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Many Maryland residents know that a public criminal record can affect one’s ability to attain a better life. Some have been arrested but not charged or arrested and found not guilty. However, the public criminal record remains and with it opportunities are limited.

We know there is a need for expungement services, the process to clean up a public criminal record, as Maryland ranks at the top in Google searches for the word “expungement.” However, the online resources are poor as they are either legalistic, confusing or legally inaccurate.

Advocates for Children and Youth is offering a solution that closes the service and information gap while simplifying the process of determining eligibility through www.ExpungeMaryland.org, a free online tool.

Through a series of simple questions, www.ExpungeMaryland.org can determine eligibility in less than 6 minutes. If the user is eligible, the tool will suggest the next steps for attaining expungement, which will include direct referral to a local, volunteer attorney. The attorney will assist eligible candidates through the filing process. For those individuals who do not qualify for expungement, there is a listing of local non-profits and agencies that provide training, job-placement, and support services to ex-offenders.

The expungement process takes about 90 days; however, within some jurisdictions, like Baltimore City, expungement may take up to eight months. Despite ExpungeMaryland.org being a free service to determine whether an individual’s record is eligible for expungement, the state charges $30 to expunge a single record. However, many people qualify for a fee waiver that makes expungement free.

The online tool, the first of its kind to be offered on a statewide basis, will be available to the general public on July 14, 2014.