Group helps people expunge criminal records - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Group helps people expunge criminal records

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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

One in three South Carolinians has a criminal record. It's a number that may have you eyeing the people around you. But for those record holders, there's now new hope that their mistakes from the past won't limit their future.

Just a year ago, unemployed young father Michael Burnside found himself facing a mountain of unpaid child support and repeated rejection from potential employers.

"That kind of disappoints you, because you're already out there facing the woes of life, trying to find a job," he said.

Burnside's main barrier to better employment revealed itself soon after: a criminal record from his youth had followed him, despite his charges being dropped.

"They don't realize even if the case was dismissed or they were found not guilty, unless its recently or a magistrates court office, those things are still on their record," said Gail Dubose, Legal Coordinator with the Fathers and Families Coalition.

Now the coalition is helping up to 80% of their clients get a fresh start by guiding them through the expungement process.

"It's very intimidating," said Dubose. "It's not something people feel they can do by themselves. That's was the reason the center decided we were going to try and find a way to simplify the process."

For Burnside, there was no fee, and it took about six months to complete. Now working in a job previously unavailable to him, he said the future is bright.

"I'm not at the top of the hill or anything of that nature, but I'm happy, I'm supporting my kids," he said.

After many attempts, a bill to make the expungement process for first offense crimes easier was signed into law by Governor Nikki Haley.

For a simplified guide to getting a criminal record expunged, click here.

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