Maryland Court Records Search
Maryland court records are official documents, case information, docket entries, exhibits, court proceedings recordings, and other case attachments. These records are created and managed by court clerks and made available to the public upon request unless exempted by law.
By allowing court records search, the Maryland judiciary facilitates transparency and accountability and protects the legal rights of individuals in a court proceeding. Interested persons can get records from the courthouse by visiting the court clerk's office or sending a request via mail. Maryland's court directory has every location and contact information of all the courts in the state. The directory is helpful for researchers who want to request case information in person. Researchers can also access some court records online.
Are Maryland Court Records Public?
The Maryland Public Information Act (PIA) stipulates that the general public can access court records in the State of Maryland. The Act was enacted in 1970 and had purposes similar to the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The PIA seeks to protect the citizens' privacy rights and legitimate governmental interests while granting public access to public records. In the State of Maryland, court records are considered to be public records and include documents, exhibits, and other information maintained by courts for cases held there.
However, access to certain court records and documents is restricted and can only be granted if a court order or a provision of the law permits it. Under certain situations, the parties involved in a case may request that the court keep their court records out of the public domain. An example is the expungement of records, where information about a court case is removed from courts and law enforcement agencies' records.
How Do I Find Court Records in Maryland?
When trying to obtain court records in the State of Maryland, the first step is to send a request to the courthouse where the records are stored. Keeping the records of a court case in Maryland is the responsibility of the court clerk's office in the courthouse where the case was heard. Requests for court records may be made in person or via electronic means. Requesters who wish to obtain court records in person may visit the Office of the Clerk of the Court where the case was filed.
Maryland Court Records Public Access
Maryland court records may be viewed or copied by anyone in person at the clerk's office unless otherwise restricted by the law. To view these records, the requester may provide the clerk with the case number of the recorded case in question. If the case number is not available, the clerk may search for the case file with the name of the parties involved in the case as provided. Viewing court records is free of charge.
The requester may be charged a "reasonable fee" by the court clerk to obtain copies of court records or documents. Note, however, that the clerk may not charge any fee if it takes less than two hours to find the requested records. A full list of the state courts and their contact information is provided in the Court Directory on the Maryland State Courts website.
Requesters may access court records remotely using the Maryland Judiciary Case Search tool. The Judiciary Case Search tool was implemented in 2006 to provide remote access to information commonly requested at clerks' offices. Case information that may be accessed via the Case Search includes party name(s), case number, city and state of parties, case charge, trial date, and case disposition.
Court records available via the Case Search include traffic, criminal and civil cases from the Maryland District Court and Maryland Circuit Courts. Petitions, appeals, attorney grievances, and judicial disability cases from the Maryland Court of Appeals are also accessible. It also provides access to appeals and applications (for leave to appeal) and miscellaneous cases from the Court of Special Appeals. However, protection by the Maryland Rules on Access to Court Records prohibits certain cases from being accessed via the Case Search.
Alternatively, requesters may visit the Maryland Electronic Courts (MDEC) to view or file case documents. The MDEC is a statewide Case Management System. It is only required for use by attorneys and not the public. However, members of the public may be granted access to the MDEC if certain conditions are met. MDEC kiosks may also be established by courts for the public to view court records.
How to Conduct a Maryland Court Record Search by Name
To conduct a court record search by name, visit the clerk's office in the court where the case was filed. Since court records are public, anyone can request case information at the courthouse. The court clerk would ask for the name of the parties and the case number. While viewing court records may be free, requesting copies isn't. The court, however, charges a fee for copies made according to the District of Maryland Fee Schedule.
Researchers may also conduct a name-based record search on the Maryland Judiciary Case Search website. In addition to the parties' names, searchers can use case numbers, location of the court, city/county, charges, trial date, and case disposition status to find court records. Requesters can expect to find court records on civil and criminal cases, from simple traffic offenses to felonies. Case information from the Court of Appeals is available to the public. However, certain cases may be sealed and exempt from online searches to protect individuals involved (for example, juvenile records).
How to Get Court Records Online for Free
The Maryland Court Case Search website is free to use. There are no geographical limitations, and interested persons may look up court records from any state in the US. Researchers can also use third-party sites for court records search. Third-party sites are independent sites and not sponsored by the government. As such, search results may differ from official government sources. Meanwhile, a low-cost option for accessing cost records online is using PACER (Public Access To Electronic Records) for $0.10 per page and a maximum fee of $3 per document.
Considered open to citizens of the United States, court records are available through both traditional, government sources, and through third-party websites and organizations. In many cases, third-party websites make the search easier as they are not limited geographically or by technological limitations. They are considered a good place to start when looking for a specific record or multiple records. In order to gain access to these records, interested parties must typically provide:
- The name of the person listed in the record. Juveniles are typically exempt from this search method.
- The last known or assumed location of the person listed in the record. This includes cities, counties, and states.
While third-party sites offer such services, they are not government sponsored entities, and record availability may vary on these sites when compared to government sources.
Types of Courts in Maryland
The judicial system in Maryland is in four tiers: two levels of appellate courts and two levels of trial courts. The Court of Special Appeals and the Court of Appeals are the state's appellate courts. Likewise, the District Court and Circuit Court of Maryland are the two trial courts within the state.
- The Circuit Court addresses the most severe criminal and civil cases, including cases related to minor offenders(juveniles), domestic violence, divorce, child custody, child support, and adoption. The Circuit Court also receives appeals from the District Court and lower courts, and administrative agencies. Every county in Maryland has a Circuit Court.
- The District Courts equally try criminal and civil offenders. But unlike the Circuit Court, there are no juries; a judge hears all cases. In total, there are 33 District Courts in Maryland.
- The Maryland Court of Appeals is the highest in the state; it is the state's Supreme Court. The court reviews the judgment of lower courts. Parties appealing to the Supreme Court must file a 'petition for writ of certiorari.' It reviews high-priority cases involving decisions based on the constitutional interpretation of the law.
- The Court of Special Appeals is an intermediate appellate court. It reviews appeals made in Circuit Court or Orphans' Court. Interestingly, the court was created in 1966 to reduce the workload of the Supreme Court and to ensure the resolution of cases requiring appellate reviews. The Court of Special Appeals has the jurisdiction to review and upturn decisions of Circuit Courts except in Criminal Cases punishable with the death penalty.
Apart from the generally known types of courts, they are other Judicial bodies in Maryland. They include the Orphans Court, Office of Administrative Hearings, and Federal Courts.
What are Maryland Judgment Records?
Maryland judgment records are court documents containing information about a court's determination of a matter in its jurisdiction. A judgment is the court's declaration of an individual's rights and the appropriate remedy for infringing on those rights. It may also order a litigant to perform certain responsibilities or penalties. This judgment becomes binding when the court clerk enters it into the court's record.
The Maryland Public Information Act makes judgment records available to interested persons. Generally, obtaining a judgment record involves visiting the clerk's office in person during regular business hours. There, the individual must submit a request to view the court document - courts have standard request forms for this purpose.
Upon receiving the request, the administrative staff shall search court archives and retrieve the requested document. Then, the staff shall make regular copies of the judgment record unless the requester requests explicitly certified copies. Either way, the individual must have the necessary details to facilitate a search, e.g., the case number and litigants' names, and pay the associated fees. Cash, money order, certified check, and credit cards are acceptable payment methods.
Persons who obtain Maryland judgment records can expect to see the litigants' names, the judge's name, and judgment date. In addition, judgment records contain the specific claims of the parties involved (civil cases) or the charges against the defendant (criminal cases), as well as the issued judgment in the case of interest.
What are Maryland Bankruptcy Records?
Maryland Bankruptcy Records contain a collection of financial records of individuals, businesses, and corporations that have filed for bankruptcy due to their inability to pay their debts. These records are made public. Due to the long-term financial and legal ramifications of initiating bankruptcy proceedings, petitioners are encouraged to retain the services of an attorney. However, such a person may choose to proceed without the assistance of a lawyer. Employees of the United States Bankruptcy Court are prohibited from recommending or referring petitioners to attorneys. Additionally, they are prohibited from providing legal advice, such as completing bankruptcy forms for a process. Numerous legal aid programs in Maryland give low- or no-cost legal assistance to parties that cannot afford an attorney.
According to Maryland's public information statute, interested and eligible members of the public may view or copy records of bankruptcy proceedings as well as related recordings. Bankruptcy records, Maryland liens, contracts, writs, and judgments can be obtained by querying the record custodian in the judicial district where the case was originally filed.
How to Find Bankruptcy Records in Maryland
Bankruptcy records in Maryland are public. To find bankruptcy records in Maryland, the first step is to determine if the Southern (Greenbelt) District or Northern (Baltimore) District holds jurisdiction over the bankruptcy case. Then, the searcher may go to the clerk's office at the physical location to find the records they seek. Paper documents cost $0.50 per page, while electronic documents cost $0.10. The courts also charge an additional fee for certification.
Alternatively, researchers can use PACER, an electronic repository for court records in federal cases - bankruptcy is a federal case. To use this service, an inquirer needs the debtor's name or file name, court district, and case ID number. While bankruptcy record search on PACER is free, searchers must pay to obtain the court records. PACER charges $0.10 to download a page and no more than $3.00 for a complete record.
Can You Look Up Court Cases in Maryland?
Yes. Court record custodians typically maintain databases with which the public may perform remote Court case lookups in Maryland. Information about ongoing and concluded cases can be obtained via the Case Search tool, which grants access to cases from both the trial and the appellate courts. For appellate court cases, different cases are allocated to different term years. A typical term year kicks off by September 1 and ends on the last day of August of the following year. Appellate cases available on the Case Search are those from the 2016 term year upwards.
For District Court cases, the Case Search grants access to criminal cases from 1991 and civil cases from 1989. Traffic cases that have been closed for a long time may be transferred into the history database. However, Court Clerks have the right to retrieve information from the history database back into the Case Search. Case information may also be looked up from the Clerk's Office of the courthouse where it was filed.
Maryland Court Case Lookup Exemptions
Although court records are public records in Maryland, the law exempts some case records from public disclosure. Hence, they are not available for public access electronically. The law exempts certain records to protect confidential information to maintain the privacy, safety, and dignity of the individuals involved in the case. Under the laws in force in Maryland, the following court records are exempt from public disclosure:
- Adoption and Welfare Records
- Police and court records about minors (juvenile records)
- Sealed or Expunged Records
- Records on mental health diagnosis, evaluation, and treatment
- Records on domestic violence
- Guardianship terminating parental rights
- Child in need of assistance cases (CINA)
- Certain marriage license information
- Tax records (income tax returns)
- Financial statements filed in a case about spousal or child support.
- Reports filed by a physician concerning the medical condition of an alleged disabled adult
- Reports filed by a guardian concerning the property of an alleged disabled adult
- Action for judicial declaration of gender identity.
In Maryland, the courts may give authorized persons with legal interest access to restricted records. Anyone who seeks access to confidential or sealed records must provide proof of their identity and lawful interest in them. People who may come under the category of authorized persons include:
- Plaintiff, defendant and their attorneys, and other people assisting the parties with the case
- Adult adoptees, birth and adoptive parents (adoption reports)
- Patients, legal guardians, and health care providers (mental health reports)
- Judges, court clerks, and other court staff
- Government officials and other law enforcement agencies
- Researchers who have a legitimate interest in the case.
What is a Court Docket in Maryland?
A Maryland court docket is a document detailing the history of court proceedings in chronological order. It includes information like the court's name, case number, name of the parties and attorneys, and a summary of the facts of the case. Generally, dockets also feature future court dates, court schedules, deadlines, and any other filing requirements peculiar to a case. In Maryland, court dockets are essential in tracking the progress of cases, and they provide an accurate record of case proceedings. Court dockets can be cited in future cases to support or refute an argument. Also, the plaintiff/defendant can use it to support appeals to higher courts of Justice.
Researchers and other interested persons can find court dockets while conducting a regular Maryland court record search. When the person locates the court record, they only need to click on the case number to see the docket. Additionally, Maryland District courts provide weekly information on court dockets to the public at 9 PM from Monday to Friday. To access the weekly docket information:
- Visit the District Court Locations Directory
- Select the county/city of interest on the map or direct links provided
- Click the weekly docket button on the right side to open the docket PDF
- Look through the PDF document to find the case and date scheduled for a hearing
What are Civil Courts and Small Claims in Maryland?
Civil cases are court cases that involve disputes between two private entities. It may be between individuals, between an individual and a company, or between companies. Civil cases in the State of Maryland are heard and decided by District Courts and the Circuit Courts. The District Court exercises exclusive jurisdiction in civil matters where the amount in the claim is not more than $5,000. They share jurisdiction with the Circuit Courts in civil claims with amounts within the range of $5,000 to $25,000. Claims of over $25,000 are within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Circuit Courts, except for landlord-tenant matters or in replevin. Note that anyone who is up to 18 years old or more can file a civil case.
Small claims cases are handled by Maryland Small Claims Courts, a division of the District Court of the State of Maryland. Such cases involve disputes with claims of less than $5,000, and its claim must be only for money. Claims involving the return of property or service are not allowed in small claim cases. Small claim cases are treated with relatively less formality and with simpler rules of procedure.
As such, a party may choose whether or not to be represented by an attorney. The judge decides a small claims case, so there are no juries. Also, note that only persons who are up to 18 years and above can file a small claims case. If the interested person is below 18, the lawsuit may be filed on behalf of the plaintiff by another person whose age qualifies.