Moving Past the Stigma of a Criminal Record

Moving Past the Stigma of a Criminal Record

Maryland Legislature Looks at Bills to Give Offenders Second Chance

The Maryland legislature is currently considering a variety of statutes that would allow rehabilitated criminal offenders to have prior charges erased from their records. With the ease of access to criminal records, facilitated in significant part by their availability online, many who made mistakes when they were much younger still find it difficult to move past their earlier indiscretions.

Though expungement has long been available, it is mostly limited to charges that did not result in conviction. At present, there are only nine types of convictions that can be expunged in Maryland, and they are typically designated as “nuisance” crimes, such as failing to pay for a public transit ride or panhandling. Many other states allow for expungement of a larger number of criminal acts, including some felonies.

Among the bills being considered in Maryland is one that would make the state’s infamous “subsequent conviction” rule a thing of the past. Under that rule, charges that did not previously lead to a conviction (and therefore eligible for expungement) cannot be expunged if there is a subsequent conviction of any kind. Proponents say throwing out the subsequent conviction rule will allow many former offenders a real second chance.

In addition, the legislature is looking at the Maryland Second Chance Act, which would allow persons convicted of 13 minor misdemeanors to shield them from public view. Currently, these charges stay on a person’s record for the rest of their lives. They include disorderly conduct, trespass, driving without a license, some forms of shoplifting or petty theft, and possession of a controlled substance. A shield conviction remains available to law enforcement officers, courts and employers, but is not viewable by the general public.

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