Expunging or Sealing Adult Criminal Records in Maine

Maine offers very few options to shield criminal history records from public view.

By , Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated May 26, 2023

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.

How Does Maine Classify Criminal History Record Information?

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.

What Criminal Records Are Confidential in Maine?

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.

Examples of Confidential Criminal History Record Information

Below are examples of criminal cases in which the records are considered confidential:

  • when the summons and arrest information is more than a year old and no active prosecution or charge is pending (unless the person is a fugitive)
  • the records show that law enforcement has decided not to refer the matter to a prosecutor, a prosecutor has elected not to proceed with the case, or the grand jury did not indict
  • criminal charges were dismissed by a judge with prejudice or by a prosecutor with finality
  • criminal proceedings ended in acquittal or a mistrial, and
  • cases in which the defendant has been granted a full-and-free pardon.

      (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 16, § 703 (2023).)

      Who Can Access Confidential Criminal History Information?

      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:

      • any person who has the express right to such information, as specified by statute, court order, court rule, or court decision
      • anyone under contract to conduct background checks for the state for potential law enforcement officers
      • researchers under contract with a criminal justice agency
      • any person who asks a criminal justice agency whether a named person was summonsed, arrested, detained, or charged on a specified date
      • any person who desires to inform the public regarding the disposition of the case, as long as the request is made with the subject's consent OR within 30 days of the disposition (summons and arrest information more than a year old cannot be disclosed), and
      • a public entity, such as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, for the purpose of issuing visas and granting citizenship.

      (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 16, § 705 (2023).)

      What Criminal Records Are Public in Maine?

      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).)

      Can Any Criminal History Records Be Sealed or Expunged in Maine?

      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.

      Sealing Class E Crimes in Maine

      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.

      Eligibility to Seal Class E Crimes

      To be eligible to seal a conviction for a class E crime, a person must meet all of the following statutory requirements.

      • The person committed the offense when they were 18 to 27 years old.
      • Four years have passed since the completion of the sentence, which includes payments of all fines, fees, and restitution.
      • The person has no pending state or federal criminal charges.
      • The person has not been convicted since completing their sentence.
      • The person has not received a deferred disposition and dismissal in Maine since completing their sentence.

      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).

      Who Can See a Sealed Conviction in Maine?

      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.

      How to Seal a Conviction in Maine

      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).)

      Who Can Get a Pardon in Maine?

      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).)

      Getting Help With Criminal Records

      If you have questions about your criminal record, check out some of these public resources.

      For information on juvenile court records, check out Maine's Judicial Branch's juvenile court website, which includes information on juvenile case records.

      For additional assistance, you may want to consult a criminal defense attorney.

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