Supreme Court Seal
Supreme Court Seal
South Carolina
Judicial Department
Expungements in Magistrate and Municipal Courts

The procedure for expungements in this State previously required that all petitions for expungement of criminal records be initiated in the Solicitor's Office in the circuit where the charge arose. Those petitions were directed to circuit court judges, who signed all orders of expungements regardless of the court in which the case arose.

State law now provides for the expungement of criminal records in both the circuit and summary courts. §17-22-950 requires that the summary courts expunge the records of criminal cases disposed in those courts when an accused person is found not guilty or the charges are dismissed, or nolle prossed. However, there are exceptions to this rule. The charges are not eligible for expungement if:

  • the charge was dismissed at a preliminary hearing, or
  • the accused person has charges pending in summary court and the court of general sessions and such charges arise out of the same course of event.

The statute requires that no fee may be charged by the summary court for the expungements pursuant to §17-22-950. Please be advised that charges pursuant to that statute are the only allowance for expungements to be conducted by summary court judges. All other expungements are processed through the Solicitor's Office and signed by a circuit court judge. The process for expunging magistrate and municipal court cases is provided at below.

Summary Court Expungement Process as Required by 17-22-950(A) When Defendant Was Fingerprinted.

  • A criminal charge where the accused person is found not guilty or the charges are dismissed or nolle prossed and the accused person was fingerprinted for the charges, the summary court, at no cost to the accused person, immediately shall issue an order to expunge the criminal records, including any associated bench warrants, of the accused person. The automatic expungement is required regardless of the type of charging document used to initiate the charge, including courtesy summonses. However, there are two exceptions to this expungement rule:
    • Charges should not be expunged if the dismissal occurs at a preliminary hearing, or
    • If the accused person has charges pending in summary court and a court of general sessions and such charges arose out of the same course of events.
  • Immediately upon a disposition of not guilty, dismissed or nolle prossed, the court should complete the Order for Expungement of Arrest Records (Magistrate and Municipal Court), SCCA 223C. Each order should contain only one charge sought to be expunged, except in those circumstances where expungement is sought for multiple charges occurring out of a single incident.
  • The summary court judge should not sign or date the form at this time. Obtain the signature of the prosecuting attorney or law enforcement officer on the bottom of the form. (The purpose of this signature is simply to verify the disposition. By signing, the attorney or officer is not indicating that he or she agrees with the disposition.)
  • If an appeal is filed in the case, the expungement process should be stopped pending the outcome of the appeal.
  • The statute provides that the prosecuting agency or appropriate law enforcement agency may object in writing to the expungement within 30 days of the disposition. However, statutory reasons for an objection are limited to the following:
    • The accused has other charges pending;
    • The charges are not eligible for expungement.
  • If a written objection is filed with the trial court, the prosecuting or law enforcement agency shall notify the accused person of the objection in writing at the most current address on file with the trial court, or through the accused person's attorney.
  • In the event that there is a written objection filed, the court must forward the record, including the written objection, to the circuit court with SCCA Form 223D, Expungement Abjection Transmittal. The circuit court judge will determine whether the defendant is entitled to have the record expunged. The circuit court judge will indicate on Form 223D whether or not the record will be expunged, and return that form to the summary court. If the Circuit Court determines that the record should be expunged, the summary court will be responsible for completing the expungement process. See §17-22-950(F).
  • In the event no written objection is filed with your court, the trial judge should sign and date the order no sooner than 31 days after disposition, and no later than 40 days after disposition. The court must attach a copy of the disposition to the expungement order and forward certified copies of the order and disposition to the following agencies.
    • SLED via the US Mail at the following: Mary Porter, PO Box 21398, Columbia, SC 29221. If the defendant was not fingerprinted at the time of the arrest, or the charge was written on a courtesy summons, the expungement order shall not be forwarded to SLED.
    • The appropriate law enforcement agency which handled the case. (Your court will need to coordinate with your local law enforcement agencies in order to obtain information concerning to whose attention to send the expungement orders and by what method of transmittal, such as the US Mail, facsimile, etc.) In the event the charges were initiated by a courtesy summons, law enforcement should still receive the order.
    • The prosecuting agency if prosecuted by an agency other than the arresting law enforcement agency.
    • The appropriate detention facility. If the initiating document was a courtesy summons, the detention facility need not receive the order.
    • If a traffic case, the order and disposition must be sent to DMV to the attention Shirley Rivers, Post Office Box 1498, Blythewood, SC 29016.
    • If a DNR case, the order and disposition must be sent to Lt. Mike Sabaka. This may be done electronically at sabakam@dnr.sc.gov or via facsimile at 803-734-3962.
    • The defendant’s lawyer, if represented, or the defendant. This copy must be certified or marked with the court's raised seal.
    • The county Clerk of Court, but only in cases in which the charges were appealed to the circuit court or remanded to the summary court from general sessions court. No filing fee shall be charged by the Clerk’s Office to a defendant seeking the expungement of a criminal record pursuant to §17-22-950, where the charge was dismissed, nolle prossed, or the defendant was found not guilty.
    • Any other summary court that was involved in the processing of the case.

Summary Court Expungement Process as Required by 17-22-950(B) When Defendant Was Not Fingerprinted

  • A defendant who was found not guilty or the charges were dismissed or nolle prossed in the summary court and the defendant was not fingerprinted for the charges must apply to the summary court for expungement of records. The statute applies regardless of the type of charging document used to initiate the charge, including courtesy summonses. The defendant may apply to the summary court, at no cost to the defendant, for an order to expunge the criminal records, including any associated bench warrants. However, there are two exceptions to this expungement requirement:
    • Charges should not be expunged if the dismissal occurs at a preliminary hearing, or
    • If the accused person has charges pending in summary court and a court of general sessions and such charges arose out of the same course of events.
  • The defendant shall use the Application for Expungement (SCCA 223E) to apply for an expungement pursuant to Section 17-22-950(B).
  • Upon application, and after verification that the charges are appropriate for expungement, the summary court shall issue an order to expunge the criminal records (SCCA 223C), and obtain and verify all necessary signatures.
  • If an appeal is filed in the case, the expungement process should stop pending the outcome of the appeal.
  • The statute provides that the prosecuting agency or appropriate law enforcement agency may object in writing to the expungement within 30 days of the disposition. However, statutory reasons for an objection are limited to the following:
    • The accused has other charges pending;
    • The charges are not eligible for expungement.
  • Objections: In the event that there is a written objection filed the court must forward the record, including the written objection, to the circuit court with SCCA Form 223D. The circuit court judge will determine whether the defendant is entitled to have the record expunged, complete the form indicating whether or not the record will be expunged, and return that form to the summary court. If the Circuit Court determines that the record should be expunged, the summary court will be responsible for completing the expungement process. The summary court should follow the directive of the circuit court. See 17-22-950(F).
  • In the event no written objection is filed with your court, the trial judge should sign and date the order no sooner than 31 days after disposition, and no later than 40 days after disposition.The court must then attach a copy of the disposition to the expungement order and forward certified copies of the order and disposition to the following agencies.
    • The appropriate law enforcement agency which handled the case. (Your court will need to coordinate with your local law enforcement agencies in order to obtain information concerning to whose attention to send the expungement orders and by what method of transmittal, such as the US Mail, facsimile, etc.) In the event the charges were initiated by a courtesy summons, law enforcement should still be provided with the order.
    • The prosecuting agency if prosecuted by an agency other than the arresting law enforcement agency.
    • The appropriate detention facility. If the initiating document was a courtesy summons, the detention facility need not receive the order.
    • If a traffic case, the order and disposition must be sent to DMV to the attention of Shirley Rivers, Post Office Box 1498, Blythewood, SC 29016.
    • If a DNR case, the order and disposition must be sent to Lt. Mike Sabaka. This may be done electronically at sabakam@dnr.sc.gov or via facsimile at 803-734-3962.
    • The defendant’s lawyer, if represented, or the defendant. This copy must be certified or marked with the court's raised seal.
    • The county Clerk of Court, but only in cases in which the charges were appealed or the circuit court or remanded to the summary court from general sessions court. No filing fee shall be charged by the Clerk’s Office to a defendant seeking the expungement of a criminal record pursuant to Section 17-22-950. Any other summary court that was involved in the processing of the case.

The court should then expunge their records as they normally would, including any related bench warrant. Criminal charges must be removed from any internet-based public record no later than 30 days from the disposition date, regardless of whether the accused person applies to the summary court for expungement pursuant to §17-22-950(B). 

Expungement of Charges Where the Accused Was Found Not Guilty, Or the Charges Were Dismissed or Nolle Prossed Prior to the Effective Date of the Summary Court Expungement Legislation

  • Act No. 132 of 2016, which amended §17-22-950, provided that the expungement process be applied retroactively. Therefore, charges in which the person accused was found not guilty, or the charges were dismissed or nolle prossed prior to the effective date of the summary court expungement legislation shall be expunged by the summary courts upon application of the defendant, regardless of whether the charges were fingerprinted or non-fingerprinted at the time of arrest. The defendant must initiate this process by completing and submitting to the trial court SCCA 223E, Application for Expungement. Upon application, and after verification that the charges are appropriate for expungement, the summary court shall issue an order to expunge the criminal records, obtain and verify all necessary signatures, and provide copies of the completed expungement order to the arresting law enforcement agency and all summary courts that were involved in the criminal process of the charges.  If the defendant was fingerprinted for the charge, the summary court must provide a copy of the expungement order to SLED. If the defendant was not fingerprinted for the charge, the summary court is not required to provide copies of the completed expungement order to SLED.
  • Expungement orders should not be forwarded to the Clerk of Court unless the charges were appealed from the summary court to the circuit court or remanded to the summary court from general sessions court.
  • There is no waiting period for processing the expungement of charges that occurred prior to the expungement legislation and are now eligible for expungement.  The summary court expungement process must begin upon the application for expungement.

NOTE: In regards to expunged records, pursuant to §17-1-40(B)(1)(a), law enforcement and prosecution agencies shall retain the arrest and booking record, associated bench warrants, mug shots, and fingerprints of the person under seal for three years and one hundred twenty days. A law enforcement or prosecution agency may retain the information indefinitely for purposes of ongoing or future investigations and prosecution of the offense, administrative hearings, and to defend the agency and the agency's employees during litigation proceedings. The information must remain under seal. The information is not a public document and is exempt from disclosure, except by court order.  Pursuant to §17-1-40(B)(1)(b), detention and correctional facilities shall retain booking records, identifying documentation and materials, and other institutional reports and files under seal, on all persons who have been processed, detained, or incarcerated, for a period not to exceed three years and one hundred twenty days from the date of the expungement order to manage the facilities' statistical and professional information needs, and to defend the facilities and the facilities' employees during litigation proceedings, except that when an action, complaint, or inquiry has been initiated, the records, documentations and materials, and other reports and files may be retained as needed to address the action, complaint, or inquiry. The information is not a public document and is exempt from disclosure, except by court order. At the end of the three years and one hundred twenty days from the date of the expungement order, the records must be destroyed unless they are being retained to address an action, complaint, or inquiry that has been initiated.