Maine doesn't allow expungement of criminal records. Rather, state law classifies criminal records as confidential or public. Convictions and most active cases are generally public records that employers, landlords, and others can access. Maine offers only one option, short of a pardon, to limit public access to criminal convictions for minor offenses. This process—known as sealing—is available only for class E crimes committed before a person turned 28.
Read on to learn how Maine classifies criminal records, whether a record might qualify as confidential, and whether it's possible to seal a record or seek a pardon.
A criminal history record in Maine consists of information recorded by law enforcement, the courts, and district attorney's offices that identify a person as having formal involvement in the criminal legal process. This information generally includes all stages of the criminal process, including arrests, bookings, criminal charges, indictments, pleas, verdicts, sentencing, incarceration, and appeals.
The status of a case determines its classification as confidential or public, which in turn dictates who can access the records and for what purposes. Certain criminal history information is confidential with limited public access, including records where a case ends without a conviction or where charges are dismissed or not filed after more than a year. Criminal records that aren't considered confidential default to public criminal records.
Criminal history information typically becomes confidential once the case is dismissed or ends in acquittal (not guilty), the prosecutor chooses not to file formal charges, or more than a year passes without charges or a disposition (resolution) in the case.
Below are examples of criminal cases in which the records are considered confidential:
(Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 16, § 703 (2023).)
In Maine, confidential criminal records receive only limited protections. They can still be accessed under certain circumstances. A criminal justice agency can disclose confidential criminal history record information with other criminal justice agencies, as well as to any of the following:
(Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 16, § 705 (2023).)
Any criminal history information not listed above is considered public information. Broadly speaking, this includes all convictions, other case dispositions (such as deferred dispositions), and information on pending cases less than a year old (such as arrests, warrants, booking information, pleas, and other case records). Maine law provides that public criminal history information can be shared with "any person or public or private entity for any purpose." (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 16, § 704 (2023).)
As noted above, Maine doesn't have expungement. Instead, the state allows certain public records to be sealed and places restrictions on their dissemination. The only other option to keep convictions out of the public eye is a pardon (discussed below). While both sealing orders and pardons make records confidential with limited access, neither fully erases one's record.
The only conviction records that may be sealed under Maine's laws are class E crimes (with the exception of sexual assaults). Class E crimes are punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. The state offers no sealing options for class A to D crimes.
To be eligible to seal a conviction for a class E crime, a person must meet all of the following statutory requirements.
If the person is later convicted of any offense in Maine or any other jurisdiction, the court must unseal the record (and it becomes public again).
The general public won't have access to a sealed conviction. The record is treated as a confidential record (as discussed above)—but with exceptions. In addition to those with access to confidential records, sealed records may be shared with criminal justice agencies, victims of the crime, professional licensing agencies, and financial institutions for employment purposes.
A person must file what's called a "Motion to Seal Criminal History" with the court, stating the person meets all the requirements to seal the record. The court may schedule a hearing to determine if the person has met all the requirements. A copy of the motion can be found on the Maine Judicial Branch website. Click on "Search Court Forms" and then search for "Motion to Seal Criminal History."
(Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 15, §§ 2262, 2263, 2264, 2265; tit. 16 §§ 703, 705 (2023).)
A person can petition for a pardon from the governor five years after completing their sentence. The Pardon Board will not accept pardon applications for operating under the influence (OUI) or where the person seeks a pardon to be removed from the Sex Offender Registry or to regain firearm privileges. The pardon process involves several steps, including application forms, hearings, and interviews.
If a person receives a free-and-full pardon, the record won't be erased but it will be classified as confidential. Receiving a conditional pardon (rather than a full-and-free pardon) doesn't affect the classification of a record—it remains public.
You can find information about pardons, including the application, by visiting the Maine Department of Corrections' website.
(Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 15, § 2161; tit. 16, § 703 (2023).)
If you have questions about your criminal record, check out some of these public resources.
For additional assistance, you may want to consult a criminal defense attorney.