Arrest Records in South Carolina

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South Carolina has a population of 5.15 million, about half the population of its neighbor to the north, which makes it the 23rd most populated and 19th most densely populated state in the U.S. 

Like many southern states, South Carolina has higher-than-average crime compared to the nation at large: the state posted a 4.88 per 1,000 violent crime rate in 2018. SOuth Carolina’s most dangerous city is Greenwood, which has a violent crime rate over three-times the statewide rate. Arrests are slightly above average in the state as South Carolina ranks 21st in arrests per capita. 

South Carolina Arrest and Crime Statistics

  • In 2018, 152,664 arrests were made in South Carolina, as reported by 373 law enforcement agencies across the state. 10.8 thousand of these arrests were made of minors under the age of 18.
  • The leading identified cause of arrest by a considerable margin was drug abuse violations, which accounted for 34,105 arrests.
  • South Carolina’s rate of 202 registered sex offenders per 1,000 residents ranks 39th among U.S. states.   

Sources: FBI: 2018 Crime in the United States, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

What is a public arrest record?

An arrest record is a report produced by a law enforcement entity after the arrest or apprehension of an individual which contains the details of the incident, the individual’s personal information, and occasionally includes additional information about the individual’s criminal record.

An arrest record is often a key document in a criminal case and may play a significant role in an ensuing trial. The arrest record may remain in the public record for a long time regardless of whether the suspect is ultimately convicted of the crime(s) for which they were initially arrested. This means that it can be accessed by the general public.  

What is included in a public arrest record?

  • Description of the incident: An arrest record will include a chronological account of the alleged crime produced by the arresting officer that may utilize information provided by first-hand witnesses and/or victims of the alleged crime. 
  • Date and location of the arrest
  • Physical description: The height, weight, hair color, sex, and race of the arrested person, along with other distinguishing characteristics such as tattoos, scars, or birthmarks. 
  • Personal information: The name, age, date of birth, phone number, address, social security number, and other contact information of the arrested individual, as well as any other names the person may go by. 
  • Photographs
  • Fingerprints
  • Criminal charges filed
  • Classification of the crime: Whether the alleged crime is a felony or a misdemeanor.
  • Bail
  • Court date
  • Police interrogation details

What are the types of charges that may appear on an arrest record?

Generally, charges are classified into three main categories:

  • Infraction – An infraction is a minor violation of the law that is regulated at the state level. Punishment for an infraction is typically a fine or a written warning, rather than a jail or prison sentence. Examples of infractions include minor traffic violations, public nuisance offenses, and littering. 
  • Misdemeanor – A misdemeanor is a crime that is more serious than an infraction, but less severe than a felony, and generally punishable by a term of imprisonment of less than a year, or a term of probation. An individual convicted of a misdemeanor is more likely to serve time in a county or local jail than a federal or state prison. Examples of misdemeanors include driving under the influence, most drug abuse violations, and petty theft.
  • Felony – A felony is the most serious type of crime and generally results in a term of imprisonment of more than one year in a state or federal prison. Having a felony on one’s record may result in limitations of employment and the acquisition of specialty licenses. Examples of felonies include rape, murder, and arson.  

Who can access arrest records?

As in most other states, arrest records (also known as arrest reports) are public records in South Carolina and can be accessed by anyone upon request to a law enforcement agency, and may come up during a routine background check. 

Other examples of South Carolina public records include:

  • vital records such as birth and death certificates
  • marriage licenses
  • mugshots
  • court records
  • voting records
  • property records 

Where are physical copies of arrest records kept in South Carolina?

Arrest records are typically held by the law enforcement agency responsible for the arrest, usually a local police department or county sheriff’s office. They also may be kept in the archive of a state government agency, or circuit court. However, the central statewide crime information center is maintained by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Divisions, Criminal Justice Information Services.

Why can’t I access an arrest record in South Carolina?

There are a number of reasons why you may not be able to access an arrest record. Although the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requires federal agencies to release arrest records and other public records, records that fall under certain exemptions can be withheld from the public.

The FOIA includes nine exemptions that allow agencies to withhold documents, such as arrest records, and not release them to the public. They are:

  1. The information is classified to protect natural security. 
  2. The information focuses on the internal rules and practices of the agency.
  3. Another federal law prohibits the release of the information.
  4. The information includes confidential trade secrets and/or commercial and financial information. 
  5. The information includes privileged, confidential communicative exchanges between two agencies. 
  6. The information could pose a danger to another person’s privacy if released.
  7. The information is reserved for law enforcement purposes in a court case or an investigation or could reveal a confidential source. 
  8. The information includes confidential information about financial institution supervision. 
  9. The information includes geographical information about wells.

Additionally, some state laws limit the availability of arrest records due to the fact that they are perceived as one-sided documents that do not include the arrested person’s account of the incident. 

What is the difference between an arrest record and a criminal record?

Compared to an arrest record, a criminal record is a more thorough document that details an individual’s entire criminal history, including arrest warrants, arrests, third party complaints, convictions, and even dropped cases. 

What is the difference between an arrest record and an arrest warrant?

An arrest warrant is a document issued by a judge or magistrate that grants law enforcement the authority to arrest an individual suspected of a crime or to search and seize the individual’s property, whereas an arrest record is a document of an arrest that is only created after an arrest or apprehension has already occurred.  

In order for a judge or magistrate to issue an arrest warrant, they must conclude that there is probable cause for an arrest. Probable cause must be backed by sworn testimony or an affidavit that provides sufficient information supporting the need for an arrest. An arrest warrant must also specify one individual that should be arrested, rather than a group of individuals or a rough description of a suspect. 

How many Americans have been arrested?

While crime has steadily dropped in the United States over the past several decades, arrests have gone up, particularly for younger age groups. Typically, law enforcement makes around 10 million arrests each year. Here are some key statistics on arrests in the United States:

  • In 2018, around 10.3 million arrests were made nationwide.
  • 73% of arrested persons in 2018 were males.
  • The more recent an American was born, the greater the likelihood that the individual has been arrested at least once. The following is the percentage of Americans in various age groups that have been arrested: 
    • 6.4% of Americans born before 1949
    • 10.7% of Americans born between 1949 and 1958
    • 13.8% of Americans born between 1959 and 1968
    • 18.7% of Americans born between 1969 and 1978
    • 23% of Americans born between 1979-1988

Sources: Federal Bureau of Investigation, RAND Corporation

How to search online for Arrest Records in South Carolina

The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division provides an online, fee-based criminal history search service available to the general public known as SLED Citizens Access to Criminal Histories, or SLED CATCH

SLED CATCH allows for name-based criminal history searches of any person within the SLED criminal history information database. 

The following is some key information about the service:

  • Each search costs a non-refundable $25, along with an additional $1 convenience fee, that can be paid using a credit or debit card. 
  • Eligible organizations may be able to use the service for a reduced fee of $8.
  • Required search fields include Last Name, First Name, Date of Birth, and Gender
  • Social Security Number and Maiden name are optional search fields that may yield better results.  
  • The database contains South Carolina criminal history information only.
  • The search is optimized for use with the Google Chrome and Microsoft Internet Explorer browsers. 

Alternatively, individuals may request a record through the mail by mailing in a Criminal Records Check Form and payment to the address listed on the form. 

How can I search for a South Carolina arrest record on the internet using a background check service?

Since tracking down physical copies of arrest records can prove challenging, searching for them online is a viable option. There is a wealth of online services that allow you to search and access South Carolina arrest records and other public records via numerous government agency databases in exchange for a fee. 

However, despite the fact that users must pay to obtain an arrest record from an online service, it’s nevertheless a convenient means of getting these documents. The offices of government agencies are often marred by inconsistent service and take a long time to process requests to view documents. 

Sometimes it’s worth it to pay a fee to use an online background check service, rather than endure the extended delays typical of government offices.  

What can I do if my arrest record has a mistake?

If your South Carolina arrest record or other criminal history record document contains a mistake or incomplete information, you can submit a challenge by following this process:

  1. Have your fingerprints taken on a blue applicant fingerprint card at a local law enforcement agency.
  2. Fill out the rest of the fingerprint card and select “Challenge of Criminal Record” under “Reason for Fingerprinted”
  3. Complete a Challenge of South Carolina Arrest Record form
  4. Mail the form and the fingerprint card to:

SLED Crime Information Center, Attention Debbie Monts

Post Office Box 21398

Columbia, South Carolina 29221


 

If you’re worried that someone you know or love has a criminal record and may be hiding it from you, run a quick background check online with ArrestRecords.com. Thanks to public records laws, almost all South Carolina arrests, criminal and civil records are available online, as well as comprehensive background checks and secret data. You can even find South Carolina marriage records, secret divorce records as well as birth and death records.