Maryland law seeks expungement for burglary, other felonies

Maryland law seeks expungement for burglary, other felonies

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 urination.

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

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