COLUMBIA, S.C. (WBTW) — Sex offenders have begun petitioning the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division to be removed from the state sex offender registry, according to a spokesperson with the department.
Offenders are now able to apply to be removed from the registry after new legislation signed by Gov. Henry McMaster in late May set parameters to do so.
The bill is in response to a South Carolina Supreme Court ruling stating that it was unconstitutional for the state to not have a process that allows sex offenders to be removed from the registry. The ruling gave the state a deadline of June 9 to pass a bill.
If legislation hadn’t passed, lawmakers said that all offenders would have immediately been able to ask to be removed from the registry.
The South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault said in a written statement to News13 that the law balances the rights of survivors and offenders.
“By closely aligning the new requirements for the sex offender registry to the federal SORNA system, the legislature has provided a sense of consistency to survivors while also meeting the constitutional rights of offenders,” the statement reads. “It is SCCADVASA’s hope that care is taken in providing reasonable notice of the process and outcome to individual survivors when offenders request removal from the registry.”
Offenders classified under Tier I must wait at least 15 years after being added to the registry to petition the state to be removed. Tier II offenders must wait at least 25 years and Tier III offenders must wait at least 30 years after being released from prison without supervision.
Tier I offenders include those who have been convicted of third-degree criminal sexual conduct, kidnapping, incest, buggery or voyeurism, among other charges.
Tier II offenses include third-degree criminal sexual conduct, engaging a child for sexual performance, promoting sexual performance by a child, trafficking and second and third-degree criminal sexual conduct with minors, among other charges.
Tier III offenses include first-degree criminal sexual conduct, first-degree criminal sexual conduct with minors, kidnapping of a person under the age of 18, marital rape and sexual battery of a spouse.
In order to petition to be removed, applicants must provide two sets of fingerprints, pay a non-refundable $250 filing fee, provide all sentencing documents and prove that they completed all the sex offender treatment programs they were required to undergo. Applicants must also confirm that they haven’t been convicted of failing to register as a sex offender within the last decade.
SLED will make a decision within 120 days whether an offender will be removed. If denied, an applicant has to wait five years before applying again.