People make mistakes, and most look to move past those errors. Issues in the past can, unfortunately, leave you with a criminal record. However, one of the main goals of the criminal justice system is to rehabilitate people – to have them stop committing crimes and be better citizens. In many cases, having a criminal record can stop that from happening. That is, in part, why Maryland allows people to get certain criminal records “expunged” – sealed away from public access.
Expungement can help you get jobs and benefits that might otherwise be blocked from you because of past criminal convictions. If you or a loved one has a criminal record and is looking to have past crimes expunged, they should contact a Baltimore criminal record expungement attorney today. The Law Offices of Randolph Rice’s attorneys may be able to help get your criminal record expunged and help you put the past behind you. For a free legal consultation on your case, call our law offices today at (410) 694-7291.
What Happens When You Get a Record Expunged in Maryland?
A criminal record can affect your life in several ways. Seeking jobs, loans, and other benefits might require a background check, and a history of criminal activity can make custody hearings or other issues dealing with children harder. In everyday life, most people do not care about crimes committed a long time ago, and there may be very little that this criminal record says about you today. Because of this, Maryland law allows you to clear older convictions, arrests, and other events from your criminal record through expungement.
In reality, your criminal record will still exist, but expungement blocks it from the public eye. If someone remembers you being convicted of a crime – like a friend or employer from those days – they might not let you forget it and they might be willing to tell other people about it if they are asked as a reference. Still, expungement means that when someone runs a criminal background check, the old offense should not show up.
Expungement can be used on criminal charges that you “beat,” such as charges that were dismissed by a judge, dropped by a prosecutor (“nolle prosequi” or “nolle prossed”), or charges that you were acquitted of at trial. If you “lost” the case by being convicted, pleading guilty, or being found “not criminally responsible” (similar to an insanity plea), that outcome would usually remain on your criminal record for people to look up and use against you. Expungement works on these kinds of outcomes as well, but you must typically serve your penalties and pay your fines before you’re eligible for expungement.
The waiting period varies for different types of cases. In cases of acquittal or other “wins,” there is a 3-year waiting period that usually starts right away. If you are convicted or otherwise “lose” a case for low-level crimes, the 3-year period starts after you pay off your fines and complete any jail or prison terms. For more serious crimes, the waiting period is longer: to clear a conviction for a misdemeanor, you usually have to wait 10 years, and to clear a felony conviction you have to wait 15 years. Some crimes also have 4-year waiting periods. In cases of arrests that never lead to charges, the waiting period should be much shorter at 60 days.
Filing for Expungement in Baltimore
To file for expungement, you must file paperwork with the court, including a petition for expungement. This paperwork must include the date of the conviction, what the crime was, and other information about you and the offense so that the court can look up your record and approve the expungement. This can be complex, and you should always consult an attorney when seeking expungement.
There are three primary reasons to hire an attorney for your expungement case. First, an attorney can make sure that you qualify for expungement so that you do not waste time or money filling out the paperwork and submitting it if you will not qualify anyway. Second, an attorney can fill out the paperwork for you, helping ensure its accuracy and completeness; court staff cannot help you with your paperwork. Third, having an attorney work with you can get you the help you need if your petition is unjustly denied.
Judges can deny expungement in some cases if removing the record would be problematic. The judge might hold a hearing regarding your expungement, in which case you should hire an attorney to represent you. A judge will usually point to specific reasons for denying expungement, such as a public need to access your record or other risks if access to that record is blocked. In any case, your attorney can argue that the court should go through with the expungement, and you can appeal the denial if your request is shut down by a judge.
In very limited situations, expungement should actually happen automatically. If you were arrested, but you were released and no charges were filed, the record should be expunged without having to do anything. This should take place within 60 days of letting you go, but if it is not automatically expunged, call a lawyer for help.
In some cases where the prosecution drops the charges, the judge might order the expungement to happen without you needing to file a petition or pay any fees. Talk to an attorney about what steps you need to take after your case is over.
Call Our Baltimore, Maryland Expungement Attorney for Help with Your Case
Our Baltimore, MD expungement attorneys represent people looking for help clearing their criminal record and getting old convictions removed from the public eye. For a free legal consultation on your case and help filing a petition for expungement in Baltimore, call our attorneys today. The Law Offices of Randolph Rice can be reached at (410) 694-7291.