Many ex-offenders are stained by mistakes made lifetimes ago. The biggest hurdle for this group is finding respectable employment since many employers are wary of convicts. A new bill will soon be heard in Annapolis that hopes to give former inmates a chance at a new beginning. The bill authorizes an individual to petition a court to shield court and police records relating to a "shieldable conviction" no earlier than 3 years after that individual has satisfied the sentence imposed for the conviction, including parole, probation, or mandatory supervision.
To "Shield" a conviction means to render the court record or police record inaccessible to the public. While some ex-offenders are able to make a petition to shield their record under the current law, they face the hurdle of obtaining a full and unconditional pardon from the Governor. This bill would eliminate that hurdle.
Under the bill, if a person is convicted of a new crime during the 3-year waiting period, the first conviction is not eligible for shielding unless the new conviction becomes eligible for shielding. Furthermore, a persona may shield only one stand-alone conviction, or one unit of convictions per lifetime - meaning that there are no third or fourth chances.
Opponents of the bill fear that it will prevent employers from obtaining records necessary to evaluate the candidate for employment as some of the shieldable convictions are relevant to making an informed decision about a potential employee. Furthermore, there is a fear that this will delay background checks as a clerk will have to review the file before a disclosure can be made.
The convictions that are eligible for shielding are:
- Disorderly conduct
- Disturbing the peace
- Failure to obey a reasonable and lawful order
- Malicious destruction of property under $500
- Trespass: Posted Property
- Obtaining property or services with bad check under $500
- Misdemeanor theft under $1,000
- Possessing or administering of a controlled dangerous substance
- Use of or possession with intent to use drug paraphernalia
- Driving without a license
- Driving while privilege is canceled, suspended, revoked or refused
- Driving while uninsured