Expunging or Sealing Adult Criminal Records in Maryland

Learn what criminal records are eligible for expungement and how to get a record expunged.

By , Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated October 02, 2023

Maryland expungement laws apply to many non-conviction records, as well as some conviction records. The records that can be expunged include police records (arrests, bookings, charges, infractions) and court records (charges, dispositions, convictions). Learn who's eligible for expungement in Maryland.

What Is Expungement? Who Can See Expunged Records in Maryland?

Expunged records in Maryland are not available to the public or any government agencies (with very few exceptions that require a court order). Depending on the type of record, agencies holding the expunged record must destroy it or make it inaccessible to the public.

Maryland law specifically provides that employers, educational institutions, and government agencies cannot require an applicant for a job, license, or governmental service to disclose an expunged record. This means the person can say that they've never been arrested or convicted of the expunged crime when applying for a job, professional license, or school admission.

Who Is Eligible for Expungement in Maryland?

In most cases, a person is only eligible to expunge a charge or conviction if all charges and convictions in the same case can be expunged. This rule is known as the "unit rule." (The law carves out a few exceptions to this rule.)

Most expungement requests also require that the person:

  • not have an active criminal case pending, and
  • wait a certain amount of time after the case ends (typically 3 to 15 years).

A case doesn't end until all of its terms are complete, including any probation, parole, or court-ordered treatment. (Wait periods are discussed below.)

Subsequent convictions may also make a person ineligible for expungement of a conviction or PBJ.

What Criminal Records Are Eligible for Expungement in Maryland?

Maryland allows expungement of police and court records for most cases not resulting in a conviction, as well as some conviction records. Certain non-conviction records qualify for automatic expungement, while others require a petition to the court. If the person wants to expunge a conviction record, they typically must petition (ask) the court.

Automatic Expungement of Non-Conviction Records

Police must expunge any arrest records (including mugshots and fingerprints) if 60 days pass and no charges are filed in a case. These records must be hidden from public view. After three years, the records must be destroyed. This process should happen automatically. (For arrests that occurred before October 1, 2007, the person may need to contact the law enforcement agency to ask about their records.)

As of October 1, 2021, any case that resulted in an acquittal, dismissal, not guilty, or nolle prosequi must be automatically expunged after three years. A person can file a petition with the court before the three-year mark if they sign a general waiver and release of all legal claims. (For earlier cases, the person should petition the court.)

Petition Expungement of Non-Conviction Records

For a few non-conviction records, a person must petition the court to expunge the records. These records include:

  • settled cases ("compromised")
  • indefinitely postponed cases ("stetted")
  • cases involving nuisance crimes (such as loitering or panhandling) resulting in a finding of not criminally responsible, and
  • cases where a person received a PBJ (except for DUI).

Typically, a person must wait three years to ask for an expungement of these records. The three-year clock generally starts after the case ends or, if drug or alcohol treatment was part of the agreement, after discharge from treatment. In some cases, a person can ask for an earlier expungement based on "good cause."

Expungement of Conviction Records

Maryland law permits the expungement of conviction records for certain misdemeanors and felonies, as well as for offenses that are no longer crimes. Most have wait periods of 3, 5, or 7 years.

No wait period. There are no wait periods to seek an expungement for offenses that are no longer crimes and convictions for simple possession of cannabis.

Three-year wait period. Possession of cannabis with intent to distribute and "nuisance crimes" resulting in a conviction are eligible for expungement after 3 years. Nuisance crimes include public urination, panhandling, drinking alcohol in public, vagrancy, loitering, obstruction of a passageway, and sleeping in public.

Five-year wait period. Most other eligible misdemeanors require a 5-year wait period to apply for expungement. Examples of eligible misdemeanors include disorderly conduct crimes, theft, property crimes, drug crimes, prostitution, gambling offenses, contempt, rioting, affrays, and business or commercial crimes.

Seven-year wait period. Misdemeanor assault and common law battery have a 7-year wait period. Felony expungements for third-degree burglary and possession of drugs with intent to distribute also have a 7-year wait period.

Ten-year wait period. A person eligible to expunge a felony theft or first- or second-degree burglary conviction must complete a 10-year wait period. Pardoned offenses (non-violent offenses only) also have a 10-year wait period.

Fifteen-year wait period. Eligible misdemeanors classified as domestic violence offenses have a 15-year wait period.

A list of all eligible misdemeanor and felony convictions can be found on the Maryland Courts' website.

How to File for an Expungement in Maryland

A person must file a petition with the court to ask for an expungement. Petition forms can be found on the court's website. In some cases, a $30 filing fee applies. The court will hold a hearing only if the State's Attorney objects to the expungement.

Getting Help to Expunge Your Records

While you can always seek out the assistance of an attorney, it's possible to file for expungement on your own. The Maryland Courts have forms and videos online explaining the process. Several organizations also provide free or low-cost assistance for expungement, such as Maryland Legal Aid. Another option is to search for "expungement clinics" in your area.

(Md. Code, Crim. Proc. §§ 10-101 to 10-112 (2023).)

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