South Carolina recently passed a new law that could improve employment opportunities for many with low-level felonies and non-violent misdemeanors. This law amended the Youthful Offenders Act, which would help individuals convicted of specific non-violent crimes when committed before adulthood. This law would also allow employers to fill more open positions.
How the Law Works
The Youthful Offender Act follows a specific definition for qualifying convictions. The law defined convictions as “a judgment in a verdict or finding of guilty, plea of guilty, or plea of nolo contendere to a criminal charge where the imprisonment is at least one year, but excluding all offenses in which the maximum punishment provided by law is death or life imprisonment.”
The Youthful Offenders Act has significantly changed the eligibility for removing their criminal records. For example, individuals younger than 25 had to wait five years after completing their sentence to apply. They also had to avoid further convictions to qualify.
The Act included exceptions for what offenses it did not apply to, including the following:
- An offense involving the operation of a motor vehicle;
- An offense classified as a violent crime in Section 16-1-60;
- An offense contained in Chapter 25, Title 16, except as otherwise provided in Section 16-25-30; or
- An offense for which the individual must register per the South Carolina Sex Offender Registry Act
The Amendments’ Effects
As a result, South Carolina enacted the recently signed Act No. 73 to update the Youthful Offender Act. These changes ensure that several convictions occurring within the five-year waiting period do not interfere with individuals receiving expungements.
The new law would also address the issue that youthful offenders faced due to convictions of disturbing schools or driving under suspension. Individuals can still apply for the expungement of eligible records despite the non-violent crimes mentioned during the five-year waiting period. However, this eligibility applies if the offenses happened after they completed their sentence.
This change would prevent many individuals from losing their chance to expunge qualifying records. Its effects would significantly help those affected the most by the criminal justice system. In addition, the law would apply retroactively, affecting existing convictions.
With the law now in effect, employers should review their hiring policies. They should consider which convictions could disqualify an individual from working in a specific position, including offenses ineligible for expungement. The best way to start is by working with a screening provider experienced with second-change hiring programs.