Understanding Maryland Expungement
If you have been convicted of a crime in Maryland, expungement is a potential option to seal your criminal record. Learn more here.
What Is Maryland Expungement?
An arrest or a criminal case, even a dismissed charge, is a public record that can negatively affect your life in numerous ways. Beyond the personal satisfaction of not having people look at and treat you like a criminal, there are several collateral damages to having a criminal record.
For instance, it will show up in any background check. This simple blip on your record can impact the chances of getting an apartment, job, promotion, credit, loan, or a driver’s license. Depending on your unique circumstances, it can impact your immigration status, child custody, running for office, etc.
In the past, a criminal record was set in stone forever. Fortunately, this sentiment is no longer valid. Maryland’s legal system offers ways to clean up a criminal record in a legal process known as expungement.
To expunge criminal records means to remove them altogether or erase them. It is a legal process that sees criminal conviction records sealed or destroyed from state or federal databases. It enables you to request that the state remove specific court and police records from being accessible by the public.
Despite the possibility of an expungement, thousands of Maryland residents have cases on their criminal records that can be removed. Why?
The unfortunate answer is that many people who are legally eligible for expungement do not know that their cases can be removed from their criminal records. Plus, the expungement laws in Maryland are some of the most difficult to understand.
Hiring an experienced Silver Spring criminal defense lawyer like Scrofano Law’s Morgan E. Leigh will significantly lift the burden of understanding these complex laws and rigorous procedures off of your shoulders, which can make all the difference in your case.
Why Expunge Criminal Convictions?
There are several advantages to expungement for those who qualify. For instance, this type of legal process can help a person’s reputation and improve their chances for career advancement.
It also provides the opportunity to better one’s life by getting loans, jobs, credit cards, and housing.
Further, the accumulation of multiple convictions in Maryland that are not expunged can lead to penalties and incarceration sentences.
The Basics of Maryland Expungement Laws
Virtually all expungement cases in the United States take place in state courts. It is rare for an expungement order to come from a federal court, and there are no laws about its proceedings at the federal level.
In Maryland, criminal records can be deleted from:
- Police records
- Police files
- Motor Vehicle Administration files
- State’s attorney files
- Court records
- Maryland Judiciary Case Search
- Jail and detention center files, and
- Other applicable government agencies
Each state has its unique laws on offenses that may be expunged, records eligible for expungement, application procedures, and how records under an expungement order will be managed.
It is crucial to consult with a Maryland criminal lawyer if you or a loved one has an expugnable criminal record in the state of Maryland. Morgan E. Leigh understands the ins and outs of the Maryland criminal justice system and is prepared to fight the system on your behalf.
Is Your Criminal Record Eligible for Expungement in Maryland?
Generally, expungement applies to records that did not end in a conviction, but some types of convictions records can also be removed from public view. The way the case ended – either in a conviction or not – determines if it can be erased and the minimum waiting time before you can file for expungement.
If you were arrested but not convicted of a crime, your case might be eligible for expungement. You may request for expungement if your criminal charge ended with any of the following verdicts:
- Not Guilty: If you were acquitted of the crime or the prosecutor dropped your case. This disposition is not subject to the $30 filing fee.
- Dismissed: The charges against you were dismissed.
- Nolle Prosequi: The prosecutor decided to drop your case either before or during a trial, also known as “nolle pros.”
- Stet: The court postponed your case indefinitely, known as “stet docket.”
- Probation Before Judgement (PBJ): You were placed on probation without judgment (except in DUI cases).
Eligible Guilty Dispositions
You are allowed to request for expungement of your criminal records if you were found guilty or convicted of any crime, except for minor charges such as:
- Urination or defecation in public settings
- Drinking alcohol in public
- Telephone misuse
- Sleeping in or on park structures, like doorways or benches
- Disturbing the peace
- Riding a vehicle without paying applicable fees or showing payment proof and certain other traffic violations, or
- Obstructing the free passage of another in a public setting
In most cases, a person with a criminal record has to wait for three years before filing for expungement, except if they can show the verifiable court reasons why their case should be expunged sooner or by filling a general release and waiver.
If you received a PBJ, you cannot file for expungement until the end of your probationary period or after three years, depending on whichever is longer.
Convicted Felony Expungement Maryland: 5-10 Years Wait Time
Suppose you were found guilty for any of the crimes listed above under “not criminally responsible.” In that case, you may only request an expungement at least three years after the guilty sentence or the completion of the sentence, including probation, depending on whichever comes later.
However, suppose you were convicted for charges such as possession of a dangerous substance, unlawful breaking of a vehicle, general theft, illegal dumping, disorderly intoxication, etc. In that case, you may only request an expungement for at least ten years after the guilty verdict or the completion of the sentence, including probation—depending on whichever comes later.
Convicted Felony Expungement Maryland: 15 Years Wait Time
Suppose you were declared guilty of crimes like second-degree assault, felony theft, burglary, possession with the intent to dispense or distribute a controlled dangerous substance, etc. In that case, you might only request an expungement at least 15 years after the guilty sentence or the completion of the sentence, including probation, depending on whichever comes later.
What’s more, if a person is convicted for another offense during their waiting year period, the original conviction becomes ineligible for expungement until the new conviction is eligible.
There are many scenarios and nuances to getting your records expunged as a formerly convicted individual, with numerous possibilities and exceptions at play.
Considering all the details involved, a criminal defense lawyer is in the best position to give you legal advice, file your expungement claim, and also convince the court of the merit of your claim. A good lawyer will pay court and filing fees on your behalf if you cannot afford it.
This is why you should always hire a capable, experienced, and proven expungement lawyer to handle your case.
Maryland Criminal Record Expungement vs. Pardons
Criminal record expungement differs from pardons. Legal pardons are the forgiveness for committing a particular crime issued by the U.S. President or the Governor of your state. They do not require the removal of the criminal record. On the other hand, the Maryland judiciary directs expungements in the state.
If you are convicted of only one non-violent crime and granted a full pardon by the Governor, your criminal record may qualify for expungement. However, you may not file for expungement for at least five years and at most ten years after your pardon.
If you have received a state pardon and are now interested in erasing public records of your conviction, please contact our office immediately for more information on our legal service. Our highly qualified and well-versed Maryland criminal Rockville Criminal Attorney is here to provide the legal help you need!
Maryland Expungement Forms
The expungement process in Maryland can be daunting. There are several forms to be filled and submitted, and the clerk’s office can easily refuse to process the paperwork if they are incomplete or contain an error.
This is all the more reason you need to work hand-in-hand with a qualified expungement lawyer when filing your petition.
The two primary expungement forms in Maryland include the following:
- The General Release and Waiver
- The Maryland Petition for Expungement
Depending on the intricacies of your case, you might need to fill out a different form. Talk to Maryland criminal defense attorney Morgan E. Leigh to get a complete case evaluation and review on how to proceed with your expungement request.
Get Legal Assistance With Your Maryland Criminal Records
Filing a petition for expungement is compulsory if you want to ask the court to erase your criminal records. Without the petition, your criminal charges remain on your record and will show up on background checks, regardless of if you won your expungement case in court or not.
There is a petition for expungement form for acquittals, dismissals, transfer to juvenile disposition, nolle prosequi, probation before judgment, stet, and indeed not criminally responsible cases. Then there is another petition for expungement form for guilty disposition.
Cleaning up the records of a criminal case can be complicated, and the existing laws can change at any time. It is advisable to consult with an experienced criminal law attorney to discuss your circumstance and learn if your record can be expunged.
Maryland does not require you to hire an attorney before filing for record expungement. However, the chances of your claim being legally valid and your petition convincing enough will increase dramatically with the assistance of a criminal defense attorney who has experience getting successful expungements.
Morgan E. Leigh of Scrofano Law has devoted her career to fighting back against corruption in the justice system.
She knows the system and has experienced first-hand the effects of law enforcement officials’ power over the lives of the accused and the convicted. She’s ready to get started on achieving a successful expungement for you.
Contact our Maryland criminal defense office at 301-905-9821 today for legal advice and advocacy, beginning with a free consultation. We look forward to hearing from you.