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Maryland Public Records Laws
Maryland’s Public Information Act grants the residents of the State a broad right of access to appropriate public information and public records. However, both state and federal laws provide exemptions that serve various needs, including the privacy of individuals and legitimate governmental interests.
The Maryland Public Information Act Manual (14th Ed.) (October 2015) is a resource for government officials who wish to meet their responsibilities under the Act, and for members of the public and press looking to access information.
Court Records, Criminal Records, Arrest Records
Public access to case records originating within the District Court and Circuit Courts is available to the public. All of the collected information is a matter of public record that can be inspected and copied by citizens, unless an exception under the law exists. Court records can be located on the Maryland Judiciary Web site. For courthouse locations and contact information, a courts directory is provided. To read the Maryland Access Rule on court records, click here.
Records kept and maintained by the Office of the Clerk of Court for each Maryland County are available to the public, although the records of juvenile or adoption cases may be restricted.
Information on background checks can be found on the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services website. Information gathered and possessed by the Maryland Criminal Justice Information System, Central Repository (CJIS) is maintained on a secure basis, and is not available to the public without proper authorization.
To initiate a background check on an employee, a “Private Party Petition Packet” or General Registration Form must be filled out and forwarded to the CJIS Authorization Administrator. If the petition is approved, a request for a criminal history record on a potential employee can be submitted.
Jail and Inmate Records
Maryland VINE is an innovative, free service provided by the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention, and the Maryland State Board of Victim Services. It provides information to crime victims, victims’ advocates, and other concerned citizens and the information is kept confidential.
The Dept. of Public Safety and Correctional Services provides an inmate locator, to enable members of the public to access the housing location of inmates committed to the custody of the Commissioner of Corrections and currently housed at the Division of Correction facilities. The Locator may not list some short-sentenced inmates who are housed at Division of Pretrial and Detention Services facilities. The locator does not supply information on former detainees who are no longer in custody.
The Division of Vital Records of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene issues certified copies of birth, death, fetal death, marriage certificates, and divorce verifications. It also provides information on procedures to follow for registering an adoption, legitimization, or adjudication of paternity.
Most birth certificates for individuals born after 1939 in Maryland are also available for same-day service (with appropriate identification) at local health departments in all jurisdictions except Montgomery County, Baltimore City, and Baltimore County.
Public access to the estate case records of the State of Maryland Register of Wills is available. This information includes the case number, decedent’s name and date of death, personal representative’s and/or attorney’s name, county of filing, and estate type and status. All information contained in the database originated in the counties where the cases were filed, so the amount of historical data may vary based on when an automated case management system was deployed in that county.
Information on other topics, such as waiving filing fees, e-recording for land records, domestic violence, family law issues, small claims, mediation and ADR, and court language services can be accessed on the Maryland Courts main site.
General information on what is provided on the main Maryland Courts website can be accessed by clicking here.