Expungement is a powerful tool to clean up or remove information from public records about criminal charges or, in some circumstances, convictions. Under Maryland law, an employer or educational institution may not require you to disclose information about an expunged case. Expunged information cannot be used against you in further court cases. Your case is removed from Maryland Judiciary case search and from publicly maintained criminal records databases.
Expungements do not happen automatically. You need to file the proper forms with the proper court to act on your expungement request. Not all charges are eligible for expungement. Additionally, subsequent charges can serve as a barrier to expungement. Generally, charges that resulted in Not Guilty or nolle prosequi can be expunged immediately. Charges that resulted in a Probation Before Judgment (“PBJ”) or Stet docket can be expunged after three years for any reason, but many courts will grant an earlier expungement for good cause. Some verdicts of Guilty are also eligible for expungement depending on the underlying charge.
The Maryland General Assembly passed a law that took effect in 2018 that greatly expanded the scope of cases that can be expunged. Even if you thought your case was ineligible for expungement a few years ago, it can be worthwhile to take a second look with the recent changes in the law. Additionally, the General Assembly considers new bills every year to expand the kinds of situations that are eligible for expungement. We stay on top of the newest developments in the law so clients are following the best possible strategy.
Once you file for an expungement, the State’s Attorney’s Office has thirty days to respond. Many expungements can be handled without going to a court hearing, but if the State’s Attorney’s Office files an objection, then the Court must set a hearing. If the State’s Attorney’s Office does not object, the judge will sign an order granting the expungement. Once the judge has ordered that your case be expunged, it typically takes four to six weeks for the appropriate agencies like the courts, the prosecutor, and the police to destroy their records. As with all bureaucracies, some agencies move faster than others. If you’re considering applying for a job where a clean record is necessary, it’s important to reach out to a lawyer as soon as possible, because of the court’s turnaround time processing expungements.
An experienced criminal defense lawyer can help guide you through the expungement process. Jeremy Widder has helped many clients clean up their past criminal records so that they can move forward with their lives, including clients convicted of serious offenses like Attempted First Degree Murder and Distribution of Cocaine. Contact our office today to get an honest assessment of what can be done to expunge your record.