As the Maryland State Senator for the 45th Legislative District, I understand that there’s a phenomenal amount of work to do in education, crime, transportation, the environment, and many other issues. While we, as legislators, work on some big issues that affect many people, there are many issues that affect smaller populations but are equally as pressing.
This year, I have the honor of championing Senate Bill 687 which would make driving with a suspended license an offense that could be removed from a person’s record. This bill complements our work on the Justice Reinvestment Act (JRA), and our actions a few years ago to make some felony offenses expungable.
Last year, I received a call from a friend, and fellow electrician, about a misdemeanor theft charge from 1993 and a driving with a suspended license charge from 1996. These charges prohibit him from working at certain job sites and from working on major and more profitable projects. He is 55 years old, but these charges linger on his record from when he was in his mid- and late-twenties. Unfortunately, driving with a suspended license is not now an expungable offense and it continues to restrict his livelihood, even after twenty four years. Because that charge from 1996 is not expungable—and was within three years of the 1993 charge—he is not able to get the misdemeanor theft charge (for which he received probation before judgement) expunged.
As legislators, we are focused on the “large issues” such as addressing early childhood learning, concentration of poverty, improving career and college readiness, getting more resources for teachers, and government accountability. And we will continue to tackle issues such as the increase of violent crime in Baltimore and across Maryland. But while we tackle those issues, we should not forget to address arbitrary barriers that hamper the success of our fellow Marylanders.
When my friend asked me for help, I thought about the privilege and honor it is to have the ability to correct an injustice. Although this issue was brought to my attention by one person, there are many more in Maryland who will benefit from decisions we make today that enable them to improve their lives.
— CORY MCCRAY
The writer, a Democrat, is a member of the Maryland State Senate, representing the 45th District, which encompasses Northeast and East Baltimore City. He also serves as the first vice chair of the Maryland Democratic Party.