The day you heard that Maryland was decriminalizing marijuana was probably the best day of your life.
“Dude, I’m not moving to Colorado after all,” you told all your friends. But things didn’t quite go as planned. You got stopped by the cops, and they found a small amount of marijuana. No problem, you figured, when they issued you a citation. You paid the ticket and didn’t give it another thought—until you got turned down for that dream job when a potential employer found out about your marijuana citation.
How can something that’s not even a crime in this state make such a mess of your life? Isn’t there some way to make that marijuana citation disappear? Here are the answers to those burning questions — and some more that you’re too high right now to think of.
Do I Have a Record If It’s Not a Crime?
Since 2014, possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana has not been a crime in Maryland. It’s not totally legal either, however. You can be issued a ticket and have to pay a fine of at least $100 — more for subsequent citations. If you pay the fine, you’re pleading guilty. There will be a record of your plea. Even if you didn’t plead guilty, court and police records will still exist. The only way to keep potential employers and others from finding out about your weed ticket — that just sounds cooler than “citation for marijuana,” doesn’t it? — will be to get it expunged.
What is Expungement?
Although the word may sound like it, expungement has nothing to do with either a) your ex, or b) a sponge. Expungement is a process where you ask the court to remove your records from public inspection. If you’ve been charged with certain crimes or with a civil offense in place of a criminal charge, like possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana, you can request that the record of this citation be expunged.
Is Expungement Automatic?
That depends whether you were actually arrested or just stopped and detained by police.
If you were stopped by police and detained without being charged with anything prior to October 1, 2007, there could still be a record of this. You’ll have to request an Investigative Release Form from the arresting agency. If you were detained by police after October 1, 2007, your record was automatically expunged within 60 days.
Note that we were just talking about being detained, not being actually arrested (put down the PS4 and pay attention for a minute—this is important). If you were arrested, it’s a different matter. You’ll have to file a petition for expungement with the court. How long you have to wait to file for expungement can depend on various factors, but remember that the longer that record is publicly available, the more likely it will be seen by somebody you’d rather not have to explain yourself to.
What’s the Best Way to Proceed?
Having a record can affect your livelihood, your ability to get school loans, housing, and other important things like impressing your future mother-in-law, so you don’t want to fool around with this decision. Consult an attorney as soon as possible.