Government agencies in South Carolina have the obligation by law to allow the public to access their records. State offices must make information stored or generated during their activities available for public inspection. Through the Freedom of Information Act, any individual in South Carolina can request public records. Officials of government agencies must provide public records to interested persons. However, document custodians cannot create information to satisfy requests.
Depending on the government body, persons requesting information may have to fill a form, show identification, or make a verbal request.
The more common public records requests in South Carolina are listed below.
South Carolina Court Records
By law, the various divisions of the South Carolina Judicial Branch must make public records available to interested persons. The courts in the state make case information available to the public through the various court clerks. The clerks of the court have procedures through which an individual can access records. Note that the clerk’s office may require the requester to fill a form, show identification, or request in writing. However, the court officials have a legal obligation to make public records available for inspection.
Bankruptcy Records in South Carolina
Individuals and business entities who are overwhelmed by debt in South Carolina can file for bankruptcy. Filing for chapter 7 bankruptcy eliminates all debts, while chapter 13 allows debtors to repay what they owe over a scheduled period. It is noteworthy that chapter 7 debtors must face asset liquidation to compensate their creditors. There are other forms of bankruptcy including, chapter 9, chapter 12, and chapter 15.
The United States Bankruptcy Court District of South Carolina handles bankruptcy cases in South Carolina.
Interested persons can access court records through the clerk of the court by visiting the court locations. There are bankruptcy courts at Spartanburg, Columbia and, Charleston.
Alternatively, via Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER), the public can access federal government case documents. PACER allows any interested individual to search and file cases online. South Carolinians can create an account on PACER, granting access to federal court documents electronically.
Vital Records in South Carolina
The vital records division of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) keeps birth, marriage, divorce, and death information. This department maintains a database of vital individual records in South Carolina. The SCDHEC is also responsible for issuing certified copies of birth certificates, death certificates, marriage certificates, and divorce reports.
Interested persons can request vital records online, via telephone, or by mail. Alternatively, individuals can enquire in person by visiting the SCDHEC vital records office on weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at:
South Carolina Department of Health and Environment Control
Vital Records Office
2600 Bull Street,
Columbia, SC 29201
It is important to note that only eligible individuals can access vital records. There is a restriction on individuals who are eligible to receive such information. Typically, persons identified in a document, close relations, and individuals with court authorization can access vital records. Also, note that a valid government-issued identification is a prerequisite for obtaining vital records.
Arrest and Criminal Records in South Carolina
Individuals arrested in South Carolina have their information taken. Arrest records include details about the arrest, the offense, arresting officer as well as detention location. Interested individuals can access arrest records by visiting the arresting agency and making a request.
South Carolina criminal records refer to information about convicted individuals in the state.
Criminal records typically include arrest details, conviction details, and incarceration information. Criminal records also contain information on the offense and a physical description of the offender.
Interested individuals can access criminal records through the clerk of the court responsible for the case.
South Carolina Inmate Records
Inmates in all the detention facilities in South Carolina have their information documented.
The South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) keeps a database of all incarcerated persons in the state. Members of the public can access inmate records upon request at the various detention centers.
Through a portal provided by the SCDC, interested individuals in South Carolina can also carry out an incarcerated inmate search online.
South Carolina Sex Offender Information
Sex offenders in South Carolina are individuals convicted of crimes against minors or other sex-related crimes. Sex offenders in the state must register with the South Carolina Sex Offender Registry. The South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division is responsible for maintaining sex offender data in South Carolina. Information on registered sex offenders is available to the public. Interested persons can search online for sex offenders in their neighborhoods. Alternatively, individuals can visit the local police departments for sex offender information.
Business Records in South Carolina
The office of the South Carolina Secretary of State maintains a searchable database of businesses in the state. It is a requirement for all businesses, companies, and organizations in South Carolina to register with the Secretary of State. Through a website maintained by the secretary of state, interested individuals can search for business entities in South Carolina. Interested persons can also make a business filing and request documents electronically through portals provided by the South Carolina Secretary of State.
Individuals in South Carolina have the legal right to inspect public records in the state. Some agencies restrict access to eligible individuals, and others allow pretty much anyone to view public files.
Some official documents can be withheld from public viewing when the information is deemed confidential. Also, when access to a file poses a security risk, such documents are made inaccessible.
Agencies sometimes expunge information from public records, in which case, the file in question would no longer exist.
It is advisable to go in with a government-issued form of identification as officials typically require requesters to identify themselves.
Note that making copies of records attract charges which would vary depending on the agency and the number of pages.