What is a Criminal Record in South Carolina?
Criminal records in South Carolina provide an official compilation of a person’s criminal history. Also known as a rap sheet, criminal records contain information compiled from trial courts, correctional facilities, and law enforcement agencies operating in local, county, or state jurisdictions. While the standard for criminal record collection and storage varies from county to county, most of South Carolina criminal records are organized in online record depositories maintained by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.
The information provided in a criminal record varies. Depending on the subject, some of the information provided in a criminal record may include:
- The subject’s full name and any known aliases
- Date of birth
- Mugshot or photographs
- Records of any past arrests
- Records of any past or current warrant
- Records of charges (pending and acquitted)
Are Criminal Records Public in South Carolina?
Yes. Criminal records in South Carolina are generally public records per the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act. Thus, interested persons may request a rap sheet on any individual of interest from the Law Enforcement Division. The Division maintains an online database to this effect, but interested persons may also request criminal records in person or submit a mail request.
Criminal records, considered public in the United States, are made available through some third-party aggregate sites. Searching with third-party websites is often easier as the information is not limited to geographic record availability. Information found on third-party websites can serve as a jumping off point for parties searching for a specific record or multiple records. Typically, requesters must provide the following information to gain access to these records:
- The record subject’s name, unless the subject is a juvenile.
- The record subjects’ last known location, including cities, counties, and states.
Third-party websites offer these search services, but they are not government sponsored. Availability of records may vary.
How to Obtain Criminal Records in South Carolina?
The fastest way to look up criminal records in South Carolina is online through the Citizens Access To Criminal Histories (CATCH) portal. This portal lets anyone perform a name-based search for $25.00 per subject. Fees are payable from credit cards and are non-refundable.
Another way to obtain criminal records in South Carolina is to use the criminal records check form. The requester must complete the form with the subject’s details, including name, date of birth, and social security numbers if available. Next, the requester must prepare and attach payment in the form of a certified check or money order. Only then may the requester enclose the application packet in a self-addressed stamped envelope and mail it to the State Law Enforcement Division or submit it in person.
SLED Records Department
P.O. Box 21398
Columbia, SC 29221-1398
The State Law Enforcement Division offers a fee reduction for eligible persons who wish to obtain criminal records in South Carolina. In this case, the requester must meet the eligibility requirements. It is also possible to perform a free public criminal record check through non-official sources. However, there is no guarantee that information received from the criminal record search is complete or accurate. Also, although criminal records are also known as police records, they are, in fact, one of several records that law enforcement compiles during criminal cases. The others include arrest warrants, arrest records, incident reports, and logs of police activities on a criminal case.
What is an Arrest Record in South Carolina?
A South Carolina arrest record provides the official summary of an individual’s criminal history. It provides information on whether a person has been detained, apprehended, questioned, or taken into custody. Arrest records in South Carolina may also provide details on whether a subject has been indicted or tried for any misdemeanor, felony, or other offense. Per the South Carolina Code of Laws, a person can be arrested once they commit a misdemeanor, a felony, or if there are reasonable grounds to believe they committed a crime. Police records and police reports are different from arrest records. Although police records do include arrest records, they are also made up of police logs and incident reports.
Are Arrest Records Public in South Carolina?
Yes. South Carolina Freedom of Information Act makes arrest records public. Interested persons must contact the arresting agency to obtain arrest records—this is typically the Sheriff’s Office or the local police department. However, note that South Carolina laws allow law enforcement to restrict public access to arrest records and associated police records under certain circumstances (SC Code § 30-4-40 (3)). For instance, if releasing the records will risk the life of an officer or a civilian, the arresting agency may withhold the arrest record. The same applies to cases where the arrest is part of an active criminal investigation into sensitive matters or state affairs.
Meanwhile, persons who wish to obtain public arrest records often pay the nominal cost of copying the documents. There are very few databases that offer free arrest records. Even at that, the completeness and authenticity of such free records are questionable.
What is an Arrest Warrant in South Carolina?
An arrest warrant in South Carolina is an official document that is signed and issued by a judge or magistrate on behalf of the local and state jurisdictions. It authorizes law enforcement officers to arrest or detain the person(s) named in the warrant. A grand jury may also issue warrants under certain circumstances, such as when the grand jury considers charges prior to arrest by the police. Generally, the information provided in warrants include:
- A description of the individual to be arrested
- The reason for the warrant (a description of the charges)
- A signature of a neutral judge or grand jury
- The date the warrant was issued
- The name of the judge
Interested persons may obtain a copy of the arrest warrant from the agency that executed the warrant. Most Sheriff Offices and police departments maintain public databases where interested persons may perform a name-based arrest warrant search for executed and active warrants in South Carolina. The searcher must visit the law enforcement official website to obtain this information. In certain scenarios, South Carolina law permits arrests even without a warrant. In most cases, this occurs when a person commits the crime in an officer’s presence.
Inmate Records in South Carolina
South Carolina inmate records contain information regarding an offender’s current and past inmate status. The South Carolina Department of Corrections maintains a searchable online search system that members of the public can use to conduct searches for inmate records. Results from an inmate lookup may include names, incarceration dates, expected release dates, convicted offenses, and photos. It allows for searches by name or inmate number. Members of the public may also be able to obtain records by submitting a written request to:
4444 Broad River Road
P.O. Box 21787
Columbia, SC 29210
What is the South Carolina Sex Offender Registry?
The South Carolina sex offender registry is a database of persons who were convicted of committing a sex crime in South Carolina. The registry is often accessible by the public. Per Megan's Law, South Carolina mandates the registration of any person, regardless of age, residing in the state, who has been convicted of, adjudicated delinquent for, pled guilty, or nolo contendere to a sex offense. Judges may also order an adult to be registered as a sex offender if the crime they were convicted of was sexually motivated.
What is a DUI in South Carolina?
A DUI in South Carolina is a serious traffic violation that refers to driving or operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or a substance that impairs the individual’s driving skills. Per South Carolina DUI laws, drivers convicted with DUI charges have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 or higher. These individuals lose driving privileges pending a court hearing and administrative review by the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
Generally, the penalties for drunk driving in South Carolina include license suspension, fines, fees, and surcharges. The impaired driver may also serve a jail sentence, depending on aggravating circumstances. Furthermore, the court or the DMV may order the driver to install an ignition interlock device or complete a defensive driving course as a requirement for license reinstatement. Another unfavorable consequence of a DUI is that the conviction remains on the individual’s driving record for life.
What is a Misdemeanor in South Carolina?
A misdemeanor in South Carolina is a non-indictable offense that is categorized as generally less severe than felonies. Like some states, misdemeanor charges in South Carolina are categorized by a class-based system designed to describe the severity of the alleged crime and penalties. These include Class A, B, and C.
- Class A misdemeanors Maximum incarceration of 3 years/$2500 maximum fine
- Class B misdemeanors: Maximum incarceration of 2 years, a fine range of $1,000 to $2,000
- Class C misdemeanors: Maximum incarceration of 1 year, a maximum fine of $1,000
Courts can impose a maximum incarceration penalty for anyone convicted of a misdemeanor based on the class of misdemeanor involved, a jail sentence, a fine, and both. Examples of misdemeanors include:
- Possession of marijuana
- Child endangerment
- Destruction of Venus flytrap plant
- Assault or intimidation
- Falsifying a transcript, diploma, or record
What is a Felony in South Carolina?
A felony offense is a criminal conviction with a minimum sentence of more than one (1) year, which is to be served in a county jail or state prison. In some cases, a felony conviction can even be punished by death. The state of South Carolina organizes felony crimes into six different categories: Class A through Class F. Class A felonies represent the most significant offenses, while Class F crimes are the least serious felonies.
- Class A felonies: Minimum incarceration of 30 years
- Class B felonies: Minimum incarceration of 25 years
- Class C felonies: Minimum incarceration of 20 years
- Class D felonies: Minimum incarceration of 15 years
- Class E felonies: Minimum incarceration of 10 years
- Class F felonies: Minimum incarceration of 5 years
Anyone convicted of a felony offense in South Carolina faces a potential prison sentence that depends on the class of the felony committed. Examples of felonies in South Carolina include:
- Attempted murder or voluntary manslaughter
- Reckless homicide
What are Parole Records in South Carolina?
Parole records in South Carolina consist of official data regarding the release of inmates who have agreed to certain conditions prior to the completion of their maximum sentence. While the prisoner is on supervised parole, the board shall require as a condition of parole that they pay a monthly supervision fee. The board may also impose any conditions of parole it deems appropriate in order to ensure the best interests of the prisoner and the citizens of South Carolina are served.
What are Probation Records in South Carolina?
Probation records are official documents that show when a person receives probation as an alternative to prison. Probation allows people convicted of a crime in South Carolina to serve their sentences out of custody as long as they comply with probation conditions imposed by the judge and probation officer. Probation is issued in proportion to the crime, so the length and nature of probation differ (sometimes drastically) from case to case. Probation typically falls into three categories: minimally supervised, supervised, and intensive. Intensive probation is a form of very strict probation that emphasizes punishment and control of the offender within the community.
Juvenile Criminal Records in South Carolina
A juvenile criminal record is an official record of information regarding criminal activity committed by children or adolescents who are not yet of legal adult age. Juveniles are not considered to be convicted of a crime like an adult but instead are found to be adjudicated delinquents. These criminal records are often mistakenly thought to be erased or expunged once a person becomes of legal adult age, but in fact, the record remains unless the person petitions to have it expunged per the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice If a person was found adjudicated delinquent to a criminal offense, they do not have to respond “yes” if asked whether they have ever been convicted of a crime, unless the question specifically asks if they were ever adjudicated delinquent as well.
Conviction Records in South Carolina
A conviction record is an official document providing information that a person was found guilty, pleaded guilty, or pleaded nolo contendere against criminal charges in a civilian or military court. The criminal charges can be classified as a felony, misdemeanor, or other offense. Conviction records may also contain information on whether a person has been judged delinquent, has been less than honorably discharged, or has been placed on probation, fined, imprisoned, or paroled. A criminal conviction is rendered by either a jury of peers or a judge in a court of law. A conviction does not include a final judgment that was deleted by a pardon, set aside, reversed, or otherwise rendered inoperative.
South Carolina History and Accuracy of Criminal Records
The accuracy of the data of criminal records depends on the recordkeeping and technological capabilities of the jurisdiction where the record was assembled and later digitized. South Carolina criminal records archives usually tend to go back as far as the 1970s when criminal and arrest data started to be centralized and compiled into an organized database much like we use today. Accuracy was more commonly affected by human error in the past, but in the 1990s, the quality and accuracy of recordkeeping improved exponentially due to the advent of the computer.
Find South Carolina Criminal Record for Free
In South Carolina, criminal records are legal documents listing people's criminal histories. Data and records collected on individuals could vary. Still, generally, the documents comprise mugshots of convicted individuals, their fingerprints, past and current criminal offenses, arrests, warrants, and charges, as well as their personal information like full names, nicknames, age, sex, and date of birth.
These records are public and are compiled, organized, and managed online by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division. People can also obtain criminal history records from the South Carolina Department of Justice by submitting requests through the mail, fax, or in person. These requests attract a fee of $25, which could be reduced or waived if the interested individual meets particular criteria.
Are Police Records Public in South Carolina?
Yes, police records are public. In accordance with the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act, police records are made accessible to the public. Individuals interested in obtaining criminal records of people through the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division are allowed to conduct name-based searches on their websites. The requester must provide valid names of the subjects of interest to gain access to the correct records.
To obtain these records, requesting individuals are mandated to send written requests via mail, fax, or in person, providing the subject’s name and the country, state, and city where the subject was last spotted.
The Department of Justice is most likely to request the purpose of record searches to ascertain that they won't be used for commercial purposes because it is prohibited by the law.
According to section 30-4-40(a)(3) of the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act, there are certain exceptions to the publicity of police reports which are:
- Records of active investigations are sheltered from being public to avoid interference with law enforcement actions.
- The government protects the information of crime victims in cases where the release of the information could pose threats to their lives and health.
- The information and identities of confidential informants or witnesses are also kept private.
- Records of arrests made in error are withheld from the public.
- Any information that would expose details of cases that were not published during their trials is redacted from the public.
- Any information that would jeopardize a person's chances of a fair trial in court is redacted from the public eye.
- Any information which would reveal investigative methods and reveal the details through which law enforcement officers made analyses and arrived at conclusions would be removed from the reach of the public.
- Any information which would lead to the invasion of a person's privacy is not disclosed to the public.
- Police records of minors are regarded as confidential and withheld from the public.
How to Obtain Police Records in South Carolina
In South Carolina, there are different ways to gain access to police records, and the easiest is through a portal called Citizens Access To Criminal Histories, CATCH. Through this portal, a name-based search is allowed on a subject for a non-refundable fee of $25, which can be paid through credit cards.
One can also obtain a criminal record through the criminal records check form, which must be stamped and addressed to the State Law Enforcement Division. The requester must complete this form with details of the subject, including name, date of birth, and social security number (if available). It is also mandatory for valid payment details like a check or money order to be attached to the form before it is mailed or submitted in person. Cash payments are unacceptable as only payments made through check, money order, or credit card are acknowledged.
The mailing address through which individuals can submit their search requests is,
SLED Records Department,
P.O. Box 21398,
Columbia, SC 29221-1398
There are specific requirements that, if met, could grant a requester a reasonable reduction in the criminal records request fee. A requester must strictly meet one of these requirements to be eligible, and the requirements are:
- The requester must be a charitable organization and produce a verifiable account number. They must also submit a completed Charitable Account Application Form to be considered. Requesters that meet this requirement must pay a fee of $8 instead of the regular $25.
- The requester must be a local school district, checking for the criminal records of potential employees. Searching for criminal records of teachers is free of charge, and it costs $8 for other staff like bus drivers.
- According to section 30-4-30(B), a waiver could be granted for the fee if a search is primarily considered to be done for the benefit of the general public.
People requesting free record searches could also access them through specific non-official sources. As appealing as it could be to obtain records without first paying fees, it is essential to note that the information obtained from these sources could be compromised as they're unofficial platforms; therefore, they could be incomplete or inaccurate.
Are Police Reports Public Record?
Police reports are detailed legal documents prepared and compiled after an incident or crime occurs. These documents contain facts of the incident or crime, like the timeline, date, location, the incident or crime, the crime classification, the victim(s), witness(es), and the surrounding circumstances.
Police reports are regarded as public records in South Carolina, according to The South Carolina Freedom of Information Act. However, it is against the law to commercialize the police reports of employees and disabled people.
There are four significant types of police reports, which are:
- Crime Reports: These reports give details about a crime and crime scene. For instance, if a house is burgled and burnt, the crime report would state the location of the house, the owner of the house, the crimes committed, which are burglary and arson, the timeline for which the crime must've been committed, and every other important information with regards to the crime.
- Vehicle accident Reports: These reports are made specifically for motor vehicle accidents. They are compiled at accident scenes whenever motor vehicle accidents occur. They contain information such as the type of motor vehicle accident, estimated time of the accident, cause of the accident (overspeeding, drunk driving), victim, and every other detail concerning the accident.
- Arrest Reports: This report is made when a person is arrested and is essential in court. It contains information concerning the person arrested, their name, offense, date and time of arrest, and every other substantial detail.
- Incident Reports: These reports are compiled after the occurrence of an incident that may have resulted in injuries or not. This report contains details explaining the type of incident, the date, the victim, and the cause of the incident. It also provides a detailed record of the circumstances surrounding the occurrence of the incident.
How to File a Police Report with South Carolina Law Enforcement
Filing a police report in South Carolina can be done in several ways. In the case of an emergency or an ongoing crime, the most reliable way is to call 911, and the police would respond and be at the crime scene in record time. For instance, if someone has just gotten shot or criminals are vandalizing your house, it is best to contact 911.
If the report to be filed is not an emergency, there are non-emergency lines to be called. These numbers vary from county to county, and individuals must ensure they call a number with jurisdiction in their county or the location of the crime they want to report.
South Carolina policies also allow for individuals to file police reports online through the Citizen's Online Police Reporting System. Reports filed through this system are reviewed upon completion, and if the incident doesn't correspond with the report type, law enforcement will reject the report. If further investigation is essential to a report, the individual who reported the incident would be contacted. Reports must be filed to the correct jurisdiction to be accepted and authorized. Once a person has filed a report appropriately, they would be issued a police report case number and allowed to print a copy of it.
It is essential to understand the crime scene or the incident to be reported before reporting. When making descriptions, accuracy is also essential. This is to avoid disseminating false information or misleading law enforcement officers.
Where to Find Free Public Police Records
Police records are classified as public records in South Carolina; hence they can be accessed by whoever wants them. These records could be available free of charge to individuals seeking to do background checks on people.
Individuals can obtain free public police records at the law enforcement agency record department of each county during working hours. The perusal of these records is free, and individuals are given reasonable amounts of time to examine the documents. However, those who intend to duplicate copies of these records would have to pay fees to get their copies.
People can also find public police records online through the public record database, maintained by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division and provided with information from the local law enforcement agency of each county.
How to Find Mugshots in South Carolina
A mugshot is a head-to-shoulder photograph taken after a person has been arrested and charged with a crime. This image serves as a photographic record for one who has been arrested and is essential to their criminal record.
Per the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act, individuals can obtain mugshots since they are public records. They are available on law enforcement databases managed by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division and can be searched for by conducting an online inmate search.
Interested people can also find mugshot records at police record departments and court clerk offices in every county during regular working hours.