Thursday, April 7, 2016

Criminal histories are used to vet individuals who work with the elderly and the disabled.

Comments submitted in opposition to the expungement provisions grafted onto  SB 1005 - Justice Reinvestment Act
Articles recently published in The Daily Record describe SB 1005 as it came out of the Senate as now containing “provisions that would dramatically expand the number of crimes eligible for expungement.”  These provisions would allow the expungement of at least one hundred and thirteen crimes, both felonies and misdemeanors -- three times more if attempted crimes, conspiracy or solicitation for each offense is counted.  Such a dramatic change requires special attention to the public policy implications and wisdom of expungements in general as well as why specific crimes were selected over others and the reasoning behind those choices.   It should be noted that in its consensus report, the Justice Reinvestment Coordinating Council did not recommend expungements.  Accordingly, HB 1312, its cross file, which follows the parameters of the report, passed the House without any expungement provisions.  It is additionally important to know that the State’s Attorney’s Association opposes the expungement provisions on pages 72-74 of SB 1005.

I have attended the Criminal Justice Information Advisory Board for over two decades. Given my knowledge about Criminal Justice Information in Maryland, I am very concerned that these proposed expungements significantly degrade the ability of the state to ensure that Maryland’s criminal history data are accurate and complete. Criminal histories are used to vet individuals who work with the elderly and the disabled.  Children and people with disabilities are extremely vulnerable populations.   Moreover, criminal histories are used to vet those who transport hazardous materials and engage in security work or need government security clearances, etc.   If SB 1005 is enacted with these expungement provisions, screening of individuals for critical positions would be seriously compromised.

Most importantly, expungement provisions in the bill specifically minimize crimes against women and children.  Supporting the expungement of listed crimes would indicate that the General Assembly does not take seriously crimes associated with domestic violence and sexual exploitation and abuse of children. Nor would it show an understanding that child sexual abuse, sexual assault and exploitation and other sexual offenses are often plea bargained down to non-sexual crimes, not just lesser sexual crimes.  This is called charge bargaining.  Charge bargaining obscures the sex offender’s criminal history and makes victims feel that the offender is not made to take responsibility for their crimes.  That is one reason why expunging second degree assaults is so problematic. Second degree assault appears to be the crime of choice for plea bargaining serious sexual crimes against children down to non-sexual crimes to allow the sex offender to avoid registration requirements and jail time.   See the following examples:

A contractor who had molested two girls at a Montgomery County middle school and who had worked in 58 other Montgomery county Schools had been previously convicted of second degree assault after sexually assaulting women.  This individual again “ultimately pleaded guilty to second degree assault “ for sexually abusing children. (, November 2, 2014). He did not have to register as a sex offender or serve any jail time for any of these incidents..

In another Montgomery County case, an elementary school teacher pleaded guilty to four counts of second degree assault after originally being charged with 11 counts of felony sex charges involving very young students. He did not have to register as a sex offender or serve any jail time. ( December 2, 2013).

According to an article in The Baltimore Sun, entitled “Former Towson  High School Teacher Sentenced to probation before Judgement” (March 18),  the teacher, after first being charged with sexual abuse of a minor and three counts of fourth-degree sex offense,  pleaded guilty to second degree assault.  He did not have to register as a sex offender or serve any jail time. To further minimize his crimes, he was given probation before judgment (PBJ). The PBJ allows him under current law to completely expunge his record in approximately three years. The proposed expungement of second degree assault exponentially increase the ability of dangerous individuals like this teacher, to obscure their criminal records when applying for positions of public trust.

Of additional concern is that convictions for domestic violence fall under second degree assaults.  Second degree assault is a crime deemed to be violent on one list of violent crimes in Maryland law.  Why are certain legislators proposing to expunge a violent crime? In addition, SB 1005 would allow expungements for convictions for violations of peace orders and protective orders and other domestic violence related crimes.  This sends a bad message to domestic abusers. Why also are convictions for pimps and brothel owners singled out for expungement?  Should the State favor those who prostitute women and children?  Another example of a conviction to be expunged involves providing drug paraphernalia to minors. Why?  

If the expungement provisions are enacted, the individuals who plea bargained in Montgomery County would be able to obliterate their criminal records and pass the  criminal history information background check as required by state law for those who have access to and/or work with children.  Under present law, their criminal histories would only be obscured.  But, at least the second degree assault conviction would appear on the criminal history record, which allows employers and other officials who are vetting individuals for positions of public trust to try to determine the circumstances surrounding the second degree assault before hiring them to work in public and private schools, juvenile detention centers, camps, recreation programs, child care centers, or before they become adoptive or foster parents etc.  Expungements would give those individuals who have actually sexually abused children free rein to get jobs working with children without anyone having any idea that they had a criminal record which indicates that they pose a danger to this vulnerable population.

It should therefore be incumbent upon legislators to duly consider whether expungements are good public policy or pose a danger to the public, and whether the Justice Reinvestment Act should be used as a vehicle for what is, in reality a separate expungement bill that has been grafted onto it.
E. Mugmon

Please immediately contact Delegate Dumais, who is handling SB 1005/HB 1312 in the House, and ask her to support striking the expungement provisions from the bill. Please  also contact  Speaker Busch and President Miller as well as members of  the Montgomery County House and Senate delegations to ask them to strike the expungement provisions in these bills.  The process is moving quickly.  A conference committee will be appointed momentarily. When members of the conference committee are named, it would be important  to contact them as well.  
Robert A. (Bobby) Zirkin, Chair (D-11) JPR
Phone: (410) 841-3131 | (301) 858-3131
Montgomery County
Susan C. Lee (D-16)
Jamin B. (Jamie) Raskin (D-20)
Phone: (410) 841-3634 | (301) 858-3634

Joseph F. Vallario, Jr. (D-23B) - Chair JUD
Phone: (410) 841-3488

Montgomery County
Kathleen M. Dumais, Vice Chair (D-15)
Phone: (410) 841-3052 |  (301) 858-3052
Marice I. Morales (D-19)
Phone: (410) 841-3528 |  (301) 858-3528
David Moon (D-20)
Phone: (410) 841-3474 | (301) 858-3474
William C. (Will) Smith, Jr. (D-20)
Phone: (410) 841-3493 |  (301) 858-3493


  1. Shouldn't it be a hate crime if anyone exploits/abuses an elderly or disabled person?

  2. "He did not have to register as a sex offender or serve any jail time. . ."
    This is necessary so that background checks are always impeccable.

  3. The lemmings keep on electing
    The same old stale legislature
    And expect by wishful thinking
    That leaders will act mature.


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