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South Carolina Public Records

The South Carolina Freedom of Information Act allows you to obtain access to the records and meetings of public officials and representatives.  Are you seeking a background check on a prospective employee? Or maybe you are searching for your mom and dad’s birth certificate. South Carolina public records are available to you, many just an online search away. 

To help make a public records request in the state of South Carolina, this guide will help requesters find criminal, inmate, court, and vital records. 

What does the South Carolina public records law say?

The South Carolina Public Record Law says that records must be released within 15 days. Both residents and non-residents can request documents. If the agency does not respond to you within that 15 time period, it represents a grant of the request. 

In South Carolina, any person can request records and the record holders have a 15-day time limit to complete your request. The fees for records may not exceed the cost of copying and the time searching for records. 

The law excludes the working documents of the legislature, but you can request the minutes of the meetings. Records with personal information such as medical, adoption, and scholastic records are exempt. Income tax returns and library patron information will not be released. If a section or lines are redacted, the agency must tell you why they were withheld. 

If your request is rejected, you must go to court where you have one year to file your case.

A requester can learn more by visiting SouthCarolina.gov.

How can a person access public records in South Carolina?

Some records are available online. Others are only available through a formal records request. If a request is necessary, it can be sent by email, mail, or by phone to the record-holding department. 

Every department is different, so expect some variation to the rules if you’re accessing records from multiple places. 

In general, a public records request should include: 

  • Your name and contact information, including an email, phone number, and mailing address
  • The name of the document you want access to with as much detail as possible
  • A specific time that you’d like to receive the materials by
  • How to deliver the documents, whether by email or mail

Due to COVID-19, some public offices may have limited hours of operation. As a result, online requests are best, but if you want to go in person you should call ahead.

South Carolina criminal records

You are allowed access to criminal records in South Carolina but only the conviction information and arrest information. 

Law enforcement agencies and the subject of the records are the only ones allowed access to the total records as needed for an investigation. 

What’s on a criminal record?

The main information you will find on the criminal records is:

  • Name and aliases
  • Date of birth
  • Charges pending
  • Mugshots
  • Past arrests
  • Past or current warrants
  • Fingerprints

Where can a person find South Carolina criminal records?

To use the SLED online form, you must enter an exact last name, first initial, and the correct date of birth to get results. Social Security numbers can also be searched. If you do not have an exact name match, a fingerprint search can be completed if required by statute. 

If you opt for mail, you need to send a business check, money order, or cashier’s check to SLED Records Department in Columbia, South Carolina. You will be charged a non-refundable fee of $25.00 for mail-in and online searches. There is a $1.00 convenience fee added to the online background checks. 

South Carolina inmate records

The South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) features information on inmates currently housed in the facilities as of midnight the previous day. South Carolina has twenty-one facilities, so it is helpful to have an online search option. There isn’t information on the county detentions. It does not provide information on released offenders. You can search by the web site or by using the toll-free inmate information line. 

You can confirm that an inmate is in jail and you can register with them to get status updates on the offender. A status message can be sent to your phone or an email address when there are changes in that inmate’s status.  

What’s on an inmate record?

  • Name
  • Photo
  • Offense
  • Term of offense
  • Location
  • Release date
  • Race
  • Sex
  • Citizenship

Where can a person find South Carolina inmate records?

You will need the inmate’s last name and first name or the inmate’s offender number. You can complete an advanced search if you know the inmate’s birthday, facility, and age range. 

South Carolina court records

South Carolina courts are composed of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, along with Family, Circuit, Municipal, Probate, and Magistrate Courts. There is a small claims court for cases of $7,500 or less in South Carolina and claimants will not have legal counsel. You do have access to these court records through the Freedom of Information Act. Any personal information such as social security, passport, financial accounts, passwords, or driver’s license are not included or are redacted. 

What’s on a court record?

Court records provide documentation of court proceedings and can include allegations, proceedings, sworn statements, and affidavits taken under oath. To find the exact court records you require, you need to look specifically at which court had the case. 

Circuit Court has several branches such as the civil court, criminal cases, the Court of Common Pleas, and the Court of General Sessions. Therefore, it is advantageous to know which circuit court will hold the records you are seeking.

Family Court holds records that pertain to custody and visitation rights, marriage, divorce, separation, alimony, marital property division, and name changes. 

Probate Court records include estates of deceased persons, guardianships, marriage licenses, or commitments to institutions for mentally ill or chemically dependent persons.

The Supreme Court’s records include appeals to circuit courts, such as death sentences, public utility rates, a challenge to a state statute, indebtedness, and elections. 

Where can a person find South Carolina court records?

To use the online search, you must know the county where the court proceedings occurred. On the web page, you click on the county to be taken to a page with basic information. More in-depth information can be found by entering a case number, court name, or court agency. You can also search by the name of a person or the name of a business. 

Not all counties provide online records, but the following countries do: Abbeville, Aiken, Allendale,Anderson, Bamberg, Barnwell, Beaufort, Berkeley, Calhoun, Charleston, Cherokee, Chester, Chesterfield, Clarendon, Colleton, Darlington, Dillon, Dorchester, Edgefield, Fairfield, Florence, Georgetown, Greenville, Greenwood, Hampton, Horry, Jasper, Kershaw, Lancaster, Laurens, Lee, Lexington, Marion, Marlboro, McCormick, Newberry, Oconee, Orangeburg, Pickens, Richland, Saluda, Spartanburg, Sumter, Union, Williamsburg, York.

To access court dockets and records that aren’t available online, speak with the clerk of court or visit the clerk’s office to make a formal request. 

South Carolina vital records

Vital records for South Carolina are kept at The Division of Vital Records. Here you can find births, deaths, marriages, divorces, and annulments occurring in South Carolina. The law states that only the person named on the marriage certificate, adult children of the couple, or a present or former spouse can request the records. 

What information is needed to request a vital record?

  • Full name of both persons (for example a married couple)
  • Date, month, and year.
  • The state, city, and/or county. 
  • The reason you are ordering the certificate.
  • A debit or credit card is required for online requests. 
  • Your current billing or shipping addresses. No PO boxes. 

Where can a person find South Carolina vital records?

The easiest way to access vital records in South Carolina is online. If you apply on the website, you will need to pay a $17.00 non-refundable search fee, and a $10.50 fee to VitalCheck. If you need records expedited, you can pay shipping fees for UPS. You will need a valid credit card for this transaction. 

You can also apply for a record and have it mailed to you. A mail-in request needs the South Carolina Vital Records Application Form, a $12.00 non-refundable fee, and a valid photo ID (government, school, or employer). If no ID is included the request is rejected. 

Frequently asked questions about South Carolina records

Here is a  list of the frequently asked questions about South Carolina’s Public Record Law.

Can a request be submitted by non-residents of the state?

Yes. A request can be submitted by any United States citizen.  

Is there a records custodian in South Carolina?

No. South Carolina does not have a records custodian for the state. Records should be requested from the head of the division or the individual agency that stores the documents where you inquire. 

What exemptions exist?

The General Assembly’s (legislature) records are exempted except for the minutes.  Personal information that is withheld fits into categories such as medical records, library patron records, academic records, tax returns, and adoption files. 

How long does that state have to respond?

The Public Records Law of South Carolina has a 15-day time limit for requests. If they cannot get you the records within 15 days, they’re required to submit an extension in writing. If this notification is not delivered within the specified time, the request is considered approved.  

Is there an appeal process in place?

No. South Carolina does not have an appeals process. The request can be taken to the circuit court and lawyer fees may be paid to the challengers. Violators can be fined and awarded jail time, but to date, there have been no guilty verdicts awarded. You must file an appeal within one year of the violation. 

What fees are associated with requesting public records?

The law requires that the lowest possible cost should be charged to the person requesting the public records. The fees can be waived or reduced when the agency decides the records will benefit the general public. There is nothing that prevents the holder of the records from charging an hourly rate for making records available to be viewed. 

  • Updated November 2, 2020
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