Maryland is one of the most open states for the public to access information. The Maryland Public Information Act allows the public access to criminal and court records and classified such records as public records.
Records can be accessed at local courts and police departments or by mail.
The central repository for records is the Maryland State Police Central Records Division. It receives all crime reports and regularly publishes statistics and information about the records it receives. This includes the Preliminary Uniform Crime Report and the Maryland Uniform Crime Report. Accident reports and investigative reports can be obtained through the central records division with a request under the Public Information Act.
A Criminal History Record Check (CHRC) is also available in Maryland through the Department of Public Safety and Correction. There are forms that must be filled out and fingerprints must be filed electronically. Certain authorized agencies are allowed to perform checks for free and all others must be approved first. The fees vary according to the type of check performed and range from $18 to $31.25 per check.
What is a criminal record?
A criminal record is an official document detailing a person’s criminal convictions, pending criminal cases, prior arrests, and other interactions with law enforcement agencies. Additional names for a criminal record include criminal history record, rap sheet, and a police record.
As with marriage records and court records, criminal records are generally public records in the United States and can be accessed through a criminal background check. However, public access to specific criminal record information varies from state to state.
In the State of Maryland, criminal records are available through the Maryland State Police Central Records Division and the Department of Public Safety and Correction with a formal request under the Public Information Act.
What is included in a Maryland criminal record?
As criminal records are kept by law enforcement agencies at all levels of government in the United States, a Maryland criminal record may vary in format and content depending on the law enforcement database from which it is accessed.
Generally, a Maryland criminal record will include the following information:
- A person’s full name and possible aliases
- Personal information such as age, date of birth, sex, ethnicity, height, weight, and other physical characteristics
- Fingerprints and mugshot
- Misdemeanor criminal offenses and convictions
- Felony criminal offenses and convictions
- Traffic records
- Past and outstanding arrest warrants
- Prior arrests
- Pending and dismissed charges
Why would someone access a criminal record?
There are a number of professions and trades that require a background check for licensing including nursing, child care, elder care, child care volunteers, and those volunteering in the Maryland Mentor Program. Other trades, such as plumbers, contractors, and others who may be going into people’s homes also may require background checkers to gain a license.
Attorneys sometimes want background checks when they represent clients and some prosecutors ask for them in order to recommend a sentence in a later crime. Background checks are also required for those seeking to be foster parents or to proceed with an adoption.
What’s the difference between an infraction, misdemeanor, and felony?
When you access a criminal record, the person listed on the record may have an offense listed. Criminal offenses are usually broken into three categories: Infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies.
An infraction is a minor violation, a misdemeanor is more serious, and a felony is the most serious type of crime.
To better understand the information listed on a criminal record, here’s a quick overview of each offense and its severity:
- Infraction: A small traffic violation or littering are considered infractions. An infraction is a minor violation of the law. Usually, punishments are a warning or a fine. Typically, no jail time is associated with an infraction.
- Misdemeanor: If someone were to get a DUI or a drug violation, it’s considered a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor is more serious than an infraction but less severe than a felony. Jail time of less than a year or probation are usually associated with these types of crimes. Likely, the offender will do time in a local or county jail.
- Felony: Murder, rape, and arson are considered felony charges. A felony is the most serious type of crime. Offenders are typically sentenced to jail for more than a year and are likely held in a state or federal facility.
What is the difference between a Maryland arrest record and a Maryland criminal record?
An arrest record is an official document including the details of a specific arrest. A criminal record is a more comprehensive document that includes a person’s entire criminal background known to law enforcement agencies.
Both types of documents are usually public records in the United States, although information about specific arrests may be sealed and rendered inaccessible to the public for a variety of reasons.
Whether an arrest record or a criminal record is accessed, the information listed is for state crimes only. If a person is involved in a federal crime, this information is not listed on a state record.
How do I search for a Maryland criminal record?
This is where it gets a little tricky in the State of Maryland. How you search for a criminal record depends on why you are searching. There are pages for offenders’ families to search for incarceration information, victims to search for updates in cases and incarceration, people to do background checks on themselves, and the public to ask for information under the Public Information Act.
How do I obtain a physical copy of a Maryland criminal record?
For the public, this would involve sending a request for information to the specific agency holding the information. However, those needing information from more than one agency should call the Communication Office at 410-339-5081 to find out which agency should get the request first or how to send one to all agencies involved. The letter must be specific, with start and ending time periods and identifying which documents are being sought. There are some documents that are exempt from the law. Those would include documents falling under attorney-client privilege and some court information sealed.
Those who were incarcerated who need records, including medical records, from the correctional facility need to contact the institution where they were held to make that request. The phone number for the Case Management Office for Operations is 410-585-3300 for those who need help reaching a facility.
Those looking for specific cases from local courts, police, or local jails must contact those institutions separately as they don’t fall under the state department.
Those seeking criminal background checks have two options.
- Those living with the state must fill out a fingerprint form and go to any licensed fingerprint service and get a copy of prints. The state will provide a background check for the entire state, but those seeking to add an FBI check must contact the FBI separately.
- Those living outside the state must request the information by mail by writing the Criminal Justice Information System, Central Repository, P.O. Box 32708, Pikesville, Maryland 21282-2708. Another option is to make the request by calling the Criminal Justice Information System, Central Repository in Baltimore toll-free 1-888-795-0011. Either way, those requesting information on themselves will need to send in a fingerprint card and pay the fee by check made out to the CJIS Central Repository.
How do I search for Maryland criminal case court records?
A search for criminal court records must be done through the local court where the case was heard. There is an online search to begin the journey. The Maryland Judicial Court provides for online searches of cases in district and circuit courts. People wanting to see civil judgments must subscribe to the service.
Does Maryland allow criminal records to be sealed or expunged?
Yes, Maryland allows for both. Unlike other states, Maryland notes a difference in sealing, or what it calls shielding, and expungement. Shielding hides the record from public view while expungement gets rid of it altogether.
There are two types of expungement. One is to expunge a case that has been acquitted, dismissed, or that has probation before judgment or a nolle prosequi or where someone isn’t criminally responsible. There is no fee to expunge these cases.
The other is to expunge a case where there is a guilty verdict. There is a $30 fee in that case and it is non-refundable, even if the request is denied. Typically, it takes 90 days for a case to be sealed or expunged in Maryland.
How can I have false information on a Maryland criminal record corrected?
- The first thing to do is to get a copy of the criminal background report.
- Then, those who want to flag false information for removal must contact the local court and police department involved and present them with evidence showing the information is false.
- There are some forms to fill out and a written request must be made, but courts and the police department will correct the information after an investigation.
How long are Maryland criminal records kept on file?
Maryland has different time periods for the variety of records it has before they are destroyed or moved into archives. Most of the criminal records are archived since they remain on a person’s record for life, but there could be exemptions.