Begin Again Act May Expand Expungement Opportunities In Maryland

September 06, 2023

Maryland Representative Glenn Ivey has sponsored a bill called the Begin Again Act. This Act would expand the eligibility requirements for individuals seeking expungement for first-time drug offenses. 

The Act

According to the Begin Again Act, it would no longer include the age requirement. This Act would allow judges to drop charges and give individuals of any age a second chance when charged with minor possession offenses. This change could help employers and first-time offenders, as it increases the pool of potential employees. 

The current law only allows the expungement of simple possession offenses for defendants who committed the crime when under 21 years old. In addition, they must not have past convictions for drug offenses at the state or federal level to receive expungement. Representative Ivey stated that the war on drugs over the last 30 to 40 years proved overly aggressive. 

Those opposing the Begin Again Act believe it could increase the likelihood of repeat offenders. They also claimed it would create a system soft on crime, encouraging offenders to continue. Currently, the state law could sentence first-time offenders six to 18 months in jail.

The Proposed Effect

Rep. Glenn Ivey explained that the Begin Again Act is a critical step toward fully helping individuals rejoin their communities. In addition, he claimed that offering people a second chance after making mistakes can lead to a more productive populace. It also returns the individuals’ dignity and ensures housing and job opportunities. Furthermore, Rep. Ivey encouraged the legal system to reward those who make amends for past mistakes. 

This belief inspired the Begin Again Act, which he believes will help these people move forward. Despite the opposition, it has received bipartisan support. Rep. Nathaniel Moran also supports this Act and shared his experience with the current drug laws. When he owned a staffing agency, he frequently saw qualified candidates disqualified from potential job opportunities due to minor, non-violent drug possession charges. 

According to Rep. Moran, many Americans have struggled to find work or housing opportunities because of such charges. This one poor decision has limited their ability to build better futures for their families and themselves. As such, he hopes the Begin Again Act will provide these missed opportunities to first-time offenders with non-violent, low-level drug offenses.

Employers should prepare in case the legislation passes by reviewing their hiring policies. One step to ensure compliance is checking if their process considers only criminal offenses related to the open position. Working with a trustworthy background screening company can help the company review and stay compliant with this and other relevant employment regulations.

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