How do I get that old conviction off my record?

We received a question from a reader recently which said [Facts altered to protect identity & paraphrased],

At 18 I participated in a college prank and demolished an Easter Bunny figurine at a department store…I did not receive a PBJ.  I received a guilty verdict and it remains on my record.  I have since gone onto a successful life, by graduating college and graduate school but this is always coming up at job interviews. Are there any grounds for obtaining a PBJ now? My original lawyer did not even mention it to me! The lawyer was recommended but appeared to care very little for me and told me I had to plead guilty…I took on full responsibility myself and never asked my parents for any help.  I tried to deal with my one time mistake myself. Please advise

This particular scenario is, unfortunately, all too common for clients coming into our office.  As a Maryland Lawyer who handles violations of Maryland DUI, Probation violations, and Maryland criminal laws across the state, I regularly encounter clients who have prior records that shouldn’t.  Alternatively, I have clients who find themselves with old convictions because their prior Maryland lawyer either didn’t fight the case aggressively enough or failed to file what is called a Motion to Modify sentence in the client’s case.  Each of these situations is unique and needs to be dealt with separately by a consultation with a qualified Maryland Lawyer, but below we have provided some general information to help anyone remove old cases from their record.

Maryland lawyer: Expungement

What is an expungement? (not to be confused with exfoliationExpungement is the process to remove, purge, and seal your criminal records; wiping them from government files.  In Maryland, Criminal Procedure Article 10-105 governs expungements and guides what can and cannot be expunged.  In short, you may be eligible for expungement of your prior arrest if:

  • Your case was stet’d, Nolle Pross’ed, or dismissed.
  • You received a PBJ (except for Maryland DUI/DWI crimes).
  • You were found not guilty.
  • You were found guilty of certain types of nuisance crimes (open container, public urination, panhandling, etc).
  • You were granted a pardon by the governor of a non-violent criminal act.
  • You have waited the applicable time frame for each of the dispositions of your case or signed a waiver (see statute).

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as reading the list above.  If you are able to obtain an expungement there are a few things you should understand.  First, it is a crime punishable by 1 year in jail to ask someone about an expunged record.  See Maryland Criminal Procedure Section 10-109.  Once your record is wiped, it is gone.  Second, understand that the Federal Government does not follow Maryland laws for expungements.  The FBI and CJIS, which is run through the FBI, will maintain your record forever.  HOWEVER, that database is accessible ONLY to law enforcement personnel. If you think you might be eligible for an expungement, please contact us for a case review.  See more here.

Maryland lawyer: Coram Nobis

A Writ of Coram Nobis is a court filing which is designed not to challenge the conviction but to set aside some undue or unjust consequence(s) of the conviction.  For example, if you pleaded guilty 20 years ago to a crime, such as Possession with Intent to Distribute Cocaine and received probation.  You were 18 years old and have since lived a healthy and productive life.  If by chance, you were a lawful immigrant to the US when the conviction occurred, you must eventually deal with these unjust consequences:

  • you will not be able to become a citizen AND
  • you may be deported for the immigration law violation.

This is especially true if you were not properly advised by your lawyer from 20 years ago of the immigration consequences of your plea (which was commonplace 20 years ago but is not as often now).   See Padilla v. Kentucky. A writ of Coram Nobis is prepared by a Maryland lawyer and filed with the original court, not by your Immigration lawyer for an Immigration Judge or BIA (or Board of Immigration Appeals).  These motions are not forms and must be custom-tailored and filed specific to each client’s case.

Maryland lawyer: Post Conviction

Maryland Uniform Post Conviction and Procedure Act, found at Maryland Criminal Procedure title 7, is an additional method to challenge a conviction after all appeals have been exhausted and remove an old conviction from a defendant’s record.  Here you can challenge the mistakes YOUR lawyer made.  Again, this area of the law is extremely complex and has produced thousands of appellate opinions.  We are happy to review your specific situation and advise you if you have any rights pursuant to the Post Conviction Procedure Act.

post-conviction

Pardons, Post Convictions, and Coram Nobis can effectively remove the stain of old convictions from criminal records, but they may not be the “get out of jail free” card you’re looking for.

Maryland lawyer: I beg your pardon…

Finally, you could always ask the Governor for a Pardon.  Our current Governor has not been granting them often, but if you’ve waited this long to clear your name, why not take a chance?  We can help you investigate and fill out the 28-page form required to request a pardon and/or commutation of sentence.  We will turn the form into the Maryland Parole Board and help guide you through the pardon process.  If you’re lucky, you could be the next Mark Rich!

Maryland lawyer: Bottom line – a few final points

Removing old cases from Maryland Judiciary Case Search and being able to truthfully say that you have never been arrested and/or convicted of a crime is vital to obtaining and keeping a good job.  If you think you may need an expungement or if you want to understand if you are even eligible for some type of post-trial help to fix a past mistake, please contact your favorite Maryland lawyer.