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The role of expungement in criminal law

Often times, not just in Maryland but across the country, charges are filed against people and then dismissed at a later date. Or, the accused went through the criminal justice system but was found not guilty (acquitted). In these instances, and others mentioned below, a criminal record might still exist. This criminal record can affect education and employment opportunities for those who have it. It might be possible, however, to have a criminal record expunged in certain instances, lessening the long-term consequences of a brush in with the law.

Expungement refers to the removal of information about a criminal offense from court and law enforcement records. Many may think that since they have been acquitted or the charges dropped, their records are expunged automatically, but that is not the case. A petition, or formal request must be filed with the court where the crime was committed and then the court has the discretion to allow or dismiss the petition.

In addition to the two instances mentioned above, it is possible to expunge records if the crime on which the conviction was based is no longer a crime, the charges resulted in probation before a judgment (not including driving under the influence or driving while impaired charges), the charges were not prosecuted by the State Attorney or the case was compromised or settled. There are also other instances, such as a pardon or indefinite postponement, in which an individual could apply for an expungement.

There is a waiting period for filing for expungement, and this period varies depending on the situation -- was the case concluded or was a General Waiver and Release form filed? It is important to understand the process and determine if one is applicable for an expungement, and if so, then it is essential to file the petition within the framework. Criminal defense attorneys can help Maryland residents clear their name, not only in the criminal justice system, but also in the court's records so people can move on from this difficult period in their lives.

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