Posted by Edmund R. Folsom, Esq., June 20, 2017.

1. Adult Records

Maine has no process for expunging criminal records.  As a general rule, once a person is convicted of a crime in Maine, there is no way to shield that conviction from the public other than by securing a governor’s pardon.  This is true no matter how much time has passed or how extraordinarily the person has turned her life around.  There is one exception to this general rule, but it’s a very narrow exception.  Title 15 of the Maine Revised Statutes, §§2251-2258, creates a process to apply for a court to limit dissemination of information related to a criminal conviction.  The process has been in place since October 15, 2015, and it is set for repeal on October 1, 2019. 15 M.R.S. §2259.  It applies only to those who were at least 18 but not yet 21 years old when the crime was committed, and it applies only to Class E crimes, although it does not apply to Class E crimes under 17-A M.R.S., Chapter 11 – Sexual Assaults. 15 M.R.S. §§2251(6), 2252(1),(2).  To be eligible for relief, when a person petitions:  (1) at least 4 years must have passed from the date when the person fully satisfied all sentencing requirements; (2) the person must not have any currently pending criminal charges anywhere; (3) the person must not have any other criminal convictions in Maine or elsewhere; (4) the person must have no adjudication for a Maine juvenile crime in which proceedings were open to the public; and (5) the person must not have had a charge dismissed under a deferred disposition agreement.  15 M.R.S. §2252(3)-(6).

If the person meets all of those qualifications, the person may file a motion asking the court to limit dissemination of criminal history record information about the charge and conviction. 15 M.R.S. §2253.  If the court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that all qualification have in fact been met, it is to issue an order certifying that the person is entitled to limited dissemination of criminal history record information regarding that conviction. 15 M.R.S. §2254(5).  Once such an order issues, the information may only be disseminated to the convicted person or that person’s designee and to criminal justice agencies (police, prosecutors and the like).  15 M.R.S. §2255.   If the person is asked about criminal charges or convictions by anyone other than a member of a criminal justice agency, the person may refuse to disclose information about the charge without being subject to sanction. 15 M.R.S. §2265.  If the person is later convicted of a new crime, anywhere, the subsequent conviction extinguishes all protections against dissemination. 15 M.R.S. §2257.  So, what types of crimes and convictions might be covered by this process?  A conviction for theft of something worth $500.00 or less, operating after license suspension, operating without a driver’s license, operating beyond license restriction, or disorderly conduct are all Class E crimes that might qualify.  But, barring a governor’s pardon, anyone who is age 21 or over at the time of offense, or anyone whose conviction is for a Class A, B, C, or D crime, or anyone with more than 1 Class E conviction, is simply out of luck.

2. Juvenile Records

Records of juvenile crimes are confidential if they involve an adjudication of what would be a Class E crime for an adult.  They are also confidential if they involve what would be a Class D crime for an adult, as long as the juvenile was not previously adjudicated of a Class D or higher crime.  Otherwise, in matters involving what would be a Class A, B, or C crime, or a Class D crime if the juvenile has a prior adjudication for a Class D or higher crime, proceedings are open to the public and records are not confidential. 15 M.R.S. §3308(2).  This means that a great deal of information about juvenile proceedings and adjudications is open to the public.  Anyone who wants to read more on this topic should read the recent report, “Unsealed Fate:  The Unintended Consequences of Inadequate Safeguarding of Juvenile Records in Maine,” from U.S.M.’s Muskie School of Public Service.  Any person who is adjudicated of a juvenile crime can honestly deny that he was “convicted” of the offense involved, because a person who is “adjudicated” of a juvenile crime is not “convicted” of it, but public records of a juvenile adjudication are still public.

There is a statutory procedure available for sealing juvenile records.  When juvenile records are sealed, the person is allowed to respond to inquiries by agencies other than courts and criminal justice agencies as if the juvenile crimes never occurred. 15 M.R.S. §3308(8)(D).  To have juvenile records sealed, a person must petition the court “to seal from public inspection all records pertaining to the juvenile crime and its disposition, and to any prior juvenile records and their dispositions.” 15 M.R.S. §3308(8)(A).  A person can only qualify to have juvenile records sealed if:  (1) at least 3 years have passed since the person was discharged from whatever disposition was ordered for the juvenile crime; (2) the person has not been adjudicated of another juvenile crime or convicted of an adult crime since the date of the juvenile disposition; and (3) there are no juvenile or criminal proceedings pending against the person. 15 M.R.S. §3308(8)(A)(1)-(3).  The court is not required to grant the petition, but it  may grant the petition if it finds that the above three requirements have been met.  15 M.R.S. §3308(8)(B).  The court is not allowed to grant a petition if it finds that the public’s right to the information substantially outweighs the juvenile’s privacy interests. Id.  Otherwise, the matter is entirely in the court’s discretion.  If the court denies the petition, there is no statutory right to appeal.  As the report from the Muskie Institute, linked above, points out, not many people petition to seal their juvenile records, and courts can be fairly stingy about granting relief when people do petition.  If the court does order juvenile records sealed, access to the records is limited to criminal justice agencies, the person whose records are sealed and that person’s designee.

That’s all there is in Maine, aside from a governor’s pardon.  Other states have processes for expunging and sealing records that simply do not exist here.  If you are convicted of a crime in Maine, as a rule, you are stuck with it for life.  What you do at 22 (or maybe at 15), you will still have to answer for at 80.

Disclaimer:  This post is does not constitute legal advice and is not to be taken as legal advice.  It is  informational only.