Several recent blog posts have detailed Maine's expungement laws, which deal with criminal records, and who can see them. Generally speaking, it's impossible to expunge, or seal, your criminal record unless you petition for executive clemency, and the governor officially pardons you for your crimes. This process, already a huge uphill battle that is little more than a longshot – governor pardons are incredibly rare – is not even an option if the conviction that you want sealed is for operating under the influence (OUI). In Maine, an OUI is one of the few crimes that are not eligible for executive clemency, so getting a governor's pardon for your drunk driving charge is impossible.
Things change, however, if you were underage when you were convicted. Under Maine law, you're considered underage, a juvenile, if you're younger than 18 years old. While it isn't saying much, sealing criminal convictions that happened while you were a juvenile is easier than sealing adult convictions. This difference is not an accident – even the law recognizes that we all do stupid things when we're kids, and should have the opportunity to move on from any bad decisions we make when we don't know any better.
Under Maine law, if you were convicted of a juvenile crime, you can petition the court to seal the record of that crime if the following three conditions are met:
- 1. At least three years have passed since you've finished your sentence for the crime,
- 2. Since being sentenced for the crime, you have not been convicted of another one, and
- 3. You have not currently facing criminal charges
If you pass these three requirements, the court can grant your request to seal your records, unless the court determines that the general public's right to see your criminal record substantially outweighs your interest in privacy. One of the crucial factors in this determination will be what kind of crime you were convicted of, as a juvenile. If there is a public interest in knowing about your criminal past – such as if you were convicted of a violent or sexual crime – then you will have a more difficult time getting your record sealed.
An important thing to note about expunging your record: It does not make your criminal record vanish completely. It only seals from public eye. This is an important distinction to keep in mind. You will still be able to access your criminal record, and so will courts and criminal justice agencies at the federal and state levels. However, members of the public will not be able to access your criminal record if it's successfully expunged. This means that, if someone asks whether you've ever been convicted of a crime, such as on a job application, it is unlikely that they will be able to find evidence that you have been. It can be the biggest difference in your life.
If you're interested in expunging a record of a juvenile crime, call the law office of William T. Bly at (207) 571-8146.