South Carolina Court Records
What are South Carolina Juvenile Court Records?
South Carolina law describes a “juvenile” as an individual who is under 17 years of age. When such a person commits a status, nonviolent or violent offense, that person’s case will be heard in the Family Court to decide if the individual requires protection, care, discipline, or rehabilitation. Children are introduced to the juvenile justice system by referral from a school, solicitor, the Department of Juvenile Justice, or when they enter the custody of law enforcement. The Family Court has exclusive jurisdiction over all juvenile proceedings. According to § 63–3–20, the court is authorized to create a record of all proceedings. These records, known as juvenile records, are maintained by the Clerk of Court’s office and kept confidential per S. C. Code Ann. §§ 63–7–1990 and 63–19–2020.
What Information is Contained in a South Carolina Juvenile Record?
A South Carolina juvenile record contains the social and legal information of a juvenile as well as all other filed documents or details relevant to the case. Information that may be contained in these records include:
- Orders, motions, reports, and findings of the court
- Case status and disposition
- Docket information
- The name and known aliases of the juvenile/child
- Child’s attorney’s name
- Descriptive information such as the individual’s age, date of birth, address, fingerprint, ethnicity, photograph, etc.
- Medical records
- Correctional, commitment, or probationary information
- Parole or release details
- Type of action, the presiding judge, filing date, case number, hearing dates and details, and other court information
Generally, juvenile records are sealed/closed to the public except to parties with a legitimate interest upon the approval of a judge or as permitted by law.
What Cases are Heard by South Carolina Juvenile Courts?
The South Carolina Family Courts serve as the juvenile courts of the state. These courts hear cases involving juveniles/children, as well as domestic relations and family matters such as adoptions/termination of parental rights, child abuse, and domestic violence. S. C. Code Ann. § 63–3–510 establishes the court’s exclusive original jurisdiction over juvenile cases, including:
- Criminal offenses/delinquencies: juvenile violations of local or state law or municipal ordinances (including violation attempts)
- Status offenses: offenses that are only considered as crimes when the offender is below the legal age such as truancy, playing a pinball machine, running away, incorrigibility (children beyond parental control)
- Cases involving children who are neglected or deprived of support or education, abandoned children, persons in need of care, and child welfare
- Custody or support disputes
Who is Eligible to View Juvenile Records in South Carolina?
Under S. C. Code Ann. § 63–19–2020, juvenile court records are inaccessible to members of the public but always available to a child’s attorney or the judge. However, persons with a legitimate interest may also be permitted to inspect these records with a court order, and to an extent necessary to the request. A court order is not mandatory when the requested record or information is required to defend a child in legal action. Another instance where juvenile information or records may be released is when the information or record is required to provide services to a child or enroll the child in a treatment, training, or education program. Other eligible parties include:
- Another department or state agency
- School districts
- Licensed private institutions or facilities providing child services
- Law enforcement agencies
- The Attorney General
Additionally, crime victims may request the following juvenile information from the court:
- The juvenile’s name
- Basic descriptive details
- Case status and disposition
- Services available to crime victims
- Court recommendations related to dispositional hearings
- Juvenile justice system information
South Carolina juvenile records confidentiality and release laws are also outlined in S. C. Code Ann. § 63–7–1990 and § 63–7–2040. Section 63–7–1990 covers the release of juvenile records, reports, and information made, collected, and maintained by the Department of Social Services and Central Registry of Child Abuse and Neglect to certain parties. Whereas, section 63–7–2040 deals with the release of the identifying information (name, photo, or identity) of a child under the jurisdiction of the Family Court to a newspaper, television, or radio station. Usually, the media is prohibited from accessing juvenile information unless:
- With a court order
- If the child was found guilty of the following offenses: a violent crime as defined in S. C. Code Ann. § 16–1–60, grand theft auto, offenses where a weapon was used, or drug trafficking
- The juvenile is under the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court
How to Find Juvenile Records in South Carolina
South Carolina juvenile confidentiality laws authorize only specific parties, as indicated above, and other parties with a legitimate interest or good cause to access juvenile records/information created or maintained by the Family Courts. Otherwise, these records are confidential and inaccessible. Typically, a court order is required to inspect any juvenile record.
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:
- The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
- The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.
Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.
Can You Lookup South Carolina Juvenile Records Online?
No, members of the public cannot lookup South Carolina juvenile records online. As these records are essentially confidential under the law, Family Courts and related state agencies are not authorized to provide remote public access, directly or indirectly, to juvenile records. Interested or eligible parties may contact the court where a case was heard for information on accessing these records.
Do South Carolina Juvenile Records Show up on Background Checks?
Sometimes, juvenile cases where a child was adjudicated delinquent (determined guilty) may show up in South Carolina criminal background checks. However, under S. C. Code Ann.§ 63–19–2010, an employer must have a legitimate interest and a court order before this information can be released. Also, although S. C. Code Ann.§ 63–19–1410 (C) states that the presence of a juvenile delinquency adjudication does not disqualify an individual from future civil service employment opportunities, it may impede licensure and private work opportunities as employers are not prohibited from considering this information. To avoid these situations, affected persons may petition the court to destroy or expunge these records under S. C. Code Ann. § 63–19–2050. In South Carolina, expungement is permitted for any person who was arrested, charged with, or convicted of a status offense or nonviolent crime described in S. C. Code Ann. § 16–1–70, provided the petitioner is 17 years or older, has completed all court-imposed sentences, and has no prior adjudication with a prison sentence of or exceeding 5 years. The South Carolina Courts’ Expungement Application Process page and the Department of Justice’s Expungement of Records guide provide further reading on this topic.
How Long are Juvenile Records Kept in South Carolina?
Per S. C. Code Ann. § 63–3–510, the Family Court retains jurisdiction over a child until that child reaches the age of 22, upon which such jurisdiction is terminated. Children who were adjudicated delinquent and placed on probation remain under the court’s jurisdiction until the period of probation has expired. Typically, this period will expire before the child becomes 20 years old. According to the South Carolina Clerks of Court Retention Schedule, juvenile docket sheets are retained for 2 years and then transferred to the juvenile case files, while indexes to juvenile cases and juvenile case files are kept for 20 years then destroyed.