Gaithersburg, MD asked in Criminal Law for Maryland

Q: Will having 3 counts (one for each message) of violation of protection order not allow me to practice law?

I plead in 2023 and won't be attending law school until 2027. That was my first time and last ever getting in trouble. It was an overall abusive 7 year relationship from HS until our early 20's; Verbally/emotionally from me and physically from my girlfriend. Only reason I decided to plead is because the public defender told me the prosecutor made a deal for "pre trial before judgement", then when court started they brought out charges that wasn't on my original sheet of charges that were lies, and asked for 18 months probation (6 months per message) as they were considered harrasing (no threats made).

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2 Lawyer Answers
Scott Scherr
Scott Scherr
  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Towson, MD
  • Licensed in Maryland

A: You will need to divulge the convictions on all applications to the bar. The character committee will review your application and there may be an investigation to evaluate your fitness and character. The Committee then makes a recommendation to the Board of Law Examiners which could hold a formal hearing. Thereafter, the Supreme Court of Maryland decides whether you should be admitted.

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Mark Oakley
Mark Oakley
  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Rockville, MD
  • Licensed in Maryland

A: I believe you mean a “probation before judgment” — there is nothing called a “pre-trial before judgment.” If you received a PBJ, then you will be eligible to expunge the record of the offenses from any background check. The date you can file for expungement is three years after your probation ends. However, you can request an early expungement by motion for “good cause shown” and a judge has the discretion to grant it. Use a lawyer if you file early.

The expungement statute is clear: you may answer “no” to any question asking about any offense that was expunged (e.g., never charged, arrested, placed on probation, etc.), including a professional licensing board, that should include the Character Committee reviewing applicants to the Bar:

MD Code, Criminal Procedure, § 10-109. Disclosure of expunged information prohibited

Applications, interviews, or other means.

(a)(1) Disclosure of expunged information about criminal charges in an application, interview, or other means may not be required:

(i) by an employer or educational institution of a person who applies for employment or admission; or

(ii) by a unit, official, or employee of the State or a political subdivision of the State of a person who applies for a license, permit, registration, or governmental service.

(2) A person need not refer to or give information concerning an expunged charge when answering a question concerning:

(i) a criminal charge that did not result in a conviction; or

(ii) a conviction that the Governor pardoned.

(3) Refusal by a person to disclose information about criminal charges that have been expunged may not be the sole reason for:

(i) an employer to discharge or refuse to hire the person; or

(ii) a unit, official, or employee of the State or a political subdivision of the State to deny the person's application.

Fines and penalties for violations

(b)(1) A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject to a fine not exceeding $1,000 or imprisonment not exceeding 1 year or both for each violation.

(2) In addition to the penalties provided in paragraph (1) of this subsection, an official or employee of the State or a political subdivision of the State who is convicted under this section may be removed or dismissed from public service.

I would advise obtaining an advice letter from an experienced attorney—preferably one who also has sat in the Character Committee— at the time that you fill out your application to the Bar. The letter should state that you may properly answer “no” and not reveal any information in response to any questions on the Bar application or from the Character Committee concerning a criminal charge that has been expunged. In the event that they somehow have access to the expunged record (legally I cannot see how than could), and they raise the issue of dishonesty, then you have that advice from counsel letter written by a former Character Committee member as your defense—as well as the above-quoted statute that makes their inquiry into your expunged record a criminal offense of their own.

If there is an exception to the nondisclosure rights regarding expunged offenses before the Character Committee, I am unaware of it. I have not researched this in depth, but if it existed then it should be specified in the above cited statute. However, getting an advice letter from counsel in advance, who will do that research, should put that question to bed.

1 user found this answer helpful

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