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Court case files include important information and documents including testimonies, subpoenas, evidence, and writs. You can expect to find names, residences, and sometimes occupations in addition to other details such as age and a physical description from these valuable records. Edison patent for improvement in electric lights, from the U.

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Patent and Trademark Office Patents, Thomas A. Others think that if a person has interacted with the criminal justice system, he must have done something wrong. Then add race to the mix. Employment is the single most important factor in the rehabilitation of someone with a prison record.

Yet it is far harder to get a job with a prison record — in one influential study published in , having served time for possessing drugs with intent to distribute reduced callbacks for entry-level jobs by 50 percent for white applicants and by 64 percent for blacks.

Other researchers tested the most benign criminal history: a single arrest no conviction for disorderly conduct. That, too, depressed job offers , although to a much lesser extent.

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Having a record affects a credit rating. Federal housing law grants local authorities wide discretion, and many use it to keep people with a single arrest — no convictions — out of public housing or the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program. Update: Last month, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced that such blanket bans were illegal, and that private landlords who use them violate the Fair Housing Act and can be sued or face penalties.

It affects education, too; two-thirds of colleges ask about criminal history in applications. Many professional licenses are closed to people with a criminal record — including those for cosmetologist, plumber and funeral director. In Oklahoma, anyone with two convictions for possessing any amount of marijuana can be barred from working as an interior designer, physical therapist or land surveyor. Maryland is one of a small number of states that puts all criminal records into a database — here called Case Search — that anyone can access free of charge.

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And increasingly, employers do use it. According to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management, 87 percent of managers said they perform background checks on at least some hires up from 51 percent in , and 69 percent used them for all hires. Expunging these records is far from a perfect solution.

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Should I be able to sue someone who discloses my expunged record? Alabama just arrested a blogger for publishing expunged information. So you can legally lie. Jacobs, professor of constitutional law and the courts and director of the Center for Research in Crime and Justice at N.

School of Law. And if records contain mistakes, which they often do — a huge problem with companies that assemble court data to do background checks — people can catch them only if they can see them. Chettiar, the director of the justice program at the Brennan Center for Justice at N.

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Chettiar said that almost all states offer the opportunity for people with nonconvictions or some misdemeanor convictions to expunge or shield them after a waiting period. But the rules are restrictive enough that few people take advantage. For example, before last year, the only convictions Maryland residents could expunge were those for nine misdemeanors related to homelessness, such as panhandling and public urination. The state also had a law called the subsequent conviction rule: no nonconviction could be expunged if the individual had a later conviction, even for a completely unrelated change.

Caryn York, senior policy advocate for the Baltimore-based nonprofit Job Opportunity Task Force, said that the group had been pushing Maryland legislators to expand expungements for more than a decade, with little result until last year. The Maryland Second Chance Act, which went into effect in October, allowed shielding for 12 types of nonviolent misdemeanors, including prostitution and low levels of drug possession. Another law repealed the subsequent conviction rule. And last week, Gov.

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Larry Hogan signed the massive Justice Reinvestment Act, a sweeping criminal justice reform bill, which, among many other things, provides drug treatment instead of jail for addicts. It expands expungement to misdemeanor theft and assault convictions. The move toward expungement and shielding has broad support in Maryland.

Morrissey, chief judge of the district court of Maryland, said in an interview. There is more Maryland could do, especially to remove the noxious effects of nonconvictions.