Maryland politicians are pushing for the approval of a law that would allow
people to erase certain elements of their criminal records. Several measures
have been proposed, with some seeking to allow most felonies, including
burglary, to be expunged entirely. Other proposals would allow the expungement
of misdemeanors. Current law allows only nuisance misdemeanors to be cleared
from a criminal record. One example of a nuisance misdemeanor is public
The proposed changes echo modifications that have been made in other jurisdictions.
Change may be on the way for Maryland and other states, especially after
statements from the U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder that were released
in mid-February. Holder is pushing to lessen some of the consequences
associated with conviction for felony charges. He is encouraging changes
that would prohibit employers to ask about felon status on certain job
applications, for example, and Holder also said he wants convicted felons
to be able to vote.
Felony records can cause long-term consequences, preventing those convicted
from being eligible to receive licenses to be an electrician, barber or
cosmetologist. Educational professionals might also be restricted from
gaining full-time employment. Further, about two in three colleges inquire
into applicants’ criminal records.
Although many legal professionals in Maryland are pushing for reform, some
say the current approach is not comprehensive and could lead to ineffective
piecemeal changes. Additional considerations for convicted felons could
include pardons and initiatives for shielding. Instead of expunging the
offense, the convictions would be kept on record, but most employers would
not be able to find out about the offenses.
The fact that politicians in Maryland are working toward criminal law reform
points to a changing perspective about convicts’ rights. Those who
have been convicted of felony charges should not have their civil liberties
removed, and they deserve to be able to seek work. A Maryland attorney
may be able to help convicts learn more about their legal rights and options
throughout their incarceration and after release.
Source: The Washington Times, “Bills would allow expungements for more offenses” Nick Tabor, Feb. 12, 2014