Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Maryland’s New Criminal Expungement Laws that are in Effect as of October 1st

            As of October 1st, there are new laws in place that give Marylanders the ability to expunge certain charges from their record, as well as shielding certain misdemeanor convictions from the public (SB0651).  The biggest downside before this law took effect was that when employers checked a potential employee’s background, they could see all prior charges and convictions against that person, including things that were dismissed or granted probation.  Further, many of these offenses are very minor, but because they show up on a background check, a potential employer is more likely to not hire the person as an employee.  “An expansion of the expungement law in Maryland is certainly a welcomed change,” as Portner & Shure attorney Jonathan Portner states.  Over the last ten years, as expungement laws have slowly expanded, the number of requests for expungements has more than doubled.  For example, the Baltimore Sun article states that “more than 73,000 cases were dropped by the state in Maryland District Courts in 2014,” and for all those people, these charges show up on their records.  As of October 1st, these people can now submit an expungement request and have these charges removed from their record so that potential employers cannot see them anymore. 
            Some other interesting aspects of these new laws passed include expungements for things that are no longer a crime (i.e. possession of a small amount of marijuana) and shielding convictions for certain misdemeanor crimes (i.e. disorderly conduct, prostitution, and trespassing).  An important thing to remember for the shielding of certain misdemeanors is that police officers can still view these charges when running a background check.  Mr. Portner adds, “This is a great law that has been passed because it is not fair for people to be denied jobs because of something on their record that is no longer a crime.”

A general rule to keep in mind regarding expungements is that if charges against you have been stetted, nolle prossed, held to be not guilty, or dismissed, then it is likely that you can have those charges removed from your record.  For many Marylanders who are seeking a job, they are denied many opportunities because charges appear on their record.  Employers do not care whether or not those charges were dismissed or you were found not guilty; all that matters to them is that charges appear under your name and they do not want to hire anybody with a record.  Maryland lawmakers have known that this a problem, and as many states across the country have started moving in the direction of expunging records of charges that have been dismissed, they wanted to follow suit.  In thinking about the future, Mr. Portner said, “I wonder how many people actually know about this new law and how many people will actually go through with requesting an expungement.”

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