While criminal records can include a wide variety of different charges, arrests, and convictions, they all have one thing in common: they can lead to consequences that affect the person with the criminal record for years after any initial legal penalties. For this reason, the Maryland legal system offers a couple different options, namely shielding and expungement, to help individuals clear their records and move forward in life without their past mistakes continuing to impact their future.
However, if you or a loved one wish to “clear” a criminal record, it’s essential to grasp the distinctions between the two available options. While shielding and expungement both involve the altering of a criminal record, each serves a different specific purpose. In today’s blog, we’ll compare both to give you a clear idea of how shielding and expungement work, and when each should be considered as the best course of action.
In basic terms, a “shielding order,” acts as a protective barrier (or “shield”) to prevent the general public from viewing information on your legal record that could put you in a compromising situation. When officials shield a record in Maryland, it means that certain parties, such as potential employers or landlords, won’t be able to see specific details of past legal matters. In this sense, it’s like having a curtain that shields certain information from view. However, law enforcement and the state court system can still access the complete record. While shielding may not “erase” the past, it provides a certain level of privacy and protection. It’s like closing a chapter of a book so that others can’t read the details unless they have permission.
With that in mind, shielding is often beneficial for individuals who want to move forward with their lives without the weight of past legal issues affecting their opportunities. However, it doesn’t mean that they have a “clear” record. As far as the state’s concerned, an individual with a shielding in place still carries the convictions or court orders (like protective orders) on their record, but they’ll usually be able to go about their daily lives without the anxiety associated with certain members of the general public being able to view their past mistakes.
Expungement, on the other hand, is more like starting with a clean slate altogether. When a court expunges a record, it’s essentially wiping it clean from public view, as if someone tore out and threw away the pages of the book (to continue with our earlier metaphor). By removing the information entirely from certain legal databases, expungement goes much “further” than a shielding order, and as such, it’s usually more difficult to obtain through the court system.
Expungement is meant for specific situations, such as when a court dismissed charges or found an individual not guilty in a criminal case. While not as bad as a full-blown conviction, these outcomes still show up on a person’s legal record, that is unless they successfully get said record expunged. As such, expungement provides a more comprehensive level of relief, ensuring that past legal matters do not linger in the background whatsoever. Expungement is like hitting the reset button, allowing individuals to move forward as if the legal issue never occurred in the first place.
Shielding is about “limiting access” to information, whereas expungement focuses more on removing the information from public records entirely. Knowing the difference between these two processes is important for individuals seeking to address their legal history. Whether one opts for shielding or expungement depends on the specific circumstances of their case and their goals for the future.
Have questions about a shielding order or an expungement? Talk to a lawyer right away.
While the general differences between a shielding and an expungement are relatively easy to understand, there are many, many things to consider when trying to figure out which is the best choice for a specific situation. The severity of a conviction, the type of crime, how long ago the conviction occurred, crimes vs. court orders, all are factors that play into whether someone should pursue a shielding or an expungement, or whether they’d even be eligible for either in the first place.
In short, it can get very technical and very confusing, and the best course of action for anyone curious about a shielding order or an expungement is to contact an experienced attorney ASAP to discuss all of the specifics of their situation.
Fortunately, we at JC Law are here to help. Give us a call right away at (888) JCLAW-10 to speak one-on-one with a member of our legal experts in a free consultation, or visit our contact page to schedule your consultation at your convenience.
At JC Law, we know that any legal situation can be stressful, but you’re never alone in your fight to protect your best interests. At JC Law, we’re more than just attorneys; we’re your legal ally.