A Montgomery County’s man failure to satisfy the terms of his probation has doomed his attempt to get his conviction for theft expunged.
“[B]ecause appellant violated the terms of his probation for his theft conviction, and his probation was closed unsatisfactorily, he did not satisfy the sentence imposed for the conviction for which expungement was requested, as required for eligibility under [the Maryland expungement statute],” the Court of Special Appeals said.
As a result, the circuit court’s denial of the man’s petition for expungement was proper, the appeals court held.
On appeal, Abhishek I. challenged the ruling by the Circuit Court for Montgomery County denying his petition for expungement of his 2008 theft conviction.
Expungement is the removal of a court record or a police record from the public record.
He pleaded guilty in August 2008 to theft of property with a value under $500. The court sentenced him to one year of jail time, suspended, with one year of supervised probation.
Several months later, he was charged with violating the conditions of his probation to obey all laws and not illegally possess any controlled dangerous substance. He pleaded guilty to that violation. The court sentenced him to four days’ jail time and closed the probation as “unsatisfactory.”
Petition for expungement denied
Several years later, in December 2020, the man filed a petition for expungement of the theft conviction.
The General Assembly enacted the Justice Reinvestment Act in 2016 which significantly expanded the criminal convictions eligible for expungement. Theft was included in that change to the law. However, the conviction carries a 10-year waiting period. A petition for expungement can not be filed until 10 years after the person has satisfied the sentence imposed for the conviction, including parole, probation, or mandatory supervision.
The State challenged the man’s petition. Prosecutors argued that because the petitioner’s probation had been closed unsatisfactorily, the conviction was not eligible for expungement.
The trial court denied the petition. It said that in order for the petitioner to be entitled to expungement, he had to satisfy his sentence, including probation. That meant he needed to complete his probation without violating it – which he had not done.
The petitioner appealed the court’s decision.
He argued that the trial court made a mistake when it denied his petition for expungement on the ground that he had not satisfied his sentence. The State disagreed, contending that the court had properly denied appellant’s petition for expungement. Noting that the man had violated his probation, which caused his case to be closed “unsatisfactorily,” the State asserted that the man had not satisfied his sentence. As a result, the state argued, the 10-year clock had not begun and and could not begin and he was not entitled to expungement.
The Court of Special Appeals agreed with the circuit court. The court observed that the parties disagreed on the meaning of the requirement that appellant “satisfy” the sentences imposed, including probation. The petitioner contended that he satisfied the sentence imposed for violating his probation, which was four days. The petitioner asserted that “one may satisfy one’s probation without completing it as long as the sentence imposed for violating the probation is satisfied.”
On the other hand, the State contended that, because the petitioner violated his probation, which resulted in his case being closed “unsatisfactorily,” he had not satisfied his probation.
The court agreed with the State. The appeals court said, “Although he may have satisfied his four-day sentence for the violation of probation, he did not “satisfy” his original sentence of one year of supervised probation. He did not fulfill or comply with the conditions of probation. Rather, within months, appellant violated the terms of his probation, which resulted in the court imposing the four-day sentence and closing his probation unsatisfactorily.”
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