Expungement and Changing Your Criminal Record
Topics on this page:
- What is expungement?
- Court Forms
- Automatic Expungement
- What's included in my criminal record?
- Why is it important to expunge a criminal record?
- Which records can be expunged, and which cannot?
- Are there situations where you CANNOT file for expungement?
- What if no charge was ever filed against me?
- What do I have to do to get an expungement?
- What happens after I file the petition?
- Can an expungement be denied?
- How can I get a copy of my criminal record?
- Can I expunge my Motor Vehicle Administration driver record?
- Can I remove my DNA sample from the Statewide Database?
- What is a Pardon?
- What is the difference between expungement and shielding records?
- Expungement - A 6-Part Video Series (from the Maryland Courts)
What is expungement?
Under Maryland law, there are several ways to "clean up" parts of your criminal record. Expungement is a process that lets you ask the court to remove certain kinds of court and police records from public view. Expungement generally applies to records that did not result in a conviction, but several specific types of conviction can also be expunged. There are minimum waiting times before filing for expungement depending on how the case ended.
NOTE: If a private database has information about your public record, expungement will not remove it from their database.
Read the law: Md. Code, Criminal Procedure, Title 10, Subtitle 1
This Petition for Expungement of Records should be used for the expungement of acquittal, dismissal, probation before judgment, nolle pros, stet, and certain not criminally responsible dispositions
This Petition for Expungement of Records should be used for the expungement of eligible guilty dispositions
Any records held by the police, court, or other state agency related to a cannabis possession charge may qualify for automatic expungement. If a charge resulted in a disposition of acquittal, dismissal, not guilty, or nolle prosequi (except a nolle prosequi with a requirement of drug or alcohol treatment), the records will be automatically expunged after 3 years. The court will send a notice to the person entitled to the expungement at their last known address.
Read the rule: Md. Rule 4-508.1
Note: Automatic expungements apply to dispositions after October 1, 2021.
What is included in my criminal record?
A criminal record includes information from Maryland Judiciary Case Search, as well as your official RAP (“Record of Arrests and Prosecutions”) sheet from the Criminal Justice Information System (CJIS). Some charges (where the disposition is acquitted, dismissed, nolle prosequi, or not guilty) may not show up in Case Search. This does not mean that those charges do not exist. They are still part of your criminal record. For the expungement process, you may wish to look at both sources to determine your eligibility for expungement.
Read the law: Md. Code, Criminal Procedure § 10-401
If you have pending warrants, you may wish to seek legal help to deal with those before contacting CJIS.
Generally, any arrest or citation will show up on your criminal record regardless of what happened later in court. This means that your public criminal record may show good outcomes like being found innocent or bad outcomes like being found guilty.
Your record will show the arrest or citation even if:
- Your case was dismissed; or
- You were acquitted (found not guilty); or
- Probation Before Judgment was entered; or
- A Nolle Prosequi was entered in your case (This occurs when the prosecutor decides to drop the case either before or during trial. Lawyers commonly refer to this as a “noll pros”); or
- The case was placed on the “stet docket,” an inactive group of cases which often are not reopened.
- If you were found guilty or paid a fine after being arrested, that will appear on your records as a conviction.
- You can get a copy of your criminal record from the Criminal Justice Information System.
Why is it important to expunge a criminal record?
Many organizations, businesses, and agencies require a background check for applicants. Having criminal charges on your record can hinder:
- applications to schools and colleges,
- housing, and
- other government services.
Information about about how your criminal record may affect you is available through the National Inventory of Collateral Consequences of Conviction (NICCC).
Which records can be expunged? Which cannot?
Usually, the verdict or outcome of your case determines whether specific records can be expunged. It does not matter whether your case was a misdemeanor or a felony.
For most offenses, if you have been convicted (found guilty), the records about that charge cannot be expunged. There are exceptions. Learn more about which records can be expunged and which cannot.
Are there situations where you CANNOT file for expungement?
Yes, there are certain cases where you generally cannot get records expunged.
- If you received a PBJ, and you were later convicted of a new crime within 3 years of the PBJ, you cannot get the PBJ case expunged. (However, if the new conviction was for a minor traffic violation or for an action that is now no longer a crime, the new conviction will not prevent you from getting the PBJ expunged.)
- You cannot file for expungement of any records if you currently have criminal proceedings pending against you.
- If you are convicted of a crime during the waiting period, you are not eligible for expungement unless the subsequent conviction becomes eligible for expungement.
- You cannot get a PBJ expunged if the PBJ was for certain alcohol related driving offenses. (Md. Code, Transportation § 21-902 or Md. Code, Criminal Law §§ 2-503, 2-504, 2-505, or 2-506, or former Article 27, § 388A or § 388B)
- A court has no authority to expunge aliases or grant an expungement in cases of identity theft.
The Unit Rule
If you were charged with more than one offense based on the same incident, transaction, or set of facts, you can only have records from that case expunged if ALL of the charges from that incident are eligible for expungement.
For example, a person might be charged with three separate offenses based on the same incident. The person might be convicted of one of the three charges, and have the other two charges dropped. If the conviction is not expungeable, the person will not be able to expunge the records from the two charges that were dropped either.
There are two exceptions to the Unit Rule: minor traffic violations and cannabis possession. No matter what happens with the minor traffic violations or cannabis possession, even if you are convicted of it, it will not affect your ability to get the other related records expunged.
What if no charge was ever filed against me?
If you were arrested on or after October 1, 2007 and not charged with a crime, your arrest will be automatically expunged within 60 days of your release from custody.
If you were arrested before October 1, 2007, you may wish to contact the local arresting police department and ask them to clear the record.
What do I have to do to get an expungement?
Generally, you fill out a Petition for Expungement of Records and file it with the court that heard your case. If it has been less than three years from the time your case was concluded, you will also need to file a General Waiver and Release. A filing fee of $30 may apply. This filing fee is not refundable. Learn more about how to file a petition for expungement.
How long do I have to wait to file a petition for expungement?
Generally, you must wait 3 years after your case was decided before you can file for expungement, but the rules vary based on the results of your case:
- If you were acquitted, received a nolle prosequi, or a dismissal of the charges, you may file earlier if you also file a general release and waiver of any and all people against whom you may have a legal claim as a result of your arrest. If you received a probation before judgment, you may not file for expungement until your probationary period is over or until 3 years have passed, whichever is longer.
- If your case was placed on the stet docket, you may not file earlier than 3 years after the judgment.
- If you were pardoned by the governor, you must wait at least 5 years but not more than 10 years after your pardon.
- To file for an expungement based on a finding of Not Criminally Responsible, you must wait until 3 years have passed since the finding.
- If you were found guilty of one of the expungeable crimes, you must wait 3 years.
- Certain convictions can be expunged. Depending on the conviction, you request an expungement 10 or 15 years after the guilty conviction or the satisfactory completion of the sentence, including probation, whichever is later.
If you were found guilty of a crime that is no longer a crime, you may request an expungement immediately. Prior convictions for possession of cannabis can be expunged immediately.
You must wait to expunge a case until every charge in that case is expungable. For instance if you received 3 nolle prosequi’s and one Stet, you must wait 3 years because the stet requires a minimum waiting time of 3 years.
In all above cases, however, a court may grant a petition for expungement at any time if the court feels you have shown good cause. If you file for expungement before the waiting period has elapsed, the State's Attorney may file an objection. You will then have the opportunity to show why you have good cause at a hearing.
Read the Law: Md. Code, Criminal Procedure § 10-105
What happens after I file the petition?
After you have filed for expungement and the court has given a copy of the filing to the State’s Attorney, the State’s Attorney has 30 days to file an objection to your petition. If the State’s Attorney does not do so, the court may order the expungement of police and court records relating to your charge.
If the State’s Attorney does object, the court will conduct a hearing on your petition at which the court will decide whether or not you are entitled to an expungement.
The expungement process takes approximately 3 months. Once the Judge signs the expungement order you will receive a copy of the order in the mail as well as a Certificate of Compliance from each agency required to expunge their part of your record.
If the State’s Attorney objects to the expungement you will receive a summons in the mail to appear before a Judge and explain why the expungement should be granted.
TIP: It is important that you personally keep copies of all of the documents and papers relating to the expungement process, including a copy of your case file. There may be times in the future when you need to be able to explain what happened with your expungement, and it can be very difficult to prove what happened once court and police records have been expunged.
TIP: People who are not United States citizens may wish to be careful about filing for expungement. Citizenship applications and deportation hearings can be negatively affected if the Federal agency handling your immigration case needs to review your past criminal case and can no longer do so because it has been expunged.
Can an expungement be denied?
Yes, the court can deny your request for an expungement. If the Judge denies the petition at the hearing, you may file an appeal within 30 days of the denial.
How can I get a copy of my criminal record?
Your criminal record is available from the Criminal Justice Information System (CJIS). You will have to pay a fee by credit card or check. Cash is not accepted. To get a copy of your records, you must appear between 8 am and 3:30 pm at:
CJIS – Central Repository
Reisterstown Plaza, Room 200
6776 Reisterstown Road
A second location you may go to for obtaining your criminal records is a state police office nearest to you.
TIP: If you have pending warrants, you may wish to seek legal help to deal with those before contacting CJIS or the police.
How Do I Get a Copy of My Criminal Case? from the Maryland Courts
For many, you can access your criminal record through the Maryland Judiciary Case Search website. It should be noted if you have an older case or a very new case, the website may not reflect your entire criminal record. To get your complete criminal record, follow the instructions above to get your record from CJIS.
Case Search from the Maryland Courts
Can I expunge my Motor Vehicle Administration driver record?
The MVA automatically expunges eligible driving records. However, not all driving records can be expunged. Learn more about expunging a driver record.
Can I remove my DNA sample from the Statewide Database?
If your DNA was taken as part of the arrest you are trying to expunge, you may wish to include a request on your form for your DNA record to be expunged as well. Learn more about the requirements regarding DNA samples.
What is a Pardon?
A “pardon” is an act of the Governor where the Governor frees someone of guilt for a criminal act and relieves that person from any penalties of law for those criminal acts.
A pardon does not erase the conviction from the record, meaning that the records remain in court files and law enforcement files. Pardons are rarely granted. Learn more about how pardons work.
What is the difference between expungement and shielding records?
Shielding is different from expungement. In some cases, shielding gives less protection than expungement, because it leaves your records accessible by certain people. However, several types of convictions can be shielded even though they cannot be expunged. See more at: Shielding your convictions from the public: the Maryland Second Chance Act
There is a separate process to remove peace order and protective order records from public view. Learn more about removing records about Peace and Protective orders from public view
Expungement - A 6-Part Series from the Maryland Courts
These videos are an overview of the expungement process in adult court cases. Parts 1-3 explain the types of cases eligible for expungement. Parts 4-6 examine the process for eligible case types.