The Myth of Expungement in Maine

Posted by Nathan Hitchcock | May 21, 2018 | 0 Comments

While many states offer ways to remove criminal convictions from your record, Maine has no method for expunging convictions from criminal records.  There are only two processes to make convictions confidential, but they are very limited in scope.  Those who work for criminal justice agencies, like the police or the District Attorney's office, are the only ones who can see a confidential conviction.  Standard background checks, like the ones employers or the public use, will not show this conviction.  The only two ways to classify your conviction as confidential are by receiving a pardon from the Governor's office, or by getting a court order to make your conviction confidential.

A pardon from the Governor's office will remove any conviction from a public criminal record.  To receive a pardon, you must complete a pardon application at least five years after your sentence is completely carried out.  This means you must finish any probation or license suspension before your five-year timer begins.  Additionally, applications to pardon OUIs will not be heard.  Applications to just remove one's name from the sex offender list, to correct errors in the judicial system, to carry a firearm to hunt, or to enter another country will also not be heard.  Lastly, you will not get a pardon if you have other serious criminal convictions that you are not applying for a pardon to address.  Once you fill out the application and attach the proper documents, the Department of Corrections will decide whether to grant a hearing, based on the application and a background check.  If you are given a hearing on your pardon, you will need to publish a notice in the newspaper once a week starting one month before your hearing. After your hearing, the board will make its recommendations for pardons, and the Governor will have the sole authority to grant or deny a pardon.  If you pardon application is denied at any point of the process, you must wait one year before filing another application.  More information about pardons can be found by clicking here.

The only other process for making a conviction confidential is to receive a court order.  Only certain crimes committed at certain times are eligible for this process.  First, you must have committed the crime between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one.  There are different processes for juvenile crimes, and pardons are the only crimes available to people twenty-one or older.  Second, you must wait four years after your sentence is completely carried out.  Third, you must not have any other criminal convictions in Maine or any other state, and you must not have any criminal actions pending.  Lastly, your crime must have been a Class E misdemeanor, and not a sex offense.  This means that crimes like OUI, Domestic Violence, Assault, or Violating a Protection order, which are Class D misdemeanors, do not apply.  If your conviction qualifies, you will need to file a motion with the Court in the same court your conviction occurred. The Court will then hold a hearing to determine if you meet these requirements.  If the Court finds you met these requirements by a preponderance of the evidence, your conviction will be made confidential.  While criminal justice agencies can still use it, it will be hidden from most other background checks.  Also, you will be allowed to say you do not have a criminal conviction on any application outside of a criminal justice agency. However, if you obtain a new criminal conviction, none of your convictions will be confidential under this statute anymore.  This process, designed by the state legislature, is set to expire in October of 2019.

While Maine does not ever wipe a criminal record clean of any conviction, and does not expunge records, these are the two limited processes for making your criminal conviction confidential.

About the Author

Nathan Hitchcock

Nathaniel H. Hitchcock's practice is devoted solely to defending persons accused of committing criminal offenses. As an associate attorney at WTB LAW, Attorney Hitchcock works closely with Attorney William Bly, who is recognized statewide as a skilled and fierce advocate in the courtroom. Attorney Hitchcock regularly attends seminars and training focused on effectively defending a wide variety of criminal case types.

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