Expungement and Changing Your Criminal Record

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Categories :: Criminal > Expungement

FORM:  Petition for Expungement of Records


Under Maryland law, there are several ways to "clean up" parts of your criminal record.

What is Expungement?

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. See below for more information.

NOTE:  If a private database has information about your public record, expungement will not remove it from their database.   

Can I have a conviction expunged? 

For most offenses, if you have been convicted (found guilty), the records about that charge cannot be expunged.  There are a few exceptions, listed below. 

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. See more at:  Removing records about Peace and Protective orders from public view

Which records can be expunged, and 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.  This table shows case outcomes that typically make expungement possible.  Read below the chart to learn about the exceptions to these usual rules.

Generally, you may file for expungement of records relating to a criminal charge if the case ended with:

Not Guilty

You were acquitted (found not guilty)


Your charge was dismissed


You received Probation Before Judgment (except for certain alcohol-related driving offenses)

Nolle Prosequi

A Nolle Prosequi (“Noll Pros”) was entered in your case (This is when the prosecutor decides to drop the case either before or during trial.)


Your case was placed on the “stet docket” (indefinitely postponed)

Moved to Juvenile Court

Your case was started in adult court but was moved to juvenile court. If you were initially charged as an adult and your case was transferred to juvenile court, you have two records—a criminal record and a juvenile record. There is a different procedure to follow to expunge a juvenile record.

Not Criminally Responsible

You were found Not Criminally Responsible for one of these charges:

  • urination or defecation in a public place,
  • panhandling or soliciting money,
  • drinking an alcoholic beverage in a public place,
  • obstructing the free passage of another in a public place or a public conveyance,
  • sleeping on or in park structures, such as benches or doorways,
  • loitering, 
  • vagrancy,
  • trespass,
  • telephone misuse,
  • disturbing the peace,
  • riding a transit vehicle without paying the applicable fare or exhibiting proof of payment, or
  • certain other transportation charges (Trans 7-705).


You were found Guilty of one of these charges:

  • urination or defecation in a public place,
  • panhandling or soliciting money,
  • drinking an alcoholic beverage in a public place,
  • obstructing the free passage of another in a public place or a public conveyance,
  • sleeping on or in park structures, such as benches or doorways,
  • loitering, 
  • vagrancy,
  • riding a transit vehicle without paying the applicable fare or exhibiting proof of payment, or
  • certain other transportation charges (Trans 7-705).

Exceptions:  Are there situations where you CANNOT file for expungement?

In certain cases, you generally cannot get records expunged.

  • If you received a PBJ, and you later convicted for 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 a past case had multiple charges, and you were found guilty of at least one of those charges, you cannot get any of the other charges from that case expunged. (However, if the only conviction was a minor traffic violation, you can still have the others expunged.)
  • You cannot get a PBJ expunged if the PBJ was for certain alcohol related driving offenses. (MD Code Ann., Transportation, §21-902 or MD Code Ann., Criminal Law, §§2-503, 2-504, 2-505, or 2-506, or former Code, Article 27, §388A or §388B)

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.  For example, the Baltimore City Police Department   provides a form and process here:  How can I get my record cleared?

What do I have to do to get an expungement?

How long do I have to wait to file a petition for expungement?

Generally, you must wait three (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 three (3) years have passed, whichever is longer.
  • If your case was placed on the stet docket, you may not file earlier than three (3) years after the judgment.
  • If you were pardoned by the governor, you must wait at least five (5) years but not more than ten (10) years after your pardon.
  • To file for an expungement based on a finding of Not Criminally Responsible, you must wait until three (3) years have passed since the finding.
  • If you were found guilty of one of the expungeable crimes, you must wait three (3) years.

You must wait to expunge a case until every charge in that case is expungable. For instance if you received three nolle prosequi’s and one Stet, you must wait three (3) years because the stet requires a minimum waiting time of three (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 time 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 Criminal Proc. § 10-105

How do I file a petition for expungement?



Where can I get an expungement petition form?

You can find a copy of the Petition for Expungement of Records here: http://www.courts.state.md.us/courtforms/joint/ccdccr072.pdf

What can I include on the form?

When you fill out and file a petition for expungement, make sure you know your criminal record (state by state and federal records).  You can do a search by going to the Criminal Justice Information System (CJIS) http://www.dpscs.state.md.us and Maryland Judiciary case search, http://www.casesearch.courts.state.md.us.  If your case is extremely old, then you may want to request a copy of your rap sheet. 

It is important to use broad language when you request an expungement. You can indicate that you wish to expunge all police records, court records, and "other records maintained by the State of Maryland and its subdivisions" relating to your charge.

In circuit court, broad language is the best way to ensure that all records of your arrest, detention, etc. are expunged. If you fail to include such broad language, the court will only order the expungement of the records you mention specifically. Davis v. Magee, 140 Md.App. 635 (2001).

Can I get help with the form?

To help you complete the petition and answer your questions, the District Court of Maryland has a brochure on Expungement online. You can also contact one of the organizations listed here for help: http://www.peoples-law.org/referrals-help-expungements.

Where do I file my petition?

You file your petition in the court in which your case was finally resolved. If your case was outside of Maryland, you must file in the state where the case occurred. 

What is the fee to file the petition?

When you file a petition for expungement, you must pay a $30 filing fee for each case with charges that you want expunged unless you were acquitted of the charges.  You may ask the judge to waive (excuse) the fee due to financial hardship. The form can be found here http://www.courts.state.md.us/courtforms/joint/ccdc008.pdf

What’s the process:  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 will 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.  This is particularly true if you are not a US citizen.  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.

What's in my record, and why should I get an expungement?

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:

  • employment,
  • applications to schools and colleges,
  • relationships,
  • housing, and
  • other government services. 

To find out more about how your criminal record may affect you, view this helpful tool from the American Bar Association.

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).  For the expungement process, you may wish to look at both sources to determine your eligibility for expungement.   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.

How can I get a copy of my criminal record?

Your criminal record is available from the Criminal Justice Information System (CJIS).  The cost for retrieving your records is $38 and must be paid with a money order or personal or certified 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
Baltimore, Maryland
(410) 764-5160

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.

For many, you can access your criminal record through the Maryland 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 CJIS.

How do Pardons Work?

Pardons are rarely granted.

A “pardon” is an act of the Governor in which the Governor frees someone of guilt for a criminal act and relieves the grantee from any penalties of law for those acts. (Md. Correctional Services Code Ann. §7-101(h)) You may not request a pardon if you are currently in jail.  The Governor uses the Maryland Parole Commission’s guidelines in determining whether or not to grant a pardon. The following summarizes the guidelines.

If you were convicted of a misdemeanor, you must have been crime-free for at least five (5) years from the time of your sentencing or release from jail, parole, or probation, whichever occurred last.

If you were convicted of a felony:

  • that was NOT a crime of violence and did NOT involve controlled dangerous substances, the time period increases to ten (10) years. However, the Parole Commission may consider cases after only seven (7) years.
  • that was a crime of violence or involved controlled dangerous substances, you must have remained crime-free for at least twenty (20) years, from the time of your sentencing or release from jail, parole, or probation (whichever occurred last). However, the Parole Commission may consider cases after only fifteen (15) years.

The following factors are considered regarding your request for a pardon:

  • The type of crime and the circumstances surrounding its commission;
  • The effect a pardon would have on the victim(s) (if any) and the community;
  • The type of sentence handed down;
  • What other anti-social behavior you have engaged in;
  • Your rehabilitation;
  • Your age and health; and
  • The reason for requesting a pardon.

How 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.

Legislation was passed in 2008 regarding DNA samples taken from defendants in Maryland.  The requirements are outlined below.

  • The law requires the court to advise a defendant in a criminal case, when all charges against the defendant are disposed of by acquittal, probation before judgment, nolle prosequi, or stet, that the defendant may be entitled to expunge the records of any DNA sample and DNA record relating to the charges(s).
  • It also requires a DNA sample to be taken from any individual charged for certain crimes of violence or felony burglary.
  • The law sets forth requirements for collection, testing, use, and disposal of DNA samples taken from and individual and sets forth additional expungement criteria.
  • This legislation clarifies that DNA must be destroyed if the person is never charged or convicted after being arrested.
  • The legislation establishes procedures for the use of DNA evidence in certain court proceedings and requires that certain reports be submitted annually to the governor and the General Assembly.

Read the Law: MD Crim. Pro §§ 6-232, 8-201; Public Safety §§ 2-513, 2-514


Adapted from “Your Criminal Record – Expungement, Discrimination & Other Issues Relating to Employment,” Homeless Persons Representation Project. Editing and contributions by Jason Tashea, Esq., Lonni K. Summers, Esq., Matthew Stubenberg, Esq., Mary-Denise Davis, Esq., and others

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