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Understanding the process of "Shielding" in Maryland

Being convicted of a crime carries serious consequences. One of these is that any member of the public can look up all of the details of a criminal trial. That is because criminal trials are a matter of public record, both in Maryland and in the rest of the country. However, there is a process in the state which can block certain types of criminal cases from public viewing.

This process is known as shielding and when granted, it basically stops the general public from finding out anything about specific types of criminal cases. However, the process does not prevent law enforcement officials and members of other agencies from seeing this information.

Before filing for shielding, the individual must wait at least three years after they have completed their sentence for the crime they were convicted of, including probation, supervision or parole. Once this time is over, the individual can then petition either a circuit or district court in the state to shield their case(s). That person should also include all of their convictions on one petition. The appropriate filing fee must also be included.

Shielding is not available for all types of criminal convictions. However, it is offered for certain convictions involving drug charges such as possession of controlled dangerous substances and possession of drug paraphernalia. It can also be requested for other convictions such as disorderly conduct and driving without a license. However, it cannot be granted for any domestically related crime or if the individual is currently a defendant in any criminal matter that is pending.

It's important to understand that shielding is not the same as expungement, which is the process of removing a criminal record from court files. However, any Maryland resident who would like to explore the possibility of shielding may want to speak to a criminal defense attorney in order to determine if they are eligible to request this process.

Source: mdcourts.gov, "Shielding criminal records", Accessed Nov. 21, 2015

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