SC legislature overrides veto to broaden expungement laws

On June 27, the South Carolina legislature took the extraordinary step of overriding Governor McMaster’s veto of a bill that expanded eligibility for expungement in several significant (if relatively modest) ways.  House Bill 3209 is now law, and will take effect in six months.  This is one of the very few times in recent years that a state legislature has overridden a governor’s veto of a bill intended to improve opportunities for people with a criminal record.

The new law, which will go into effect after six months, extends expungement eligibility to first offense simple drug possession (after three years) or possession with intent to distribute (after twenty years), and to conviction of repealed offenses.  It also repeals first offender limits on expungement eligibility for convictions in magistrates court (summary offenses) and in juvenile proceedings, and applies all of these authorities retroactively.  HR 3209 also restructures fee provisions and authorizes private donations to defray costs for those who cannot afford to pay the fee.  Finally, HR 3209 authorizes expungement for anyone convicted prior to passage of the Youthful Offender Act of 2010 who could have been eligible for sentencing as a first offender under that provision.  The YOA provides that individuals between the ages of 17 and 25 who are convicted of certain non-violent misdemeanors and minor felonies may be sentenced to probation and treatment, so the extension of that law’s relief to pre-2010 convictions is quite significant.  

Wisconsin high court holds youthful offenders entitled to “a fresh start”

The Wisconsin statute that allows courts to expunge certain conviction records of youthful offenders, Wis. Stat. § 973.015, provides that the court must make its decision about whether to expunge at the time of sentencing, conditioned upon the defendant successfully completing his or her sentence.

Often, young defendants receive a probationary term for crimes that are eligible for expungement (all misdemeanors, as well as certain felonies in the lower levels of severity). Prior case law has established that, although expungement is conditional upon successful completion of probation in this situation, the court may not defer ruling on the expungement request.

In State v. Hemp, the Wisconsin Supreme Court clarified that expungement occurs automatically if the statutory conditions are met, and that a defendant is not required after completing probation to apply to the sentencing court for entry of the expungement order. Importantly, the court also provided some guidance regarding the legal effect of expungement that will be of interest to job applicants who have had a previous conviction expunged.

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