Expungement is the legal process of deleting, sealing or redacting records related to a criminal charge. Expungement law varies by state and is virtually nonexistent for federal crimes.
In Maryland, the final disposition of a criminal charge determines whether the court can order expungement of the related records. When a judge issues an Order of Expungement, the Court, law enforcement and other relevant agencies must remove all records of the criminal case from public access.
Maryland law states that a criminal charge can be expunged only if it:
- resulted in a final disposition of: not guilty, a nolle prosequi, stet, compromise (settlement) or was otherwise dismissed;
- resulted in probation before judgment (except DWI);
- is one of certain nuisance crimes (even if guilty disposition); OR was pardoned by the Governor (if you have a single, non-violent conviction)
AND you were NOT
- charged with any ineligible offenses as part of the same “unit” (charges arising from the same incident, transaction or set of facts);
- sentenced to a probation before judgment or found guilty of Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or Driving While Impaired (DWI);
- subsequently charged with or convicted of another crime (other than a minor traffic conviction (this rule does not apply if you were found not guilty or the charge was dismissed).
NOTE: Under Maryland law, a court cannot expunge civil or traffic records unless they were substituted for or linked with a criminal charge.
You can check the final disposition of your case in the state records, here:
If your case appears eligible for expungement, you can then prepare to file a Petition for Expungement of Records. The first step is to determine the timing of your Petition – specifically, whether you have satisfied the necessary waiting period or can show good cause as to why the Court should waive the waiting period. The waiting periods are calculated from the date upon which you completed all sentence requirements (for example, the date your probation was terminated).
- Petitions for Expungement of an acquittal, nolle prosequi, or dismissal do not have waiting period if you agree to file a General Waiver and Release (Form CC-DC/CR 78) of all legal claims and lawsuits arising from the charge. Otherwise, you can file after three years without signing the Waiver.
- Petitions for Expungement of a stet, probation before judgment, or a guilty verdict for certain nuisance crimes must wait to be filed at least three years after the final disposition or satisfactory completion of the entire sentence, whichever is later.
- Remember that for any expungement-eligible disposition, you may also file your Petition for Expungement early if you can show good cause as to why the Court should waive the waiting period.
Once you have determined both the eligibility and timing of your Petition, you can then prepare the filing. Many petitioners choose to hire a lawyer to handle the Petition process, but you are also allowed to file pro se (representing yourself). You will need to complete the court’s expungement paperwork or write your own Petition and submit it, along with the relevant fees and Waiver (if applicable), to the Clerk’s office of the court in which you were charged. The form Petition and Waiver are available from the Maryland courts. Be sure to include extra copies the entire filing for the State’s Attorney and each law enforcement agency named in the paperwork.
Once you have filed the Petition, the State’s Attorney and law enforcement have 30 days to object to the expungement. If they do not respond within that time, the Court will then order all records related to your charge(s) be expunged. The agencies in possession of such records have 60 days from receiving the Order of Expungement to comply. Should the State’s Attorney and/or law enforcement object and the Court de ny your Petition, the Court will schedule a hearing on the matter. You will be notified of the above developments by mail at the address you provided in your Petition. If you are successful in obtaining an Expungement Order, be sure that you or your lawyer follows up with all agencies involved in your case -- Court, State’s Attorney, arresting law enforcement, detention facility and the FBI -- to ensure their compliance.
NOTE: This post provides general information on expungement. The information contained herein is not intended as legal advice, and you should therefore not act upon it before consulting with professional legal counsel. To obtain legal services from any law firm, including Record Absolutions, you must first establish an attorney-client relationship. This requires personal contact with us, and our determination that we are willing to take the engagement. Until all of these steps are complete, you have not hired an attorney and have not become a client of the firm. Thank you for your understanding.