New Maryland Law could help criminal defendants

A new law in Maryland will allow “shielding” of certain misdemeanor convictions. Gov. Larry Hogan signed the new law, known as the Second Chance Act of 2015, which gives some individuals the ability to seal certain kinds of misdemeanor records.

The legislation is groundbreaking because it’s the first time that people convicted of serious misdemeanor crimes will be able to limit public access to their conviction records. In the past, only Maryland residents convicted of nuisance offenses and pardoned offenses could benefit from shielding.

On Oct.1, the new law will go into effect. However, some say that they would like the law to be more powerful. That is because only a small number of misdemeanor offenses will be eligible for sealing. Furthermore, certain shielded records will still be available to licensing entities and employers. That said, the new law can be seen as a step in the right direction in terms of granting defendants more ability to seek privacy following conviction.

Eligibility only applies to 12 types of non-violent misdemeanor convictions. Among the various offenses that may qualify are destruction of property and prostitution, for example. In addition, possession of controlled dangerous substances is also eligible for sealing. On the other hand, domestically related crimes are not eligible for shielding.

Maryland residents who want to know if their criminal convictions are eligible for shielding can speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney about their convictions. If eligible, they may be able to file an appropriate petition with the court to have their criminal records sealed from public view.

Source: Collateral Consequences Resource Center, “New Maryland law allows “shielding” of some misdemeanor convictions,” accessed Sep. 24, 2015