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What is Expungement?

What is Expungement?

Ever crave a fresh start? Hit the reset button? Want to feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day? Have a criminal record and wish you didn’t?

…Wait, what?

Yeah, you heard us. If you did something wrong and now have a criminal record following you around everywhere you go- to job interviews, first dates, holiday dinners with your family- you may want to look into the possibility of having it expunged.

What’s expunged mean?

Have you heard this one before? The surgeon accidentally left an absorbent material in the abdomen; so, he had to go back in and expunge it!

Hey, we’re lawyers, not comedians. Give us a break!

Anyway…Boiled down, expunged basically means “to erase”. Under Maryland law, there are several ways to, ahem, “clean up” some parts of your criminal record. Expungement is a process in which you ask the court to remove certain kinds of court and police records from public view. Generally speaking, if a record didn’t result in a conviction, it has a pretty good chance of getting expunged once you’ve waited the minimum waiting time for your specific case. In some cases, records that did result in a conviction could also be expunged, depending on the facts of the case.

Why would I want to expunge my record?

Many potential employers require a background check prior to hiring you as part of the team. Among other things, having a criminal record can negatively impact your applications to trade schools or colleges, relationships, housing opportunities and some government assistance programs.

Which records can and cannot be expunged?

Usually the outcome of your case determines if, and when, you are eligible to file for expungement. Typically, you can file for expungement of records relating to a criminal charge if the case ended in any of the following scenarios:

  • Not Guilty
  • Dismissed
  • Probation Before Judgement (PBJ)
  • Nolle Prosequi (lawyer-speak for the prosecutor decided to drop the case before it went to trial)
  • Stet (or indefinitely postponed)
  • Your case was moved from adult court to juvenile court
  • You’re found to be not criminally responsible

In some cases, even if you’re found guilty in a case, you can apply for expungement. There are stiff waiting periods imposed, depending on the charges against you. For example, if you are found guilty of drinking alcohol in a public space, you can file for an expungement after three years after your guilty conviction or the completion of your sentence/probation, whichever is later. On the other hand, something like a guilty verdict in a felony theft case would require a 15-year waiting period before filing for expungement.

There are also situations where you will not be eligible to file for expungement. For instance, in a case where you received a PBJ and you were later convicted of another crime within three years of the PBJ, you cannot have the PBJ expunged from your record. For more details on which cases can and cannot be expunged, check out the People’s Law Library of Maryland.

Sounds great. How do I do it?

Typically, you’ll need to fill out a Petition for Expungement of Records and file it with the court that heard your case. Depending on the outcome of your case, there may be a filing fee applied when you submit your forms. In cases of acquittal, dismissal or probation before judgment there is no fee. However, a $30 filing fee is applied to cases that have guilty verdicts and this fee is nonrefundable even if you get denied. The fee is for each case, not each charge associated with the case. If you can’t afford the fee, you can request that the court waive it.

If it has been less than three years from the time your case was concluded, you may need to also fill out a General Waiver and Release form. Some additional filing fees may apply. You can learn more about how to file for an expungement here.

Throughout the year, Maryland Legal Aid will hold Expungement Clinics in locations around our community. For more information on these clinics, as well as when and where they are, check out the Maryland Legal Aid website. And, as always, we’re here to help. You can reach out to the attorneys at Ferrante, Dill & Hisle today. We can help you figure out which cases may be eligible for expungement and ensure you’re taking steps in the right direction to help clear your name and get on with your fresh start. Give us a call today at (410) 535-6100 or send us an email to info@ferrantedill.com.