As a Maryland lawyer we regularly get calls from people who wish to remove old minor blemishes from their records. Often people calling will have scrapes with the law and would rather not have prospective employers being able to see something that happened in the past. In some circumstances, a client may be applying for a security clearance or some other government-related job with a more extensive background check. If either of these situations applies to you, there are a few things you need to know.
Maryland Lawyer: the Federal government does not follow Maryland expungement laws
The first thing you MUST know, understand and accept is that when you are booked and processed by police (in any jurisdiction) they share that information with the NCIC (National Crime Information Center) run by the FBI. Those
records can never be expunged. If you are applying for a Security Clearance job and the FBI is conducting your background check, the arrest will be located. A word to the wise: Don’t lie, even if your case has been expunged.
Maryland Lawyer: When can I expunge a case?
The answer varies, but depending on what you were charged and/or convicted of, you may file a petition for expungement 3 years after the close of your case. Md. Crim. Pro. 10-101 et. al. If you are released without charges, abated by arrest, or your case is entered Not Guilty, Nolle Prosequi, or dismissed, you may expunge your record immediately, provided you waive your right to sue the complainant (police department or other charging agents). You may also file expungements from Probation Before Judgment “convictions” (not technically a conviction) and certain guilty verdicts from nuisance crimes. An expungement removes the complete court and police files from records. It may require a hearing. It then becomes a crime for a MARYLAND (not federal) employer to ask you about an expunged crime. See Md. Crim. Pro. 10-109. Please understand, you cannot expunge civil cases, including civil domestic protective/peace order cases. But you have options…
Maryland Lawyer: What can I do to remove the protective order from my record?
We are frequently asked how a person can remove a civil peace or protective order or other civil cases from public view. It cannot be expunged (although legislation failed in the General Assembly that would allow expungement a few years back). You do have two options:
- File a request to shield – Shielding is a request that only needs to be ruled on by a clerk (not a judge) and is a quick form that removes the record entry from public view on Maryland’s Judiciary Case Search. If a background check is done and the investigator goes to the courthouse the file will still be available for public review. This is simple and can be done without the help of a lawyer. The law favors shielding requests being granted.
- File a Motion to Seal – Sealing a court record is a more involved request and must be ruled upon by a judge. It is governed by a relatively new set of rules found at Maryland Rules 16-1001 through 1009. Sealing a court file may or may not involve a hearing and is fact dependent on the circumstances of the request. We have submitted affidavits in the past to accompany the motion and must consult with the other party. When a record is sealed, the complete case file is literally stuck in an envelope with a special court seal on it and can only be opened with a court order. The law is against granting sealing requests, which is why it may be wise to consult with a lawyer for your request.
Maryland lawyer: bottom line
If you find yourself with some unwanted baggage, consult your favorite ENlawyer to clear your past and charge into your future without worry of past mistakes.