Second-Chance Reform in Maryland: Expansion of State Expungement Laws Take Effect This October

An arrest or a court case is a public record, even if an individual was never convicted. The public’s ability to view these records may negatively affect an individual’s ability to apply for work, housing, child custody, loans, or college. Recently, Maryland has taken progressive steps in expanding shielding and expungement of charges that resulted in non-convictions or convictions for certain types of misdemeanors.

Last year, under the 2015 Maryland Second Chance Act, the state allowed certain nonviolent misdemeanor convictions to be shielded from the public record after a 3 to 7 year waiting period. Shielding, however, only removes the record entry from Maryland’s Judiciary Case Search. Law enforcement and employers requiring criminal background checks can still access these records.

In Maryland, people with non-convictions and some misdemeanors can get go a step further by getting their records expunged after a waiting period. Expungement is a request for a court to remove these records from public view by destroying or sealing an individual’s records. Expungement also means that the event can be treated as if it never occurred. An individual may be able to answer no to whether or not they have been convicted of a crime on applications for things like employment, licensing, and housing.

This year Maryland passed the Justice Reinvestment Act, which expands expungement to misdemeanor theft and assault convictions. The Act also provides drug treatment as an alternative to jail for addicts. By removing these records from public view individuals reentering society can get a fair second chance. Employers will not be deterred from hiring these individuals and securing employment will reduce the likelihood of repeat offenses.

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