If you've been convicted of a crime, it often feels like the fines and the trial and the sentencing and the jail time and the probation processes goes on and on and on. But the impact of the arrest, even if it was for something relatively minor, or that you may have committed after a bad decision that you regret, like operating a car under the influence (OUI), does not end there. Your criminal history is public information, and the tarnish on your reputation can have huge repercussions for years after your arrest and conviction. Background checks will reveal your criminal history, and this can impact you in countless important ways. Checking “yes” on a job application when it asks, “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” can seriously hurt your chances of being hired. This can feel unjustified when your conviction was years ago, and you have not committed a crime since then. You've learned your lesson. You're trying to move on. But the criminal record is still there, dragging you down.
Currently, in the state of Maine, there is no law that allows for adult criminal records to be expunged, or sealed from public access, so they can't be found using a background check. The only way to have your record changed in any way in Maine is through the pardon process, which can take months or even years to complete, is at the complete discretion of the Governor of Maine, and is only available in narrow circumstances. A pardon is a rare thing, and only seems to happen when there are extraordinary circumstances. For people who made a mistake, and were convicted of a minor offense years ago, this can make it seem like there's no hope of getting away from their past.
That is why the Maine Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers has come out in support of Legislative Document 573 (LD 573). This bill was submitted to the Maine House of Representatives in February, 2015, and is sponsored by state representatives DeChant, Beck, Fowle, and McCreight. LD 573 asks the Department of Public Safety, State Bureau of Identification to create a process that would allow for the expungement of your criminal history. LD 573 does not state exactly what this process would be; only that it should exist, and that you can apply to begin the process of expungement of your criminal history information. The decision of whether to seal your criminal history would be made by the commanding officer of the State Bureau of Identification, and would depend on whether the officer found that expungement “is in the best interests of the person to whom the information pertains and is not detrimental to the public interest or to the protection of society.”
The law office of William T. Bly is closely watching the progress of LD 573 through the Maine Legislature, and will use it to its full effect for his clients if it passes.