In South Carolina, convicted sex offenders are required to register as sex offenders. Sex offenders are required to register their information with the local sheriff on a biannual basis (or potentially more frequently if the offender was convicted of a particularly violent crime).
A sex offender’s information is made available in a public database and includes a person’s:
- Physical description
- Vehicle description
Registering as a sex offender can have a drastic impact on a person’s life and even threaten personal safety. Not only are offenders deprived of certain civil liberties (such as voting rights, owning or using a firearm, and the ability to travel out of state), but many offenders struggle to find and retain employment. Registered sex offenders may also be ineligible to attend a university, receive financial aid, or secure safe and affordable housing.
Since the “Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act” was passed in 2006, federal law requires all U.S. states to classify sex offenders in a tiered registry system. This allows offenders to be categorized according to their perceived threat level (based on the severity of the crime committed) and enforces penalties accordingly.
In 2021, the South Carolina Supreme Court’s decision in Powell v. Keel established that South Carolina’s lifetime registration requirement for sex offenders was unconstitutional on the grounds that it did not “offer the opportunity for judicial review to assess the risk of re-offending.”
Prior to Keel, South Carolina’s sex offender registry were among the strictest in the nation. Offenders were required to register for life and had no opportunity for future removal from the registry.
The Court’s ruling in Keel resulted in two key changes to South Carolina law:
- The addition of a mechanism for sex offenders in South Carolina to seek removal from the registry; and
- The prohibition of disseminating sex offender registry information on the internet to the public.
On May 23, 2022, Governor Henry D. McMaster signed former House Bill 4075 into law to comply with the 2021 ruling in Keel. The new Act permits registered sex offenders to seek removal from the registry based on the applicant’s registry tier level.
The state now has a three-tiered registry system to classify sex offenders.
Convictions of Tier I Offenders:
- Criminal sexual conduct in the third degree
- Kidnapping a person 18 years or older
- Peeping, voyeurism, or aggravated voyeurism
- Sexual intercourse with a patient or trainee
Tier I Offenders may apply for removal from the registry no less that 15 years after registration.
Convictions of Tier II Offenders:
- Criminal sexual conduct in the second degree
- Engaging a child in sexual performance
- Producing, directing, or promoting sexual performance by a child
- Human trafficking
- Criminal sexual conduct with minors in the second degree
- Criminal sexual conduct with minors in the third degree
- Online solicitation of a minor
Tier II Offenders may apply for removal from the registry no less than 25 years after registration.
Convictions of Tier III Offenders
- Criminal sexual conduct in the first degree
- Criminal sexual conduct with minors in the first degree
- Criminal sexual conduct: assaults with intent to commit
- Kidnapping of a person under 18 years of age
- Criminal sexual conduct when the victim is a spouse
- Sexual battery of a spouse
Tier III Offenders may apply for removal from the registry no less than 30 years after registration.
Juvenile offenders are now classified into two tiers:
- Juvenile Tier I: Tier I juvenile offenders may apply for removal after having been registered for at least 15 years.
- Juvenile Tier II: Tier II juvenile offenders may apply for removal after having been registered for at least 25 years.
Application to SLED
Following the relevant time period on the registry, an offender may apply for removal. The process requires filing a paper application with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED). The application will include:
- Completed SLED application
- Two sets of fingerprints
- Non-refundable $250 filing fee (personal checks will not be accepted)
- All sentencing sheets and/or other disposition documents for all convictions that required sex offender registration
- Proof that the applicant successfully completed all required sex offender treatment programs (official documentation should come from a treatment provider, counselor, or physician)
The application is reviewed by SLED. If approved, SLED will remove the offender from the registry within 120 days. If not approved, the offender may not petition again until 5 years after the denial.
Petition to the Court of General Sessions
There is no appeal of a denial to SLED. Rather, an offender whose request for termination of the registration requirements is denied is entitled to appeal the denial to the Court of General Sessions pursuant to S.C. Code Ann. §23-3-463 (1976). A hearing must be held in the matter, and if the Court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the offender is no longer a foreseeable risk to re-offend and that it is in the best interest of justice the Court will grant the motion for removal.
Attorney Kirk Truslow's practice focuses solely on criminal defense in State and Federal Courts. In practice for thirty years, Truslow has successfully defended many cases in State and Federal Court, served as lead counsel in many State and Federal Court jury trials, and successfully petitioned the Courts on numerous matters. If you are being investigated, have been charged with a criminal offense or need assistance with the filing of a Petition of Removal, contact attorney Kirk Truslow at 843.449.3304 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
 433 S.C. 457 (2021)