Important changes are coming to Maryland’s expungement law. Starting October 1, 2017, more people than ever before will have the ability to have their criminal records expunged – in many cases, for free.
In the criminal context, expungement refers to the removal of certain criminal records from public inspection – meaning that the general public will not have access to those records. Until recently, only charges that did not result in a conviction were eligible for expungement, leaving a permanent stain on the records of those people who had been found guilty of (or pleaded guilty to) a crime. Recent changes in the law expanded the privilege of expungement to those who had been convicted of certain nuisance crimes, such as loitering or panhandling. While this was a step in the right direction, it still left the majority of offenders without any means of clearing their records and thus moving on with their lives.
However, new changes in Maryland law are making expungement even more accessible to people charged with or convicted of a crime. Starting October 1, 2017, more than 100 criminal misdemeanors will be eligible for expungement, including certain types of theft and even second-degree assault. This means that people convicted of one of these misdemeanors may be able to have that conviction expunged after the applicable waiting period (assuming they meet other criteria for expungement). In addition, under the new law, there will be no filing fee for expunging criminal records in cases that resulted in an acquittal, dismissal, probation before judgment (PBJ), nolle prosequi, stet, or not criminally responsible disposition. Only those wishing to expunge a conviction will have to pay a small filing fee.
This is great news, because it will give more people the ability to clean their records. Expungement is critical for those who have made some mistakes and are now trying to move on with their lives. Criminal convictions often stand in the way of getting a job or furthering one’s education, making it difficult to get back on track after having been convicted of a crime. These changes in Maryland’s expungement law will make it easier for people to get a fresh start.