Contact Us 301-705-5137

Can I Get a Federal Criminal Arrest Expunged?

In the United States there are separate federal and state criminal justice systems. This means that certain rules followed by one may not be applicable to the other. For example, while there are fairly detailed procedures in place in the State of Maryland to expunge certain records of a criminal arrest, these same rules do not apply to any arrests at the federal level.

What is Expungement?

Expungement refers to the removal of records from public inspection. Maryland law authorizes the expungement of police and court records in certain cases. In general, you can ask a Maryland court to expunge your arrest if it did not lead to a conviction. That is to say, you were found not guilty or the prosecution simply declined to press charges. There is a waiting period that applies before you can apply for expungement, which in Maryland is generally three years.

If the court grants expungement, the police and the judicial system must no longer allow the public to view any records related to the expunged arrest. You can also lawfully refuse to disclose the expunged arrest when asked about your criminal history by an employer or educational institution. However, you may still be required to disclose certain information when required by a legal authority outside the State of Maryland.

Federal Expungement

As noted above, expungement is often helpful to job applicants who do not wish to disclose a prior arrest that did not result in a conviction. But other states–and notably the federal government–do not necessarily follow the same expungement rules as Maryland.

Take this recent decision from a federal judge. A Maryland resident filed a petition to expunge a 15-year-old federal arrest for marijuana possession. The petitioner said he wanted to apply for a job with the Border Patrol and did not wish to disclose the old arrest.

Unfortunately, the judge said there was no legal basis to grant an expungement. Unlike Maryland, there is no federal statute that broadly provides for expungement. Nor do federal judges have any inherent power to grant them. There are a few limited exceptions, such as for first-time offenders arrested for misdemeanor drug possession by persons under the age of 21. But that exception did not apply here.

Expungements vs. Pardons

A pardon is an act of clemency granted by either the President of the United States (for federal crimes) or the Governor of Maryland (for state crimes). Pardons are typically granted to persons who have already been convicted of a crime. The pardon absolves the recipient’s guilt and exempts them from any further punishment.

In and of itself, a pardon does expunge the underlying record of the recipient’s arrest. Maryland law does permit an individual to apply for expungement within 10 years of the governor signing the pardon. A presidential pardon for federal crimes, however, does not grant the recipient any special right to seek expungement; the legal record of their original arrest remains a matter of public record.

Speak With a Southern Maryland Criminal Defense Lawyer Today

This article has been provided by the Law office of Robert Castro. For more information or questions contact our office to speak to an experienced lawyer at (301) 705-5137.