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What Maryland law has to say about clearing your criminal record

The unfortunate reality is that when a person has any sort of run-in with the law that results in either an arrest or citation, there's a very good chance that it will end up on their permanent criminal record.

What this means is that just a single momentary lapse in judgment can translate into a lifetime of consequences. For instance, having a criminal record can affect employment prospects, educational opportunities and living arrangements to name only a few.

The good news is that the law here in Maryland does permit people to change their criminal records via a process known as expungement.

In general, expungement is a court process through which a person may be able to remove otherwise undesirable elements from their permanent criminal record.

Your criminal record

As stated above, the majority of arrests and citations will appear on your permanent criminal record. This holds true even if:

  • The charges were dropped.
  • You were found not guilty/acquitted.
  • Probation Before Judgment was entered.
  • Your case was placed on the "stet docket," which consists of an inactive group of cases not typically reopened.
  • The prosecutor decided to drop the case before or during trial (a Nolle Prosequi).

Furthermore, a conviction will appear on your permanent record if you were found guilty or paid a fine.

Expungement

Those who were acquitted or had the charges against them dropped may request an expungement by filing a petition asking the court for a particular item to be removed from their permanent criminal record.

Similarly, those who were not convicted on any criminal charges carrying a possible prison sentence thanks in part to their case being placed on the stet docket, transferred to juvenile court, or the entering of a Nolle Prosequi or Probation Before Judgment may also request an expungement.

It's important to note that records of arrests that do not result in the filing of a charge are eligible for automatic expungement under state law, and that a copy of your criminal record can be secured from the Criminal Justice Information System.

In our next post, we'll take a closer look at expungement.

Consider speaking with an experienced legal professional if you've been arrested for any sort of felony or misdemeanor, or would like to learn more about your options as they relate to expungement.

Source: The People's Law Library of Maryland, "Changing your criminal record," June 2014

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