Is it Better to Have Your Record Sealed or Expunged in Maryland?

Is it Better to Have Your Record Sealed or Expunged in Maryland?

If you have a criminal conviction or arrest on your record, it is available for everyone to see on your public record. This means that anyone can find your record, including potential employers, friends, or strangers. There are two ways to prevent this: expungement or record sealing. While expungement is preferable, it is not always available. Which path to take depends on your situation. Our Maryland expungement attorney at the Law Office of Randolph Rice looks at both processes in more detail below.

Expungement Vs. Record Sealing in Maryland

Expungement and record sealing might appear remarkably similar on the surface. In both cases, your record is not readily available to the public. However, there is a significant difference between the two. If you have an arrest or conviction on your sealed record, it still exists, just not publicly. Sealing your records only gives the appearance that your record is clear. This means your record could be re-opened by a court order at any time.

On the other hand, expungement removes an arrest, charge, or conviction from your record. Therefore, if you motion the court for expungement and are successful, you will no longer have the expunged event on your record. Legally, it’s like it never occurred.

How to Seal Your Criminal Record in Maryland

You are not able to seal or shield every conviction or arrest on your record. However, if you successfully shield your record, it will no longer be available in a public case search. It is important to note that law enforcement officers and a select group of other agencies will still have access to this information.

There are four essential things to understand the shielding process. First, you are only permitted to petition one court, either the District Court or circuit court. You are further restricted to only filing in one county. When petitioning the court, you would include all eligible convictions from that court or county on your petition. Finally, and probably the most crucial point to understand, the court will only grant you one shielding petition during your life. You do not get another bite at the apple after you have had your records sealed.

To be eligible to have your records sealed, you must wait until three years have passed since you completed your sentence, including any mandatory supervision, probation, or parole.

Only a select group of convictions are eligible for sealing. If your charge or conviction is for a crime that involved domestic violence, it cannot be sealed. Likewise, you are not permitted to petition the court to shield your record if you are a defendant in a current criminal matter.

Maryland groups crimes related to the same arresting incident in groups known as “units.” If there is one crime in your unit that is not eligible for shielding, all the charges become ineligible. Additionally, if you are convicted of another crime during the three-year waiting period, you lose your ability to petition the court to seal your records.

Maryland specifically lists what convictions are eligible for sealing. This list includes, but is not limited to…

  • Disorderly conduct
  • Disturbing the peace
  • Trespassing
  • Possession of a controlled substance
  • Driving without a license
  • Driving without insurance
  • Driving when your license is revoked or suspended

You should review your conviction with our Maryland expungement attorney to determine whether you are permitted to seal your record.

How to Expunge Your Criminal Record in Maryland

Expungement is different than shielding in that you are not hiding your conviction or arrest; you are removing it from your record. If your motion for expungement is successful, your arrest, charge, or conviction will be removed from law enforcement records and criminal records.

Maryland law lists a comprehensive list of charges that are eligible for expungement. The first step in getting your record expunged is confirming with our Maryland expungement attorney that you are eligible and that your charges are eligible.

If your conviction or arrest is included in Maryland’s exhaustive list of expungable charges, there are still only certain situations where you are permitted to petition the court for expungement. You can motion for expungement if your criminal case was dismissed, you were found not guilty, your case was settled through a plea bargain, your case was indefinitely postponed, you were granted probation before judgment, or, in rare cases, you received a pardon by the governor.

There are mandatory waiting periods for expungement based on your charge and the disposition of your case. When you are expunging a felony conviction, you will have to wait fifteen years from the completion of your sentence to petition the court. If it was a misdemeanor conviction, then the waiting period is ten years from when you served your sentence. However, if the charge was misdemeanor assault or domestic violence, then the waiting period is fifteen years.

If you were granted probation before judgment, then you must wait only three years from the end of your sentence. An acquittal or not guilty verdict could be immediately available for expungement if you file a General Waiver releasing the arresting authority from all liability. Because of the complicated and nuanced law, it is crucial to speak with our Maryland expungement attorney.

Call Our Maryland Attorney to Discuss Expunging or Sealing Your Record

A criminal record could negatively impact your ability to find a job, rent an apartment, or get a personal loan. Your record is available to the public, and any background check will most likely uncover any arrests, charges, or convictions. In Maryland, you could have options to get your record expunged or sealed. Unfortunately, these remedies are not available in every case, so you should discuss your case with our Maryland expungement attorney to find out if you qualify. Call the Law Offices of Randolph Rice at (410) 826-5656 to schedule a free legal consultation on your expungement case.