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Are South Carolina Records Public?

According to the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act, most of the records generated and maintained by government bodies are public. The act aims to ensure that all citizens and their representatives can learn about the activities of public agencies and their officials with minimum cost or delay.

Public records in South Carolina include “all books, papers, photos, maps, recordings, or other documentary materials regardless of physical form or characteristics prepared, owned, used, in the possession of, or retained by a public body.”

The Freedom of Information Act also covers any government body, public body, or political subdivision in South Carolina. Public bodies are defined under the law as any state department within the state and local branches of government. This includes counties, municipalities, townships, school districts, committees, state boards, commissions, corporations, and agencies supported in whole or partly by public funds.

Who Can Access South Carolina Public Records?

Under the Freedom of Information Act, anyone can inspect, copy, or receive electronic transmissions or public records except when exempted by the act or state or federal laws. The act defines a person as any individual, corporation, partnership, firm, organization, or association. The right to access public records does not extend to individuals serving a sentence in any state, county, or federal correctional facility.

During public records requests, applicants will normally be required to supply valid identification to satisfy their eligibility to access public records. When the request uses a standardized form, there will be a section for a signed statement to establish identity and eligibility to access the public record.

Do I Need to State My Purpose and Use When Requesting Public Records in South Carolina?

Requesters do not need to state a purpose or use for a public request during the request in South Carolina. However, doing so may help speed up a request. The Freedom of Information Act helps ensure public business is done openly and transparently, and stating a purpose is unnecessary. It should be noted, however, that South Carolina prohibits using certain records, such as police reports, employee records, and records of people with disabilities, for commercial purposes. Valid reasons for seeking public records include property valuations, business research, family research, court cases, and tax assessments.

What Records are Public in South Carolina?

Different agencies maintain public records, from courts and law enforcement departments to vital records offices. Some of the available public records include arrest records, court records, criminal records, vital records, bankruptcy records, and property records.

South Carolina Public Court Records

Court records refer to the records and documents created during legal proceedings across the different courts in South Carolina. These records are generally considered public information except when exempted by law or sealed by court order.

Court records generally contain various types of information, including filings, depositions, testimonies, affidavits, summons, dockets, and judgments. The custodian of court records in South Carolina is the clerk of court.

Requesters may contact the respective clerk of courts to access court records in the county where the case was heard. Requests could be made in person at the clerk's office or by sending a written request. South Carolina also offers online searches for court records via their Public Case Index or the Court Case Records Search.

South Carolina Public Criminal Records

South Carolina’s criminal records are the records and documents generated during interaction with law enforcement and criminal justice agencies. Unless prohibited by law, criminal records are generally considered public records and can be accessed by the general public.

Some records, such as any under attorney-client privilege, sealed records, and records involving juveniles, are not public records. Information and documentation in criminal records will include the subject’s name, physical description, warrants, court dockets, charges, arrest information, incident reports, etc.

While South Carolina courts will maintain most records about criminal court cases, non-judicial records are maintained by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division(SLED). SLED acts as the main custodian of criminal records in the state. Requesters may direct criminal records requests to their head office.

Requests can also be made via the online Subject Record Check on the SLED website. To obtain a criminal record in South Carolina, a requester must provide information such as full name, gender, and date of birth. There may also be fees for the record search and any physical copies required.

South Carolina Law Enforcement Division Headquarters

4400 Broad River Road

Columbia, SC 29210

Phone: (803)737-9000

South Carolina Public Arrest Records.

Arrest records in South Carolina detail information about arrests that occur within its jurisdiction. It should be noted that these records do not mean that the subject was found guilty or convicted of a crime, only that they were once arrested. Arrest records are usually in the custody of local law enforcement officials in South Carolina’s counties and municipalities. These arrest records usually become public records when they become court documents. To obtain an arrest record in South Carolina, the requester must contact the local law enforcement agency that handled the arrest.

South Carolina Public Bankruptcy Records

South Carolina bankruptcy records are records of all the cases involving individuals and companies filing for bankruptcy. These records contain bankruptcy petitions, statements, creditor lists, payment schedules, and judgments. In South Carolina, these records are maintained by the federal bankruptcy courts.

South Carolina has a single bankruptcy court, namely:

United States Bankruptcy Court 

District of South Carolina


King and Queen Building

145 King Street, Room 225

Charleston, SC 29401



J. Bratton Davis U.S. Bankruptcy Courthouse

1100 Laurel Street

Columbia, South Carolina 29201-2423

Court Telephone: (803)765-5436



C.F. Haynsworth Federal Building

& U.S. Courthouse

300 East Washington Street

Greenville, SC 29601

Bankruptcy records in South Carolina can be accessed at any of the courts in the district. They can also be looked up online using the PACER case locator.

South Carolina Public Birth Records

South Carolina birth records detail information about births within the state. In general, birth records will contain information about the registrant, including:

  • Name of registrant
  • Date of birth
  • County of birth
  • Place of birth (city)
  • State file number
  • Father's name (if listed on the original birth certificate)
  • Father's place of birth
  • Mother's maiden name
  • Mother's place of birth
  • Date record filed
  • The date issued

On the state level, birth records are maintained by the vital records office of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC). Birth records in South Carolina can only be obtained by authorized individuals, namely the registrant, their immediate family, and their legal representatives, until 100 years after the birth. To obtain a birth record in South Carolina, requesters must provide their valid ID, the $17 search fee, and a completed application form.

South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control-Vital records

2600 Bull St.

Columbia, SC 29201

Phone: (803) 898-3630

South Carolina Public Death Records

In South Carolina, death records generally contain information about the deaths and deceased in the state. The record will usually contain information such as the name of the deceased, full date of death, and location of death(county).

Death records are maintained by the State Department of Health and Environmental Control vital records office. Death records become public after 50 years. Until then, only the following may request a death certificate:

  • Immediate members of the decedent’s family(parents, grandparents, spouses(not divorced), siblings, children, and grandchildren).
  • The legal representative of any of the above.
  • Anyone who can prove they have a tangible interest in a personal or property right and that the death certificate is needed to settle that, such as beneficiaries on a life insurance policy or joint owners of property.

To obtain death records in South Carolina, requesters must submit a completed application form with valid identification and pay the required $12 search fee. Mailed requests for vital records can be sent to:

S.C.DHEC Vital Records

2600 Bull St.

Columbia, SC 29201

South Carolina Public Marriage Records 

Marriage records in South Carolina contain a lot of details of the event. Information on a marriage certificate generally includes the names of the couple, the wife’s maiden name, the couple's ages, the couple's parents, and the date and location of the marriage.

The Vital Records Office of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control maintains marriage records. To obtain a certified copy of marriage records, the requester must be one of the following:

  • One of the married party (bride or groom)
  • The married party's adult child(ren)
  • A present or former spouse of either married party
  • The married party's legal representative

Marriage records requests in South Carolina must include a valid government-issued photo ID, a completed application form, and a required search fee($12). Each additional copy of the record will cost the requester $3.

South Carolina Public Divorce Records

Divorce records in South Carolina are maintained at the Vital Records of the SCDHEC and the Clerk of Court, where the divorce case was heard. The Vital Records Office maintains records from 1962 to the present, while the court clerks have records from 1950 to 1962. Information on the records will include the names of the parties, the date of the divorce, and the location of the divorce.

To obtain a divorce record in South Carolina, the requester must submit a completed application form or written record request with sufficient information for a record search. The required information includes the parties to the divorce, the location of the divorce case, and the date it was granted.

In South Carolina, divorce records can be obtained by any of the following persons:

  • One of the divorced parties (husband or wife)
  • Adult children of the divorced parties
  • A present or former spouse of either divorced party or their respective legal representative.

South Carolina Public Inmate Records

Per the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act, almost any member of the public may access inmate records from state or local correctional facilities in South Carolina. The South Carolina Department of Corrections(SCDC) maintains the state repository for inmate records. To obtain inmate records, requesters must contact the SCDOC and provide information for the search such as inmate’s name and identification number. The SCDOC also provides an online Inmate Search, which displaces public information on inmates. Inmate records in South Carolina provide information such as the inmate’s full name, physical description, location, current offenses and sentence, admission date, and release date:

South Carolina Department of Corrections Headquarters

4444 Broad River Road, 

P.O. Box 21787

Columbia, South Carolina 29210

Phone: (803) 896-8500

South Carolina Public Sex Offender Information.

Sex offender information for South Carolina is provided to all seekers via the South Carolina Sex Offender Registry. The registry is maintained by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division and the county sheriff’s office, which update the information regularly.

To access this information, record seekers must contact the registry directly or use the online search pages on the registry website. The online registry offers the option of a Name Search or a Geographic Search for offenders in South Carolina. It should be that using information obtained from the registry to intimidate or harass anyone is a misdemeanor offense punishable by fines or jail time.

South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, Sex Offender Registry:

Post Office Box 21398, 

Columbia, SC 29210

Phone: (803) 896-2601

Fax: (803) 896-2311 


South Carolina Public Property Records.

Property Records are the records of real property in South Carolina, including the ownership, sales, and transfers of such property. In South Carolina, the County Record of Deeds Office and the Clerk of Courts are responsible for generating and maintaining property records.

Property records include documents and information about mortgages, deeds, maps, plats, liens, and other real estate information. These records are generally considered public and can be accessed by contacting the respective Register of Deeds or Clerk of Court and providing information for a search. Some information required for an accurate property record search includes the owner's name, the lot number or address, and its location county.

What is Exempted Under the South Carolina Public Records Act?

South Carolina’s Freedom of Information Act (Section 30-4-40) provides conditions under which records may be exempt from disclosure. Some of these include the following:

  • Trade secrets defined as unpatented, secret, commercially viable plans or formulas used for preparing materials considered trade commodities and are generally recognized as confidential and work products
  • Information of a personal nature where the public disclosure thereof would constitute an unreasonable invasion of public property
  • Records, video, audio, or other information compiled for law enforcement purposes if the information would deprive a person of a fair trial or impartial adjudication
  • Any information specifically exempted from disclosure by law or statute
  • Documents concerning proposed contractual agreements and proposed sales or purchases of a property until the contract is entered or the property is purchased or sold
  • The identity, or information tending to reveal the identity, of any individual who in good faith, makes a complaint or otherwise discloses information that alleges a violation or potential violation of law or regulation to a state regulatory agency.
  • Autopsy photos
  • Correspondence or work products of legal counsel for a public body and any other materials that would violate attorney-client privilege 

How Do I Find Public Records in South Carolina?

Locating a South Carolina public record usually depends on the record type and the agency that generates or maintains the record. To obtain copies of any record, requesters must contact the government agency and the custodian in charge of public records requests. For example, criminal records are maintained by the State Law Enforcement Division, while the Department of Corrections is in charge of inmate records.

Records seekers can generally locate public records in South Carolina using some simple steps.

Step 1: Find the correct agency that maintains the record

Step 2: Gather enough information to identify the record during the records search

Step 3: Prepare the request, then submit it to the agency and pay any required fees

Most records custodians provide multiple options for submitting public record requests. Requests can be submitted in person, online, by phone, or by mail and drop boxes. Walk-in requests usually have the quickest response times, as short as 45 minutes in some cases.

Most records will incur search or copy fees for any required physical copies. Below are several record custodians for various public records in South Carolina:

Can I Find Free Public Records in South Carolina Using Third-Party Sites?

While finding free South Carolina public records using third-party websites is possible, results will depend on the platform and record. Third-party websites gather and compile public records from various sources and jurisdictions. This makes the veracity and accuracy of these records vary on a record-by-record basis. As these records are only sometimes verified by official government sources, it is advisable to cross-check them for accuracy with official government databases.

Some records available from third-party websites include inmate records, court records, and criminal records. These records will also require sufficient information from the requester to improve the chances of an accurate search. 

How Much Do Public Records Cost in South Carolina?

The South Carolina Freedom of Information Act allows public bodies to establish and collect fees for public records. The fees must be reasonable and not exceed the actual cost to search for, retrieve, copy, or redact the record. Public bodies must develop a fee schedule for public records and post it online.

There is no uniform fee structure in public records. Each agency is permitted to charge fees according to several factors. These include the type of record, the search and retrieval process, and any provisions under the law. Public bodies are also allowed to charge based on the hourly salary of the lowest-paid employee with the required skill and training to perform the request.

For example, the vital records office charges $12 for marriage records and $17 for birth records, with every additional copy costing $3. Waivers and discounts on record fees may be permitted if it is determined that providing the record is in the public interest or primarily benefits the general public.

What Happens if I Am Refused a Public Records Request?

Public record requests in South Carolina may be denied for various reasons, including the following:

  • The record request is overly broad, vague, repetitive, or otherwise improper
  • Fulfilling the request would be unduly burdensome
  • More time is required to complete the request
  • The record is exempt under the Freedom of Information Act

When this happens, requesters can apply to the circuit court for a declaratory judgment, injunctive relief, or both. The application must be made no later than a year after the alleged violation. Upon the filing of such an application under provisions of the FOIA, the chief administrative judge of the circuit court must schedule an initial hearing with ten days of service on all parties. If the hearing court cannot make a final judgment at this initial hearing, it shall establish a scheduling order to conclude the action within six months of the initial filing. This time may be extended upon showing good cause.

If the requester prevails, they may be awarded reasonable attorney fees and other litigation costs specific to the application.

South Carolina Public 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!