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When Can A Case Be Expunged?

hammer-719066_960_720-300x225Maryland offers an extremely just and reasonable expungement process for defendants who have been charged in criminal, serious traffic and civil citation cases. And, while the application process is fairly simple and now free, the hardest part can be figuring out if the case is eligible for expungement in the first place.   There are some simple rules that we’ll start with, but keep in mind that even the simple rules have exceptions. Remember the one exception that trumps all the other exceptions is that a judge may grant a petition for expungement at anytime upon a showing of good cause, so hope is never lost if your case doesn’t qualify.

The most common scenarios when a defendant may be eligible for expungement are when their case results in a probation before judgment, nolle pross. dismissal, STET, acquittal or not guilty verdict. Criminal cases based on violations that are not longer illegal (possession of marijuana under 10 grams) are also eligible regardless of the outcome. The timing for when the case is eligible varies greatly. Dismissals, not guilty verdicts, nolle pross., acquittals and law change cases are immediately eligible for expungement unless the defendant is currently a defendant in another criminal proceeding. This is obviously a major exception, and there is really no logical reason for this exception other than to take a shot against those who are supposed to be presumed innocent. Former defendants with no current matters whose cases got dropped can file for expungement right away at the court where the case ended. A minor exception is defendants that receive a conditional nolle pross. (common in Montgomery County) must satisfy the conditions first.

Cases that end in a probation before judgment are eligible for expungement 3 years after any sentence or period of probation ends. The three years clock rarely starts from the last court appearance, so a little record searching may be in order in cases where a defendant serves a split sentence. A major exception is that DUI and DWI cases are not eligible to be expunged in Maryland when the defendant receives PBJ. This was not always the case, but the DUI lobby is strong and the laws continue to become stricter. Another major exception is that a defendant can lose the ability to expunge a PBJ if he or she is convicted of a crime within three years after receiving that PBJ. A new conviction can’t reopen a closed PBJ case but it can definitely make it permanent.  Cases that end in a STET are eligible for expungement three years from when the STET began. If there are conditions such as drug and alcohol treatment they must be satisfied before an expungement can be granted.

While the scenarios above are the most common, there are actually far more where cases can be expunged. Defendants that are convicted of dozens of common misdemeanors may actually have the ability to clear their state criminal record thanks to the Justice Reinvestment Act. Eligibility does not begin until 10 years after the defendant has satisfied all the conditions of the sentence, but this is still a major policy shift. Defendants with old criminal convictions for crimes such as drug possession, theft, disorderly intoxication, violation of a peace order, certain fraud and bad check crimes, prostitution and numerous different business, professional and commercial violations may now be able to clear their records. Second degree assault convictions are also potentially eligible to be expunged, though the wait time is 15 years for cases that are domestically related.

The expungement laws continue to evolve, and if you have a question as to your eligibility feel free to contact Maryland defense attorney Benjamin Herbst anytime for a free consultation at 410-207-2598. Benjamin handles all criminal cases, minor and serious traffic infractions, peace and protective orders and civil code violations in state and federal court.