Can a Felony be Expunged? Under What Circumstances?

Whether applying for schools, jobs, or housing or even when requesting government services, having a felony on your record can prevent you and your family from seizing valuable opportunities. Through the process of expungement, however, you may be able to remove these records from the public eye, and leave your worries behind you. Only under specific circumstances can a felony be expunged, and not all felonies are eligible.

What is Expungement?

Expungement is the process of requesting a judge to legally remove records of an arrest or criminal conviction from public examination. Before filing for expungement, it’s important to note that state expungement laws do vary. Moreover, your ability to file for expungement will be based on the location of the initial conviction or arrest. In Maryland, you can request expungement from the following sources:

  • Police files
  • Court files
  • Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) files

Keep in mind that even if your case had a positive outcome, the initial charge still shows on your criminal record.

What Felony Charges Can Be Expunged?

Your ability to file for expungement is primarily based on the case’s outcome. If one of the following occurred, there is a strong possibility that you will be able to file for expungement:

  • The charges were dismissed
  • The case was transferred from adult criminal court to juvenile court
  • Your trial was delayed indefinitely, called “stet”
  • You received a ruling of “not guilty” or a Probation Before Judgement (PBJ)
  • The prosecution dropped the case against you, called Nolle Prosequi, or Noll Pros, which translates to “will no longer prosecute”

If you are declared “not criminally responsible” or “guilty,” you will be able to file for expungement if it is for any of the following offenses:

  • Blocking people from moving freely in public spaces
  • Vagrancy
  • Loitering
  • Specific transportation-related offenses
  • Using a public area as a restroom
  • Not paying, or not showing that you paid, for public transportation
  • Panhandling
  • Using park structures, including benches, as places to sleep
  • Public drinking of alcoholic beverages

For an outcome of “not criminally responsible,” you can also file for expungement for the charges of trespassing on private property, using a phone incorrectly, or causing a disturbance of the peace.

What Felony Charges Can Not Be Expunged?

Although there are many cases where you can file for expungement, there are also cases where you cannot:

  • You were charged with criminal offenses that have yet to be resolved in court.
  • The PBJ you want to expunge is for certain driving charges where alcohol was involved.
  • Within 3 years of receiving the PBJ you want to expunge, you are convicted of a new crime. However, if the new crime was a minor traffic offense, or is no longer illegal, it will not inhibit you from expunging your original offense.

In the case where an incident or chain of events leads to multiple charges, none of the charges can be expunged unless they are all eligible . It does not matter if some of the charges were dropped; these charges still cannot be expunged if one of the offenses is not expungable. This is called the unit rule and it does not apply to minor traffic offenses.

When Can A Felony Be Expunged?

The date your case was decided, as well as the result of the case, will be determining factors in how long it will be before your felony can be expunged. In many cases, the minimum amount of time you must wait before filing for expungement is 3 years. However, this can vary depending on the case outcome and other factors.

For example, if you were declared “not guilty,” the prosecution drops the case against you, or the charges were dismissed, there are forms you can complete that will give you access to request early expungement. In the event that the governor issued you a pardon, the length of time you must wait to file for expungement increases to 5 years. However, you only have 10 years from your pardon to file.

Your ability to apply for expungement when you receive a PBJ is based on the length of your probation period. If your probation period is less than 3 years, then you’ll have to wait a full 3 years to file for expungement. However, if your probation period is longer than 3 years, you have to wait until that period has elapsed. You also have to wait 3 years if your trial was delayed indefinitely (ruling of stet) or if you were declared either “not criminally responsible” or “guilty.”

If you received different rulings for different charges in a case, the expungement time period will be based on the outcome with the longest filing period. Moreover, there are cases where, if you have a good reason, you may be allowed by a judge to file for expungement earlier than the time periods mentioned above.

It is important to note situations where no charges were ever filed against you. If that situation occurs in Maryland, you do not have to file for expungement if you were arrested on or after October 1, 2007. In this case, it will only take 60 days from the time of your release for the arrest to automatically be expunged. For arrests made before October 1, 2007 you can request expungement by contacting your local arresting police department.

Process of Expungement

Typically, it takes about 3 months to complete the entire expungement process, but the timeline can vary. Once you file for expungement, the State’s Attorney receives a copy of the expungement files. The court then waits 30 days to see if they file an objection. If there is an objection from the State’s Attorney, a hearing takes place to decide whether the state should move forward with an expungement. Only if there is no objection, can a felony be expunged from police and court records.

Once this order has been submitted, you will be sent a copy, as well as Compliance Certificates from the entities who received the court order. These documents, as well as your case file, might need to be accessed in the future; therefore, it is important to keep them in a safe place.

Need Assistance Expunging a Felony?

If you need help getting a felony expunged, our experienced lawyers can assist you in the expungement process. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.