What is an arrest record?
In the state of South Carolina, citizens can access crime history related information through a central repository maintained by the South Caroline Law Enforcement Division. The SLED database maintains arrest as well as conviction records which can be requested through their official website as well as by mail. For a criminal background check, the applicant will need to furnish information such as the first and last name and the date of birth of the subject.
The information provided in response to such an inquiry will include arrest and warrant details, charges filed, court disposition and incarceration center where the criminal is held. At this time SLED only offers a name check although they agree that fingerprint based background checks are more accurate.
Information offered through SLED checks is strictly restricted to records from within the state of South Carolina. No federal or out of state records will be divulged to individuals , privately owned firms or any other nongovernment or non justice entity unless they are authorized by law to receive such information.
SLED encourages employers to conduct a background screening for all prospective employees. However, in accordance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act which is a federal law, any business that intends to conduct such a check will have to notify potential employees of their intention.
Also, if the data found in such a report is the basis on which employment has been declined, the organization will have to notify the job applicant of the information that led to the decision and the name of the reporting agency.
The information offered by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division is available to all, so the search is certainly not limited or restricted to employee-employer associations. When searching for arrest records, it is recommended that people furnish information about the subject that is taken from a government document, preferably with a photograph on it, to ensure accurate results.
SLED not only offers information in response to name searches but to narrow down the results, applicants can also provide the social security number of the subject where available. In the interest of public safety, details about individuals in the “wanted list” are not revealed.
On the other hand, information about sex offenders who were tried in the state and those who currently reside in South Carolina is freely disseminated through the website of the justice agency.
While almost all criminal records available against an individual are provided by SLED, it is possible for people to petition the court in South Carolina for the expungement of such records subject to certain sections of the criminal code. Once the details are expunged, they are no longer visible to private applicants.
The removal of arrest records from the SLED database is possible if the charges filed against an individual were dismissed or he/she was found not guilty. However, even people who have been convicted of minor offenses can get their record s expunged.
As per Section 17-22-150 of the South Carolina Statues, a first time offender who is not convicted of a violent crime and is assigned to pre-trial intervention program can request the expungement of such records. Similarly, first time convicts who have not been sentenced to more than 30 days in prison are also eligible for record expungement.
What is an arrest warrant?
In the state of South Carolina, an arrest is defined as the deprivation of personal freedom including a restriction on an individual’s freedom of movement by force or authority assertion. These restrictions placed on the individual can be against his will or he may have surrendered.
Because an arrest interferes with the right of liberty guaranteed by the constitution of the United States to each one of its citizens, certain restrictions have been placed on arrest rights. In accordance with the Fifth Amendment of the US Constitution, no person can be detained without the initiation of a due legal process against him/her.
Pursuant to the Fourth Amendment, the right of a citizen of the United States to secure his house, person and property cannot be violated and no warrant to this effect can be issued unless there is probable cause to suspect his/her involvement in a criminal matter, supported by affirmation or oath. Also, if a warrant is issued, it has to particularly describe, the person to be arrested, the place to be searched and the things to be seized.
So, when seeking an arrest warrant in the state of South Carolina, a law enforcement officer has to appear before a municipal judge or a magistrate and present an affidavit that offers case related information. A security officer who was witness to a crime committed on the property that he was contracted to guard/protect can also sign the affidavit against a suspect. All such complaints are to be in writing and have to be filed under oath. The affidavit can be completed either by the law enforcement officer or the magistrate or a municipal judge. In case a member of the judiciary is filling the affidavit based on the information given to him by the law enforcement office, the judge has to remind the officer that he is under oath and of the possible consequences of perjury.
A warrant is only drafted after the judge determines that there is probable cause to:
- Suspect that a crime has been committed
- The person against whom the arrest order is being sought has committed this crime.
It is imperative to understand that while issuing a warrant, the judge is not acting on behalf of the police or is not simply the rubber stamp of a law enforcement agency. The reason why the judiciary has been entrusted with the authority to grant such arrest orders is so the judge can act as an impartial and independent judicial officer who decides whether the prosecution powers of the state should be used against a person.
In many cases, the facts presented in the affidavit are enough to establish a probable cause. However, in scenarios where such facts have been provided by witnesses or an informant, they will be encouraged to appear in court and swear to the information in front of the judge.
A warrant can only be issued based on case related fact and not on any conclusions that the investigating officers may have reached. For instance, a statement such as “I swear under oath that Mr. XYZ committed a murder”, will not work. Facts have to be provided that support such a conclusion, and based on these, it is the job of the presiding magistrate to decide if there is probable cause to suspect the involvement of the individual in question.
All warrants issued by magistrates and municipal judges in the state of South Caroline will have the description of the offense for which the individual is being arrested clearly mentioned along with a specific description of the suspect. Apart from this, the date of issue and the county in which the order was issued will also be mentioned on the warrant which has to bear the signature of the magistrate who issued the order.
Although an active arrest warrant should be served within a reasonable time; such orders for detention do not go stale if they are not executed. In other words, a warrant stays in effect unless it is served. The only two exceptions to this rule are:
- If the warrant is no longer justified
- The service of the warrant would no longer be proper
A peace office can take a person into custody without an arrest warrant if he has reason to believe that this individual has committed a crime which can be classified as a felony However, in case of misdemeanor, the crime has to be committed in front of a law enforcement official for an officer to be able to make an arrest without a warrant.
How to search for an inmate in the South Carolina Jail & Prison system?
You can find information on all inmates incarcerated in correctional facilities in the state from the South Carolina Department of Corrections. To conduct an inmate search, you will need the State Identification Number or the DOC number of the prisoner.
If you are related to the inmate, you will have received paperwork about the conviction and incarceration which will list these numbers. However, if you cannot locate this information, a name search is also possible.
Next, visit the inmate locator page on the official website of the South Carolina Department of Corrections at sword.doc.state.sc.us/incarceratedInmateSearch/.
Insert the name or the DOC number of the prisoner in the relevant fields and click on “submit”. If you are not sure about the spelling of the first and last name of the inmate, you can always use the “phonetic match” feature. Clicking on submit will take you to the results page which will have a list of all inmates whose details match the information offered by you.
Clicking on the name of inmate will get you additional data on the prisoner including a picture, physical description, citizenship, sentence, location and release date.
Who can search for arrest records and warrants in South Carolina and how?
Under the Freedom of Information Act, Section 30-4-10 through 30-4-165, all government agencies in the state of South Carolina are legally bound to provide access to government records and documents. When a charge is brought against an individual or a warrant is issued against him/her, all information pertaining to such matters are deemed to be public records under Section 30-4-20 of the Act. So, anybody in the state is allowed to view such records upon making a proper request for them.
Pursuant to the Act, such requests have to be responded to within 15 working days. Also, the state or the government body that stores such records and makes them available has the right to charge a processing fee to make these details accessible. However, some restrictions have been placed on the information that can be revealed under the FOIA. As per Section 30-4-40, details on arrest warrant can only be issued once they have been served. The same also holds for search and bench warrants unless a bench warrant has been issued in open court. Similarly, personal information including social security numbers must not be disclosed in such records.
How to request records under the South Carolina specific laws, freedom of information?
The South Caroline Law Enforcement Divisions offers arrest record checks through their CATCH database (Citizens Access to Criminal Histories). Applicants just need the date of birth and the first and last name of the subject to initiate such a screening. As of November, 2010, a fee of $25 is being charged for all searches, even those that do not bring back conclusive records.
Charitable organizations are allowed to perform searches at a discounted price of $8 while local schools that are conducting background checks on prospective teachers are not charged for screening.
For an online search, visit the official website of SLED at http://www.sled.sc.gov/
and click on “criminal records check. You will be directed to a “terms & condition” page, click on “I accept” here to proceed to the next step.
If you are a school or a charitable organization, you can click on “eligible” and offer specific information about the establishment. For individual searches, click on “not eligible”. On the form page, insert the appropriate information and click on submit; you will then have to offer your credit card details for payment processing.
Once your credit card is approved, the system will display relevant criminal records which can be printed from the website. For mail searches, you can send a request with a completed Criminal Records Check Form (sled.state.sc.us/CISystem/Images/Catch/CriminalRecordsCheckForm.pdf) and a business check or money order for $25 to
SLED Records Department,
P.O. Box 23198,
Columbia, SC 29221-1398
Another option for county wise case and warrant searches is to visit: judicial.state.sc.us/casesearch/