Committee to study how long criminal records should be kept - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Committee to study how long criminal records should be kept by the courts

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

There are several proposals in the State House dealing with what offenses can be expunged and how long those records should be kept by the courts. The passage of the bill signifies lawmakers are taking small steps thoughtful steps to find how the bill will impact South Carolina. 

According to the National Employment Law Project, roughly 28 percent of working Americans have a criminal record and that record can impact your quality of life for years to come.

Several studies have found that a criminal record can decrease your annual salary by as much as 40 percent. One of the latest bills to become law would assemble a committee of lawmakers to carefully study what types of crimes should be considered for expungement for both juveniles and adults. But there is resistance from many lawmakers when it comes to expunging violent crimes or crimes involving children.

Justice advocates have said they hope to see some existing inequalities within the justice system addressed.

 "We do have a high rate of convictions and I think we have to look at when people go through the criminal justice process, if it's even being done equitably," said Sue Berkowitz with Appleseed Legal Justice Center. "If you look at our minority communities, often they have higher rates of criminal convictions versus people who may be of means. Or who are not minority."

A report released last year by the Sentencing Project said African-American and Hispanic defendants on average receive longer sentences than white defendants.

The committee will have until Oct. 13 of this year to submit their recommendations to lawmakers.

Right now, if your record is expunged, the files associated with your charges are destroyed which many lawmakers and law enforcement agencies say is detrimental to future and ongoing cases.

Another proposal in the State House would keep expunged records sealed for three years for the courts or public to access.

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