject's last name, first initial, and date of birth to retrieve a result. A Social Security Number may also be searched if provided. 
  • Fee Structure: A non-refundable fee of $25.00 is charged for a South Carolina criminal records check, with most major credit/debit cards accepted. Additionally, there is a $1.00 convenience fee for online background searches, which does not apply to mail-in requests. 
  • Reduced Fees: Charitable organizations meeting state statute requirements may be eligible for a reduced fee of $8.00. Similarly, criminal records checks for prospective and substitute teachers are provided to local school districts without charge. 
  • Mail-in Requests: SLED also accepts requests for criminal records checks by mail. Accepted payment methods for mail-in requests include business check, certified check, cashier's check, or money order. Personal checks and cash are not accepted. 
  • Special Processing: If a search result returns multiple subjects, a "Special Processing Required" message will be returned, indicating further steps may be necessary. 
  • Handling of Information: South Carolina criminal records information should be handled carefully and used only for appropriate purposes. Subjects have the right to correct any erroneous criminal records information pertaining to them.

Obtaining Restricted Arrest Records

As previously mentioned, arrest records maintained by law enforcement agencies are accessible to the public. Nevertheless, certain records are not available to the general public. If individuals need to obtain restricted or non-public arrest records, particularly for a confirmed court proceeding, they may explore the option of subpoenaing the record. Individuals must adhere to specific procedures outlined in South Carolina's civil or criminal procedure rules to achieve this. 

This process entails obtaining a subpoena duces tecum, serving it on the records custodian, and filing a Proof of Service with the court. A $10 fee must be paid to the sheriff's office for service, and typically, the custodian has 14 days to comply with the subpoena. However, the court retains the authority to modify or quash the subpoena if it imposes undue hardship. Therefore, seeking legal advice or having a solid understanding of the law is recommended when pursuing this course of action.

How to Lookup Arrest Records Online in South Carolina

When individuals seek to access arrest records in South Carolina, they have various avenues available to them, both through official channels and third-party services. Official sources include the websites of local law enforcement agencies, such as sheriff's offices or police departments, where comprehensive arrest information is often accessible. These official websites typically offer online databases that allow members of the public to search for specific individuals based on their name or booking number.

On the other hand, third-party search services provide an alternative means of accessing arrest records. These services gather information from government repositories, potentially offering a faster and more convenient way to locate South Carolina arrest records compared to traditional government channels. These third-party platforms typically maintain their own online databases, where users can input the name of the individual they are searching for.

However, it is important to note that while third-party services may offer a quicker solution, they often come with a small fee to access the complete arrest report. In contrast, information obtained through official channels may be available at no cost but may require more time and effort to obtain. Therefore, individuals have the flexibility to choose the method that best suits their needs and preferences when seeking arrest records in South Carolina.

How Long Do Arrests Stay on Your Record in South Carolina?

It depends. The retention periods for original arrest records in South Carolina vary based on factors such as the type of crime and agency policies. As outlined in the General Records Retention Schedules for County Records, which align with the S.C. Code of Regulation Chapter 12, Article 5:

  • Criminal history records: These documents, detailing the arrest history of individuals, remain on file until the subject either passes away or reaches the age of 75, whichever comes first. Afterward, they may be destroyed.
  • Juvenile booking records: Records of juveniles arrested and processed by county law enforcement are retained until three years after the individual reaches the age of majority (18 years old), at which point they are destroyed.
  • Booking reports: These records, documenting individuals arrested and processed by the sheriff's department, are kept for a period of ten years before being destroyed.
  • Arrest cards: The card system used to document arrests within the sheriff's office retains records for five years, after which they are destroyed.
  • Mug shots: Photographs of arrested individuals are retained until they become obsolete or no longer hold value.

Similar retention schedules exist for law enforcement agencies at the municipal level (police departments), detailed in the General Records Retention Schedules for Municipal Records or S.C. Code of Regulations Chapter 12, Article 6.

It is essential to note that while these guidelines provide a framework, South Carolina agencies have the discretion to establish specific retention schedules in accordance with the law, allowing them to opt out of using the general schedules if they choose to do so.

Expunge an Arrest Record in South Carolina

An arrest record does not necessarily imply guilt but can still affect public perception and opportunities for individuals. To address this, South Carolina has established expungement laws aimed at providing a fresh start for ex-offenders. Governed by the Uniform Expungement of Criminal Records Act (S.C. Code Ann. § 17-22-910), these laws specify which records are eligible for expungement, typically minor or first-time offenses without subsequent convictions within certain timeframes. 

Examples of qualifying offenses for expungement include:

  • A first-offense misdemeanor conviction under the Fraudulent Check Law, given no additional criminal convictions within one year from the conviction date.
  • Charges dismissed following completion of programs like Pretrial Intervention (PTI), Traffic Education (TEP), or Alcohol Education (AEP).
  • First-offense drug possession charge with successful completion of conditional discharge.
  • Conviction of charges with a maximum penalty of up to 30 days imprisonment, a fine of up to $1,000, or both, provided no further convictions within three years from the conviction date (or five years for Domestic Violence 3rd Degree or Criminal Domestic Violence).
  • First-offense conviction under the Youthful Offender Act, given no convictions within five years of completing the sentence, including probation and parole.
  • First-offense misdemeanor conviction for Failure to Stop For Blue Lights, with no additional convictions within three years after completing the sentence.
  • First-offense Possession with Intent to Distribute, provided no further convictions within twenty years of completing the sentence, including probation and parole.
  • First-offense simple possession of a controlled substance, given no other convictions within three years of completing the sentence, including probation and parole.
  • Dismissed, nolle prosequi (not prosecuted), or no-billed charges, and not guilty verdicts. 

To begin the expungement process, individuals usually apply to the Solicitor's Office in the judicial circuit where the arrest occurred, obtaining necessary forms and guidance from the office or website. While there are administrative fees totaling $310, expungement is free for certain outcomes. 

Note that while expungement removes records from public access, it may not entirely erase them. Records can be retained under seal for up to three years and 120 days, and indefinitely for specific legal purposes. Given the complexity of South Carolina's expungement process, seeking legal counsel, especially for first-time applicants, is advisable.

How Do I Find Recent Arrests in South Carolina?

Sheriff's offices or police departments typically offer access to recent arrest information for the public within South Carolina. These agencies frequently maintain online arrest logs, which offer summaries of recent arrests over various timeframes, spanning from a few days to a few years. For instance, the Berkeley County Sheriff's Office provides daily arrest record updates through its inmate lookup portal. 

Are South Carolina Arrest Records Free?

Yes. Members of the public have access to recent arrest information, often termed as "arrest logs," through local law enforcement agency websites without charge. For instance, the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office website offers a complimentary Inmate Search service. However, individuals seeking a copy of an arrest record or report from these agencies usually need to pay a fee, the specific amount of which varies by agency. This fee system also applies to non-governmental websites where accessing records may be free, but obtaining the official record typically entails payment.

South Carolina Arrest Records
  • Criminal Records
  • Arrests Records
  • Warrants
  • Driving Violations
  • Inmate Records
  • Felonies
  • Misdemeanors
  • Bankruptcies
  • Tax & Property Liens
  • Civil Judgements
  • Federal Dockets
  • Probate Records
  • Marriage Records
  • Divorce Records
  • Death Records
  • Property Records
  • Asset Records
  • Business Ownership
  • Professional Licenses
  • And More!