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Maryland Public Records

Finding public records can feel overwhelming at times. As you start digging, you may find that some records are harder to track down because they’re kept by different government departments. In other cases, the records may not be available at all. 

Fortunately, some states make it easier than others to find public records, and Maryland is one of those states. The Maryland Public Information Act helps ensure that the public has access to a number of records via government bodies at all levels. 

To assist you in tracking down criminal, court, inmate and vital records on file in Maryland, we’ve put together this easy-to-use guide. 

What does the Maryland public records law say?

According to the Maryland Attorney General’s office, people have a broad right to access public records under the Maryland Public Information Act, although the state does impose some limits to protect legitimate governmental interests and individual privacies.

The state has 30 days to respond to a request for record. If a request is denied, there is an appeals process. The appeal can be heard by a mediator or a court. 

The state does charge for copies of records, but the fees are reasonable. 

To learn more about the state’s public records law, visit Maryland.gov.

How can a person access public records in Maryland?

There are a number of ways to access public records in the state of Maryland and most can be done online to some degree with certifications sent via mail. 

Although records are provided through a variety of different government organizations, with some guidance, you’ll be able to get information on criminal, court, inmate and vital records with minimal effort thanks to technology and the shift to online databases.

If you decide to request records in person, it can be done. However, some government offices have new hours in place due to COVID-19. 

If you visit an office to request records, you’ll be asked to fill out a records request. This form asks for details about the record, names associated with it, and dates associated with it. You’ll also need to provide your contact information so the records can be sent to you. 

Maryland criminal records

It’s common for employers or landlords to do background checks on applicants. 

If you’re a private employer interested in initiating a background check on a potential employee, you’ll need to fill out a “Private Party Petition Packet” and submit it to the CJIS Authorization Administrator. 

If you work for an agency providing adult dependent care, child care, criminal justice, government employment/licensing or public housing, you must use the Application to Receive Criminal History Record Information for Employment or Licensing Purposes instead.

Individuals who live in Maryland can go to any of the authorized fingerprinting services locations. The person whose criminal history will be checked will need to bring the fingerprint card supplied by the employer or licensing agency and/or have the employer’s or licensing agency’s authorization number. 

What’s on a criminal record?

A criminal record—sometimes called a “rap sheet”—contains a collection of information collected from various departments and organizations, including police departments, sheriff’s offices, the courts and correctional facilities in the state. 

In Maryland, this official document can vary, but most will include:

  • Full name
  • Date of birth
  • Photo or mugshot
  • Details of past arrests
  • Fingerprints
  • Physical descriptions (eye color, hair color, tattoo, moles, etc.)
  • Pending charges (if applicable)

Where can a person find Maryland criminal records?

Unfortunately, all information in the Criminal justice Information System Central Repository is not available to the public without proper authorization.

Individuals can obtain criminal records through a variety sources in the state: the courts, police departments and, in the case of sex offenders, the Maryland Sex Offender Registry.

For court records, start with the Maryland Judiciary Case Search site and search by the defendant’s name. Criminal records include felony and certain misdemeanor charges filed by the Grand Jury or the State’s Attorney, as well as appeals from the District Court and requests for jury trials. 

Depending on the county, some of the criminal records go back as far as 1979. Records can remain on the site indefinitely and are only removed for expungements or other court-ordered reasons. Once you find a case, you can obtain additional information from the courthouse where the case record is on file.

You can also check your county corrections website, as some, like dataMontgomery, provide the public with arrest information compiled by “CRIMS,” a jail records-management system used by Montgomery County Corrections and many other law enforcement agencies. Although all arrested persons are presumed innocent until proven guilty by a court of law, you may get some insight into a potential criminal activity. The CRIMs dataset includes the person’s first, middle and last name, age, city and home address down to the 100 block.

Maryland inmate records

Maryland’s Department of Public Safety & Correctional Services operates 19 institutions, including several pretrial facilities. 

What’s on an inmate record?

Maryland law allows the sharing of information regarding whether someone is in custody, as well as their commitment number and mailing address while in custody.

With nothing more than a first and last name, you can get matching results that show inmates’ birthdays, DOC IDs, holding facilities and SIDs. The SID can be used for inmate funds transactions.

Where can a person find Maryland inmate records?

Maryland’s Inmate Locator provides information on the housing location of inmates committed to the custody of the Commissioner of Correction. Although information is not available on everyone in the custody of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, it does share data on most of the offenders housed at:

Inmates who aren’t in custody anymore are not listed. 

Maryland court records

Although some records—such as adoption cases and juvenile cases—are exempt from the Maryland Public Information Act, anyone can request court records in the state. 

The state provides detailed case information for all Maryland Circuit and District Court Case Management Systems. Criminal cases are included in the records.

What’s on a court record?

An online search through the state’s case search site provides the same information provided through court clerks’ offices, including:

  • Names of parties
  • City and state
  • Case number
  • Date of birth
  • Trial date
  • Charge
  • Case disposition

Where can a person find Maryland court records?

Additional information on a specific case can be obtained at the courthouse where the case record is on file. You need to speak with the clerk of court. Although the clerk’s office can’t accept telephone requests, you can put your request in writing. Not sure where to start? The Maryland courts are divided up as follows:

  • Appellate Courts: These are divided into 7 circuits. 
  • Circuit Courts: These are divided into 8 circuits.
  • District Court: There are 34 locations.
  • Orphans’ Court: There is one in each of the 23 counties and Baltimore City.

Maryland vital records

Maryland’s Division of Vital Records issues certified copies of birth, death, fetal death, marriage and divorce. Marriage certificates are available from 2007 to present and divorce verifications are provided for 1992 to present. 

What information is needed to request a vital record?

Before you get started, visit the Maryland Department of Health’s website. There you can review who can apply to request the certificate and then scroll down to review the mail-in application to determine what information you’ll need for that particular record (even if you order online).

Where can a person find Maryland vital records?

To access vital records, you’ll need to go through the Division of Vital Records, which is part of the Maryland Department of Health. Although the lobby is currently closed to walk-in customers due to COVID-19, you can use VitalCheck to search and order vital records, which include birth records, marriage records, divorce records, and death records.

Not all vital records are available to the public. Some certificates are only available to members of the person’s immediate family. You may be required to supply additional information to obtain a record. If this is the case, the issuing agency may request that you fill out an Identity Verification Document. Be prepared to supply the following:

  • Documentation proving your relationship to the person whose record you are seeking
  • Current state- or government-issued photo ID
  • A notarized sworn statement of identity and/or acknowledgement

These items can be scanned and uploaded.

Frequently asked questions about Maryland records

People searching for public records in Maryland may still have some unanswered questions. This list of frequently asked questions may be helpful:

Can a request be submitted by non-residents of the state?

Maryland records are accessible to anyone, being a citizen of the state or of the United States isn’t a requirement. 

Some records are limited by the requestor’s relationship with the person of record, like marriage licenses or death certificates. There are instances in which you may be able to appeal and/or seek legal representation to obtain records. 

Is there a records custodian in Maryland?

Yes. The Maryland Attorney General’s website provides a detailed list of Public Information Act representatives.

What exemptions exist?

The Department of Public Safety & Correctional Services lists several exemptions to the Public Information Act. These include some inmate case records, personnel and medical records, financial information, records containing attorney-client advice and attorney work product, investigatory records, and inter- and intra-agency memoranda and letters, among others.

How long does the state have to respond?

According to the Maryland Public Records Guide, the state government agency has 30 days to respond, although agencies are expected to produce the records in a timely manner whenever possible. 

Is there an appeals process?

The state law says appeals can be made to the court, a mediator, or a board.

Are land records public?

Yes. The Maryland State Archives has records accessible online.

What fees are associated with requesting public records?

Depending on the agency supplying the record, fees can vary. Vital records are currently $10 for birth and death certificates and $12 for marriage and divorce certificates. Although agencies are allowed to charge “reasonable fees” to cover their costs, fee waivers are available when the record is of public interest.

  • Updated October 19, 2020
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