Aggressive Maryland Criminal Attorneys and Domestic Attorneys are frequently confronted with the issue of whether or not Domestic Violence Protective Orders or Peace Orders can be expunged. This is an extremely important question given how readily available court information now is on the internet. Anyone with a computer or even a smart phone can bring up Maryland Judiciary Case Search and find out a person’s entire legal history in seconds. This information is available to potential employers and undoubtedly costs people job opportunities on a daily basis.
That is, of course, unless the person has been able to get the court records expunged. Under the criminal code a person is entitled to have any case expunged that resulted in either a Nolle Prosse, a Dismissal, a Stet or a Not Guilty Verdict also called an Acquittal. There are exceptions to this general rule such as a situation in which a person has a subsequent conviction or has pending charges. In these instances, expungement is typically not permitted even in the case of an acquittal, as unfair as this may seem. But what about a Domestic Violence Protective Order or a Peace Order? Are these civil orders subject to being expunged from a person’s record:
Unfortunately the answer is no. Expungement is available only in criminal cases and only in the limited circumstances that I outlined above. What is available is a process called “Shielding”, but it is also available only in limited circumstances and is not nearly as complete a cleansing of the record as is expungement.
Basically, a person is entitled to have a Domestic Violence Protective Order or Peace Order Shielded if and only if it was denied or dismissed at the interim, temporary or final order stage of the proceedings. This right to Shielding is subject to limitations such as if there are pending criminal charges from the alleged abuse or another order between the parties has previously been issued. Even if neither of these limiting circumstances applies, the order still can be denied if the Petitioner appears and shows “good cause” to the court as to why the order should not be Shielded. Finally even if the order is Shielded, unlike in the case of expungement, the records may still be accessed by certain people including law enforcement officials and victim services providers.
In spite of the limitations in the Shielding Statute, it is still something that should be done by anyone to whom Shielding is available. The most important result of the Shielding process is that if granted, the information will be taken off the Maryland Judiciary Case Search web site. This will make the information unavailable to potential employers and others who may use the information to the disadvantage of the person against whom the order was sought. Needless to say we handle Expungement and Shielding matters regularly and stand ready to offer a free consultation to anyone who wants to inquire about having a Domestic Violence Protective Order or Peace Order Shielded or Criminal Charges Expunged from their record.