Expungements for Unlawful Carrying Charges in SC

Jul 18, 2024 Criminal Defense
criminal background forms and handcuffs on a desk

South Carolina's recent adoption of constitutional carry laws has brought significant changes to firearm regulations, but it hasn't eliminated the need for legal action regarding past unlawful carrying charges. If you were previously charged with unlawful carrying of a pistol, you might now have the opportunity to expunge your record.

Expungement can clear your criminal history, removing barriers to employment, housing, and other essential aspects of life. Understanding the expungement process and how constitutional carry impacts your case is crucial for a successful outcome. If you're seeking to expunge an unlawful carrying charge from your record, navigating the legal landscape can be complex.

At Touma Law Group, our experienced attorneys handle firearm-related cases and expungements. We can help you understand your rights, guide you through the expungement process, and ensure that you take full advantage of the opportunities provided by the new constitutional carry laws. Contact our Columbia weapons charge lawyers today to schedule a free consultation at (803) 879-4499 to start clearing your record and moving forward with your life.

Understanding Unlawful Carrying of a Pistol Charges

In the state of South Carolina, adults can possess a handgun without a weapon permit according to both the US Constitution and the SC Constitution. However, certain limiting factors would cause you to be charged with unlawful possession or carrying. 

The general rule in South Carolina is that if you are older than the age of 18 and do not meet any of the disqualifying factors. You are allowed to own and carry a handgun. As a matter of fact, as of March 2024, the constitutional carry law was modified so you no longer need a concealed carry permit to have a concealed carry.

a man appendix carrying a pistol

Instead, SC now allows permitless carry as long as you do not meet any of the following disqualifying factors.

If you have a criminal offense conviction classified as a crime of violence, like domestic violence or armed robbery, you are not able to legally own or possess a firearm. The same goes for if you are a fugitive who is on the run from the law for any reason.

If you are caught and receive unlawful carry charges or any other gun charges, this can have a significant effect on your life, especially if it is classified as a violent crime. These charges for gun crimes can prevent you from owning a gun again and, if violent, cannot be expunged from your record.

What is Expungement?

In the state of South Carolina, an expungement means that the criminal charges in question are removed from your criminal record. This means that if someone does a background check, as they often do for jobs, the charge won't pop up anymore.

Keep in mind that certain charges cannot be expunged. According to SC expungement law, any criminal conviction categorized as a violent crime cannot be expunged. Traffic offenses and fish & wildlife convictions can also not be expunged and will remain on your record for life.

Who is Eligible to Expunge an Unlawful Carrying Conviction?

If you are interested in having your records expunged for an unlawful carrying or unlawful possession charge, there are a few requirements you need to meet.

First and foremost, you have to wait a minimum period of time before you can start the application process. The length of this varies depending on the crime but is usually from a 3-year waiting period to a 5-year period. In the case of unlawful carrying, since it's a misdemeanor, you will have to wait 3 years before you can start the expungement process.

You also cannot have received any other charges during that three-year period. If you do, then the waiting period is restarted and you will not be eligible for expungement for at least another 3 years depending on the nature of the crime.

Youthful Offender Sentence

If you were under the age of 25 when you committed the crime, you may be eligible to have your record expunged more easily. Within the youthful offender act, you have to go 5 years without an additional conviction after the completion of sentencing requirements. 

The Expungement Process in South Carolina

After the initial 3-year conviction-free waiting period, you should be eligible for an expungement of records. To get your record expunged, there are certain steps that you will need to follow:

  1. Obtain a copy of your criminal record
  2. File a petition and pay the filing fee for expungement
  3. Serve notice to the relevant parties
  4. Attend the expungement hearing

One of the most important parts of this entire process is assembling the documentation and evidence needed for a successful expungement application. This is why it is recommended to work with an experienced expungement attorney. They will have an in-depth knowledge of the local legal system and help you avoid some of the common mistakes that can delay your expungement.

An expungement attorney will also be able to attend the expungement hearing with you, communicating with the judge on your behalf. Not only can this provide a better outcome, but it can also provide you with a comforting presence in the courtroom to help you get through this stressful experience.

What Happens Next?

If your expungement is approved it can still take up to 6 months for your record to be fully expunged. This is because the expungement office will need to notify all involved law enforcement agencies and they will each individually have to wipe your record. Keep in mind that you will not receive a notice upon successful completion, you will have to request that information to make sure your charges have actually been removed. 

If your expungement request is not approved you will need to hire a lawyer to file an appeal for you. Expungement lawyers can file an appeal and request that the case be reviewed, typically by a higher-up court. This will give you a second chance to present your case for expungement.

Challenges of Expungement and How to Overcome Them

Within the expungement process, there are many potential obstacles and challenges that you might encounter. 

The main issue that people run into is not completing the application process correctly. This can cause your application to be rejected before it even moves to the municipal court. Working with an experienced attorney can help mitigate the risk of this happening and ensure a smooth application process.

handcuffs and criminal records on a desk

Another complicating factor is if you have multiple charges on your record. If you are a repeat offender the judge may decide that you are at the risk of reoffending and decide not to grant your expungement. This is why keeping your record clean for several years before applying is so important. This can help show the judge that you will not re-offend if your official records are cleared. 

Benefits of Expunging an Unlawful Carrying Conviction

There are many benefits to having your record expunged, especially in the case of an unlawful carrying of a pistol charge. 

First, your rights and privileges to own a gun will be restored. After the successful completion of the expungement, they will no longer be able to find the charge on your record.

For the same reason, your employment opportunities will also improve. Before hiring, many jobs require you to have a background check done. If you have a long list of convictions, some employers will disqualify you from the job. By clearing your record, you are opening up the opportunity to qualify for a wider variety of jobs.

It can also help to improve both your personal and professional reputation. 

Why You Should Hire a Lawyer for an Expungement

It is highly recommended to seek legal representation for the expungement process. A lawyer will be able to look at your case and perform an eligibility for expungement assessment to see if you are eligible to fill out the applications for expungement.

If you are eligible, they will prepare the paperwork with you and help you prepare yourself for court as the expungement pursuant. 

When looking for an attorney, make sure to select one who has plenty of experience in your area. This will mean that they are more likely to know the judges who work on the circuit court and understand how to present your case. During your initial consultation, they should sound confident and be able to reference similar cases that they have worked on.

If you do not feel comfortable with the first attorney you speak to, schedule consultations with more. It is crucial that you feel confident in your legal representation before you pay the fee for expungement and start the application process. 

Call Us for Help With an Unlawful Carry Expungement

If you have a previous conviction for a non-violent gun charge, you may be eligible to have your record cleared for expungement purposes. This will make so your record is wiped and when a background check is performed, your conviction will no longer appear on your record.

This can improve your employment opportunities, restore your gun rights, and help to improve your personal and professional reputation.

Call us today at (803) 879-4499 to schedule a free consultation with a defense attorney in Columbia to explore your expungement options and have your criminal booking record cleared.

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