Earlier this month, several new laws took effect in Maryland. Two of these laws make it easier to have criminal records expunged and could change the lives of thousands of Maryland residents.
The first law removes Maryland’s “subsequent conviction rule,” which prohibited expunging a closed case if the defendant was later convicted of another crime. Now, people with multiple arrests on their record but only one or two convictions can have their public records cleared of any cases which did not result in a guilty verdict.
A different law allows people to request expungement for convictions that are no longer crimes in the state of Maryland. For instance, individuals convicted of possession of small amounts of marijuana can request an expungement, since Maryland decriminalized marijuana in 2014.
According to Edward Tayter, a criminal defense attorney practicing in Maryland “the new expungement policies have the potential to make a major difference in the lives of those individual who constantly battle the consequences of convictions for minor offenses, some of which are no longer even considered crimes in Maryland. It’s a huge victory for these individuals to be able to submit a job application or a housing application without listing a conviction.”
The website www.mdexpungement.com was developed last year to make it easier for Marylanders to file for expungement. The site works by analyzing state court records with an algorithm to determine whether an individual is eligible to have charges expunged.
Michael Stubenberg, the site’s creator, crunched the numbers and found that among all cases, a majority are eligible for expungement. In Baltimore City, as few as 1 in 4 cases result in a conviction, meaning that over 70% of cases filed could potentially be expunged. Unfortunately, the number of expungement petitions filed in the state is low.
“We’re not even tackling the problem. We’re losing ground… When you’re dealing with numbers that high, the only real way to deal with it is with some kind of technological advancement,” said Stubenberg.
He was one of a few experts who offered advice to concerned individuals at New Psalmist Baptist Church several weeks ago. Todd Eller was one of these individuals. He has a marijuana possession charge from 2008 on his record.
Said Eller, “I’m unemployed, so I know it’s going to come up in a background check, which it has before. Some employers are very concerned with that so if I have a chance to get it shielded or expunged, it would be good for me personally.”