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Current State of the Law Regarding Criminal Records in Maine
In 2013, the Maine legislature made significant changes to existing laws regarding criminal records. They repealed all laws relating to the expungement of criminal records and the expungement process. In its place, lawmakers enacted the Criminal History Record Information Act, which now governs criminal history records and the dissemination of said records.
Effects of Repealing Expungement Laws: Criminal Records & Executive Clemency
Since Maine no longer allows for the expungement of criminal records, the only option for individuals with certain criminal convictions on their record is to petition the Governor for Executive Clemency.
The practical difference is that unlike prior expungement laws, the Governor's (rare) granting of “Executive Clemency” does not “wipe” clean an individual's criminal record.
Instead of Laws Regarding Expungement, Maine Enacts the Criminal History Record Information Act
The Criminal History Record Information Act (the “Act”) does not erase criminal records. It does define what constitutes “Criminal History Record Information”, and it sets forth that an individual's criminal record contains information that falls into one of two categories:
- Public Criminal History Record Information; and
- Confidential Criminal History Information.
Criminal History Record Information Defined
The Act specifies that an individual's "Criminal History Record Information” includes, but is not limited to, identifiable notes and/or descriptions regarding:
- An individual's arrest(s) and summons(es)
- An individual's criminal detention(s)
- Information regarding an individual's bail
- The formal criminal charge(s) levied against an individual, including complaints and indictments
- Including information regarding any disposition of such charges
- And more
Differences Between Public and Confidential Criminal History Record Information
Public Criminal History Record Information
- Put simply, Public Criminal History Record Information includes information that it is not confidential criminal history record information.
- Generally, a Maine criminal justice agency may disseminate Public Criminal History Record Information “to any person or public or private entity for any purpose.”
Confidential Criminal History Record Information
- Confidential Criminal History Record Information includes the following specific types of information:
- (Unless the person remains a fugitive from justice) summons and arrest information without disposition– if an interval of more than one year has elapsed since the date the person was summonsed or arrested – and no active prosecution of a criminal charge stemming from the summons or arrest is pending
- An official's decision not to refer a matter to the relevant prosecutor
- A prosecutor's election not to commence a criminal proceeding regarding a matter
- A determination by a grand jury that there is insufficient evidence to justify bringing a formal charge
- A court's dismissal of a criminal charge with prejudice or a prosecutor's dismissal of a criminal charge with finality OTHER than as part of a plea agreement
- Any Information disclosing that an individual was acquitted of a criminal charge
- And more.
- Despite restrictions regarding the dissemination of an individual's confidential criminal history record information, such confidential information generally is available to law enforcement and certain government agencies.
- Moreover, a criminal justice agency - even if questioned - may not confirm the existence or nonexistence of an individual's confidential criminal history record information to individuals or entities that are ineligible to receive the confidential criminal history record information itself.
This brings us back to the Petition for Executive Clemency . . .
Petitioning for Executive Clemency & What it Entails:
As discussed above, without expungement laws an individual's remaining option regarding certain criminal conviction information contained in his or her criminal record – is to petition the Governor for Executive Clemency (the granting of which still does not wipe clean or erase information contained in a criminal record).
And, even though it is extremely rare that the governor may grant a petition for executive clemency, Maine's Department of Corrections nevertheless publishes the specific procedural rules and guidelines for filing such a petition. These guidelines list, among other things, many limitations to the petition process.
Specifically Excluded From the List of Allowed Petitions for Executive Clemency: Those Seeking a Pardon for OUI Charges, Convictions, and Other Related Offenses
One example of the stated limitations of the petition process is exemplified by the specific exclusion of petitions related to OUI charges. As a result of this exclusion, and regardless of the outcome of your OUI case, the information regarding the OUI charge, arrest, and conviction, generally will remain available to the general public for an unlimited period of time.
Contact Maine's Trusted DUI and Criminal Defense Attorney Today
As you can see, there are many factors to consider when deciding how to best approach the information found in your criminal record. We can help. Contact our offices today to speak with an experienced lawyer regarding your options.
We can discuss a possible petition to the governor for executive clemency, and information regarding the likelihood of success for such a petition. Or, you may have questions regarding the effects of information contained in your criminal record as it relates to current or future employment opportunities. Contact us today to discuss your specific situation.