Criminal records restrict many from improving their lives after the mistake. Fortunately, Maryland affords second chances through expungement. If you're ready for a second chance, here's what you need to know:
Expungement, cleaning up a criminal record;
Certain verdicts determine if charges are expungable – Some charges in Maryland are removable, while others are not; And
Expungement takes time, it cannot happen immediately.
What Is Expungement?
In Maryland, people can "clean up" a criminal record. Expungement is the process to remove information in police and court records from public view. Generally, this is done to records that did not receive a conviction, but there are specific convictions that are expungable. (We'll cover those details later.)
A criminal record details any arrest or citation someone has. The record shows outcomes good or bad. These include:
Case dismissal; or
Probation Before Judgment (PBJ); or
The case is on the "stet docket."
A person can get a copy of their criminal records from the Criminal Justice Information System. This will tell everything that is on record criminally under your name and information. This is where someone will find the charges that are expungable from their record.
Some services perform background checks on applicants and a criminal record may hinder someone's chance at getting housing, employment, or going to school. Cleaning up a criminal record goes a long way in providing a better life, opening doors to new opportunities, and generally moving on from a past life.
We all make mistakes. Learning from those mistakes is how we grow as people. Don't let a mistake made years ago cause a hiccup today. Lots of charges are expungable, so let's clean up that record.
Criminal Charges That Qualify for Expungement in Maryland
Removing a record of a criminal charge in Maryland all depends on the outcome or verdict of the specific charges. It doesn't matter the type of charge, felony or misdemeanor, both are removable.
The list is extensive and includes a wide range of offenses such as urinating or defecating in public, disorderly intoxication, possession of a controlled dangerous substance, assault in the second degree, failure to follow a protective order, violation of an interim peace order, felony theft, burglary, as well as breaking and entering a motor vehicle. Maryland's court system provides a full list of charges eligible for expungement.
PBJ's where a new crime conviction happens within 3 years of the PBJ; unless the conviction is for a minor traffic violation or the act is no longer a crime.
If there are currently criminal proceedings ongoing against a person.
Certain alcohol-related PBJ's.
Another factor that prevents expungement is the Unit Rule. The rule states that if someone is facing more than one charge in an incident then all those charges must be eligible for expungement in order to be expunged. The charges are a "unit" or attached. For example, someone charged with 3 different offenses stemming from a bar fight might see the conviction of one charge and the others dismissed. If the conviction isn't eligible for expungement, then neither are the two dropped charges.
There is also a waiting period to get records expunged. Someone cannot receive a conviction, turn around, and request expungement…or can they?
When Can You File for Expungement?
Maryland requires a waiting period for expungement on guilty convictions. Nobody can receive a guilty outcome from a case and immediately ask for removal. All guilty convictions carry a punishment to serve.
Once the penalty gets paid then the opportunity to expunge the record becomes possible. After conviction and completion of the sentence, certain records are removable 3 years later, while other charges need to wait 10 to 15 years before filing expungement.
Charges that take 10 years to expunge are disorderly intoxication, possession of drugs, littering or illegal dumping, and disturbing the peace. The shortest wait for expungement, three years, includes minor offenses such as vagrancy, loitering, panhandling, drinking alcohol in a public place, and sleeping on or in park structures like benches.
However, records where the outcome was not guilty, dismissed, placed on stet, Nolle Prosequi, or not criminally responsible are eligible for removal upon reaching the outcome. This is because there was not a criminal conviction. These outcomes effectively complete the case, and the next step is filing the proper paperwork to begin expungement.
Removing criminal records can be the first step in taking back control of your life. Mistakes made years ago during youth or a bad time in life shouldn't stop someone from pursuing all of life's possibilities for happiness.