One of the unfortunate consequences of being charged with or convicted of a crime in Maryland is the fact that you will incur a criminal record that is accessible to the public. For example, a potential employer or landlord might run a criminal background check, see that you have been convicted of a crime and thus might choose not to hire you or rent a home to you. This can make life difficult, even after you have paid your debt to society.
However, it may be possible in some circumstances to have your criminal record expunged. When a criminal record is expunged, it means that it cannot be accessed by the public. Agencies that retain criminal records can be found in Motor Vehicle Administration files, police files and court files. There is a specific process for expunging a person’s criminal record from each of these agencies. No single process removes a criminal record from all agencies.
Depending on the offense at issue and how long it has been since your last conviction, it may be possible for your public driving record to be expunged from Motor Vehicle Administration files automatically. If you were detained by a police agency for an alleged crime, but ultimately were not criminally charged, these records are expunged automatically within 60 days of being released from detainment.
A person will incur a record in court and police files if they were charged with a crime, including certain traffic offenses, or if they have been charged with a civil offense in lieu of being charged with a criminal offense. These records can only be expunged if a person is found not guilty, if the charges were dismissed, if the offense is no longer a crime or if they were found guilty of specific nuisance crimes, certain misdemeanors, specific felonies, specific crimes found in Criminal Procedure Article §10-110 or marijuana possession per Criminal Law Article §5-601. A criminal record can also be expunged if the State Attorney decides not to prosecute you, if your case has been postponed indefinitely, if your case was compromised or if you were convicted only of a non-violent crime and the Governor has issued a full and unconditional pardon.
Court and police records are not automatically expunged; there is a process to be followed. This can be complicated for those who are unfamiliar with the law and criminal defense options. Getting more information can help.