What does “expunge” mean?

To “expunge” [EX-SPONGE] a charge means to erase it from public records. On this website, this is what we mean when we say “clean your record” or “erase charges.” If you have a criminal record, anyone can look it up online or at Maryland courthouses. If you expunge charges, people won’t be able to see them anymore. This means that landlords and employers won’t see them when they look up your record.

This can make it easier to get a job and place to live. Click here to find out the basics about this, and here to learn about all the steps of the process.

What should I expect when I go to an expungement clinic?

Different clinics have different ways of doing things, but we can tell you how most of them work. First, you will sign in and wait for your turn to see the lawyer. Lawyers are volunteers, and people are seen by lawyers based on the order they arrive. So, you might have to wait a while to see a lawyer. Because of this, we recommend you bring something to do while you wait. After you wait, you will go to a private space to discuss your case with your lawyer. This usually takes less than an hour. They will look up all of your case information online and fill out the paperwork requesting that your records are erased.

What should I bring to a clinic?

You are not required to bring anything to attend a clinic. The people there can help you find everything you need. But, if you have any information about your case, such as your case number or a background check, bring it to help your lawyer. It can help them make sure they know about all your charges to get as many erased as possible.

How much does it cost to get charges expunged at a clinic?

This can be confusing to figure out. The good thing is it's either free or $30, and if you can't afford the $30, you can apply for a fee waiver so you won't have to pay. Here are some more details on cost:

  • If you were found "not guilty," it is free.
  • If you received anything other than Guilty and you’re filing in district court it is free.
  • If you’re filing in Circuit Court it depends on which county you’re in. If you are filing for an eligible guilty expungement then it’s $30 in both district and circuit courts.

Also, many of the organizations that sponsor free clinics get the court fee waived, if your income qualifies. For example, clinics sponsored by the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service, Legal Aid, and the Homeless Persons Representation Project do this.

How can I be sure that my records were actually erased?

You will get a “Certificate of Compliance” in the mail letting you know you records are erased. Once your records are erased in the main system, called CJIS, background checks that use this system will not show the charge. If you want to be extra sure, you can check this website again to make sure. http://casesearch.courts.state.md.us/casesearch//inquiry-index.jsp

I went through the whole process, and all of my charges were erased. Can I answer “no” to questions about criminal history on job or rent applications?

Yes, but you should only do this after you are sure that your records were actually erased. This means you should wait until after you have received your Certificate of Compliance letter. 

There are a few exceptions to this. If you apply to jobs with the U.S. government, apply to join the U.S. military, or apply for U.S. citizenship, you will still have to tell them about your charges. This is because there are some federal databases that don't have to erase the charges. 

I filed the paperwork 3 months ago but I haven’t gotten anything in the mail. What do I do?

The best thing you can do is contact your lawyer, and ask them for an update. You can also try to find out yourself by calling the clerk’s office at the court where you filed the paperwork.

Could my request to expunge my records be denied?

Yes. After you file your paperwork, the state has 30 days to object. If they do, you will get a court hearing to decide whether your request for expungement will be granted or denied. If you are denied, you can still file an appeal within 30 days of the denial.

 Can I find out if my charges are eligible to be expunged BEFORE going to a clinic?

The only way to find out for sure is to attend a clinic and talk to a lawyer. If you want to try to look up this information yourself, we have information on this here.

What are examples of charges can and can't be erased?

You CAN get your charges expunged if ALL of the charges in your case ended up with a not guilty, “nolle prosequi,” or dismissal.

You CAN expunge a marijuana conviction if it’s the only charge in your case, or if all of the other charges in your case can also be expunged. You can do this right away for possession of less than 10 grams, and 4 years after the conviction for all other marijuana charges.

You CANNOT get charges from another state expunged in Maryland.

You CANNOT get Federal or Felony charges expunged.

You CANNOT expunge a Driving While Under the Influence or Driving While Impaired charge if it ended in either a conviction or a probation before judgment.

You CANNOT expunge any of the charges in a case with multiple charges, if even one charge in the case cannot be expunged. This is the case even if other charges in the case would otherwise be allowed to be expunged.

You CANNOT expunge any of your cases if you have a pending criminal case.

Will I be fingerprinted as part of expungement?

Some clinics have you get fingerprinted as a first step. They do this because this is the only way they can be completely sure that they figured out all of your eligible charges. This helps them do the most comprehensive job they can cleaning up their record.

Are there police at expungement clinics?

The organizations that have expungement clinics do not ask the police to come. But, because clinics are public, there is no way to be sure whether or not they will be there.

I am not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Should I get my records erased?

The best thing to do is talk to a lawyer about this. Erasing your record can be very complicated for some people who are not citizens. Sometimes, erasing your records can hurt your immigration case, because even if your state charges were erased, federal records could still exist. In these cases, it is important to show the immigration judges everything that happened, and you won’t be able to do this if your records are erased. For example, imagine you were arrested but were found not guilty. Your arrest might still be on federal records, but if you had your charges erased in Maryland, you will not be able to give paperwork to the federal judge showing you were found not guilty, because it was erased. You can also find more information here.


*This is not legal advice. For legal advice, consult a lawyer, such as those at expungement clinics.