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Bill proposes prohibiting expungement fees for charges vacated due to consent decree

As parties work to finalize a consent decree between the U.S. Department of Justice, Baltimore Police Department and the city, a Maryland lawmaker has proposed legislation to waive any costs associated with expunging criminal charges vacated as a result of the decree.

House Bill 357, sponsored by Del. Frank M. Conaway Jr., D-Baltimore City, would prohibit charging any fee or cost in connection with an expungement if the underlying charge or disposition was “vacated as a result of the consent decree relating to police reform.”

It’s unclear what the practical effect of Conaway’s proposed legislation would be as experts indicate the decree as written will not have a significant impact on individual criminal cases.

The consent decree, announced Jan. 16, proposed sweeping reforms for the Baltimore Police Department and was filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore where Judge James K. Bredar must sign off for it to go into effect.

Bredar scheduled a hearing for Wednesday to address some of his questions about the lengthy document, which deals with how police interact with the public and conduct investigations and sets forth documentation and review processes.

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