What is a Criminal Record in Maryland?
In Maryland, a criminal record is an official document that documents a person’s criminal history. Although widely known as a rap sheet, a criminal record is a collection of documents created by various criminal justice agencies in Maryland. The record may also contain information assembled from the Maryland judiciary and correctional facilities across the state.
Are Criminal Records Public in Maryland?
Yes. Criminal records in Maryland are classified as public records per the Maryland Public Information Act (MPIA). Generally, interested members of the public have a broad right to inspect or access records unless restricted by law. Persons who wish to obtain criminal records have several options, including visiting local law enforcement, the state central repository, or trusted independent databases. In any way, persons who obtain criminal records in Maryland can expect to find the following information about the subject:
- Full name and birth date,
- Known residential address
- Photograph or Mugshot
- Physical descriptors such as height, weight, hair color, eye color, and tattoos
- Details of past arrests and outstanding warrants
- Any pending charges or ongoing criminal trial
- List and description of dispositions
- Conviction status and incarceration history
Criminal records, considered public in the United States, are made available through some third-party aggregate sites. Searching with third-party websites is often easier as the information is not limited to geographic record availability. Information found on third-party websites can serve as a jumping off point for parties searching for a specific record or multiple records. Typically, requesters must provide the following information to gain access to these records:
- The record subject’s name, unless the subject is a juvenile.
- The record subjects’ last known location, including cities, counties, and states.
Third-party websites offer these search services, but they are not government sponsored. Availability of records may vary.
How to Obtain Criminal Records in Maryland?
The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (MDPSCS) is the central custodian for criminal records in Maryland. Members of the public direct requests for criminal records to this agency because it is possible to obtain a statewide criminal history. Intending requesters must follow the MDPSCS procedure for performing individual background checks.
To begin with, the requester must obtain the subject’s written consent, social security number, full name, and birth date. Next, the requester must visit an authorized fingerprinting service along with the subject for live scanning. Then, the requester must send the fingerprint card, the completed request form (private entity or government agency), and payment for service to the record custodian. The request form contains submission instructions for contacting the record custodian.
The downside of this fingerprint-based criminal record search, however, is that it is not widely accessible to public requesters. In such cases, requesters may obtain criminal court records maintained by the clerk of courts in the court where the trial happened. Another option is trusted independent service providers that facilitate public records searches based on the Freedom of Information Act.
Generally, record custodians charge a small fee for processing requests for criminal records and criminal court records. Yet, it is possible to obtain these public records for free. Interested requesters may obtain free criminal records by contacting the record custodian for a fee waiver. The agency is more likely to grant the waiver request if the requester demonstrates financial hardship. Otherwise, the requester must prove that providing free criminal records is in the public’s best interests and not for commercial purposes.
What is an Arrest Record in Maryland?
Arrest records in Maryland contain an official summary of people’s arrest history. It details whether a person has been apprehended, questioned, taken into custody, or placed in detention. Arrest records are included within police records. However, police records are different and contain police reports, incident reports, and general law enforcement activity. It also provides information on any charges or indictments for a felony, misdemeanor, or any other offense. The police department is mostly responsible for creating and maintaining arrests records in the state. An arrest record in Maryland includes the following information:
- Personal information such as name, age, DOB, the fingerprint of the arrested suspect
- Location, time, and date of the arrest
- Name of the arresting officer
- The issuer of the arrest warrant
- Alleged crime for which the suspected was arrested
Are Arrest Records Public in Maryland?
Arrest records are public records in Maryland. Based on the MPIA, any record created by an officer of the law who is acting on behalf of the state is a public record. Most times, public arrest records are created and maintained by the Maryland state police department at the state level. At the local level, they are maintained by the county sheriff or police chief. A requester can perform an arrest search at either the state or county level. Most arrest searches attract a fee that varies with the different agencies in charge of the records. It is possible to obtain free arrest records, but it will most likely require that the certification or copy fee is paid.
What is an Arrest Warrant in Maryland?
A Maryland arrest warrant is a document generated by official agencies that authorize law enforcement officials to apprehend a person. Warrants are issued by a judge or magistrate on behalf of the local and state jurisdictions. A signed warrant can also serve as a warrant search and can also serve as an active warrant search for the duration of the arrest. The following information can be found on Maryland arrest warrants:
- The subject's suspected criminal offense.
- The issuer's name and the date on which the warrant was issued
- The warrant's expiration date (if applicable)
- The location and time of the possible arrest
- The bail/bond requirements that must be met (if applicable)
In Maryland, the State Police can arrest a person for committing a crime even without a warrant. In most cases, this occurs when the person commits the crime in an officer’s presence.
What are Maryland Inmate Records?
Maryland inmate records are official documents of information about a person’s current and sometimes past inmate status. A person who is in jail or considered an inmate is someone deprived of basic civil liberties while on trial for a crime or a person serving a sentence after being convicted of a crime. The MDPSCS maintains an inmate database where an interested person can look up an inmate. Performing an inmate search on the MDPSCS database will bring up a document that contains core information like the inmate’s name, incarceration date, expected release date, convicted offense, and sometimes photos.
What is the Maryland Sex Offender Registry?
The Maryland Sex Offender Registry is one of many important tools that families can use to protect themselves, their children, and those they care for from people with criminal sexual behaviors. The database contains public information on persons convicted of sex crimes in Maryland. It lets law police officers track convicted offenders. Maryland organizes sex crimes into first, second, third, and fourth-degree offenses. The length of time that an individual must be registered for is based on the degree of the crime.
What is a DUI in Maryland?
A DUI in Maryland is a serious traffic violation, and it is typically measured by the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC). Once a driver’s BAC is above 0.8, the driver is considered impaired and indicted for driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated. Generally, the motor vehicle administration operates a points system where a driver accumulates points for each traffic infraction committed.
Individuals convicted of DUI risk having their license suspended or revoked, depending on the points accumulated over time. A driver will get a warning letter once the points accumulate up to 3-4 points. A driver will be compelled to enroll in a driver improvement program (DIP) for 5-7points. 8-11 points will attract a driver’s license suspension. In contrast, 12 points and above will lead to license revocation. The court may also sentence a person indicted for drunk driving to jail under aggravated circumstances.
What is a Misdemeanor in Maryland?
Based on Maryland's criminal law, misdemeanors are non-indictable offenses that are generally not as serious as a felony. Unlike most states, the state of Maryland does not classify its misdemeanor crimes into separate classes. Instead, penalties are given based on the statute governing the offense. Maryland misdemeanors may have fines up to $5,000 and carry sentences as high as ten years imprisonment. Some of the common misdemeanor examples in Maryland include:
- Assault in the second degree
- Reckless Driving
- Petty theft (of property or service valued less than $1,000)
- Driving under the influence
What is a Felony in Maryland?
A felony offense in Maryland is a criminal conviction with a minimum sentence of more than one (1) year. It is served in a county jail or state prison. A felony in Maryland is a serious crime that is punishable by death or a term of one year or more in prison. Maryland does not classify felony crimes into different classes. The Maryland criminal statutes offer the possible penalties for each individual felony with penalties. Examples of felonies in Maryland include:
- Drug possession with intent to distribute
- Distributing a controlled substance
- Sexual Assault
- Armed robbery or larceny-theft over $1,000
- Arson, burglary, and other crimes against property
- Assault in the first degree
What are Parole Records in Maryland?
Parole records in Maryland are an official document that includes information about the release of a prisoner who agreed to certain conditions before completion of their maximum sentence. While the prisoner is on supervised parole, the Maryland parole commission will require that the individual pays a monthly supervision fee. This fee cannot be less than $30 unless the parole board agrees to accept a lower fee after determining the inability of the inmate to pay. The board may also impose a penalty for parole violation by the inmate. Conditions of parole necessary to ensure the best interests of the inmate and the citizens of Maryland are also set by the parole board.
What are Maryland Probation Records?
Probation records are official documents that show when a person receives probation as an alternative to prison. The probation office is responsible for creating and maintaining probation records in Maryland. Probation allows people convicted of a crime in Maryland to serve their sentences out of custody as long as they follow probation conditions imposed by the judge and probation officer.
Probation is issued in proportion to the crime, so the length and nature of probation differ (sometimes drastically) from case to case. Probation typically falls into three categories: minimally supervised, supervised, and intensive. An intensive is a form of very strict probation that emphasizes punishment and control of the offender within the community. If a person is allowed a minimally supervised probation but is guilty of a probation violation, such person can be sentenced to an intensive form of probation.
What are Maryland Juvenile Criminal Records?
A juvenile criminal record is an official record of information about criminal activity committed by children or adolescents who are not yet of legal adult age. Juveniles are not considered convicted of a crime like an adult but instead are found “adjudicated delinquent” and tried in a juvenile court. Maryland juvenile records are created and maintained by the juvenile justice system. These records are often mistakenly thought to be erased or expunged once a person becomes of legal adult age, but in fact, the record remains unless the person petitions to have it expunged. If a person was found adjudicated delinquent to a criminal offense, they do not have to respond “yes” if asked whether they have ever been convicted of a crime, unless the question specifically asks if they were ever adjudicated delinquent as well.
What is a Conviction Record in Maryland?
A conviction record details the outcome of a criminal court case, if a person pleads guilty, or is found guilty, or pleads no contest. The charges listed on the record may be categorized as a misdemeanor, felony, or any other offense. Convictions do not include a final judgment deleted by a pardon, set aside, reversed, or otherwise rendered inoperative.
Maryland History and Accuracy of Criminal Records
The accuracy of criminal records data largely depends on the recordkeeping and technological capabilities of the jurisdiction where the record was assembled and later digitized. Maryland's criminal records archives usually tend to go back as far as the early 1970s - which is when different institutions began to compile criminal and arrest data into an organized, centralized database, much like we use today. Accuracy was more commonly affected by human error in the past. However, in the 1990s, the quality and accuracy of recordkeeping improved exponentially due to the advent of the computer.
Find Maryland Criminal History Record for Free
A criminal history record is a compilation of an individual's illegal activities. In Maryland, criminal history records are collated from the different criminal justice agencies (including district courts, circuit courts, law enforcement agencies, and correctional facilities). They comprise details of a person's arrests, indictments, warrants, and conviction information.
According to the Maryland Public Information Act, criminal records are public records that are accessible to all, including private individuals, employers or organizations conducting background checks, schools, and public interest groups. The state maintains a central repository for all criminal history records, otherwise known as the Criminal Justice Information Repository, through the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS). Through this state department, interested persons can request their criminal history records. The department accepts both fingerprint-based and name-based criminal history record requests.
Usually, to obtain Maryland criminal records, inquirers must submit a request form and fee (a minimum of $18.00, excluding fingerprinting costs) to the DPSCS. However, not all records require payment. For example, requests for "Criminal Justice Full Background" and "Criminal Justice State Only" are free. Also, while there are no statutory provisions for fee waivers in Maryland, requesters may still request a waiver from the DPSCS.
Aside from the Department of Public Safety, interested persons may look up criminal justice information for free at local courts and police departments.
Are Police Records Public in Maryland?
Yes, police records in Maryland are public records. Maryland police records include arrest logs, investigation reports, complaints, photographs, audio and video recordings, crime statistics, and other records developed or maintained by the police while performing official business.
However, while the Public Information Act facilitates access to police records, it also stipulates certain exceptions. Usually, these exceptions are imposed because of confidentiality, privacy, and security concerns. The following are some Maryland police records restricted from the public:
- Juvenile records (Section 3-8A-27 of the Courts & Judicial Proceedings Article)
- Inmate case records (Section 3-602 of the Correctional Services Article)
- Search warrants (Md. Rules 4-601 and 4-263)
- Police reports (traffic accidents, criminal charging documents, and traffic citations) requested to promote legal services (GP § 4-315)
- Arrest warrants (arrest warrants are not open to public inspection until the warrant has been served or 90 days have elapsed since the warrant was issued. GP § 4-316)
- Recorded images produced to monitor compliance with traffic control signals, speed limits, or certain vehicle height restrictions (GP § 4-321)
- Criminal and police records relating to criminal convictions shielded from public access under Title 10, Subtitle 3 of the Criminal Procedure Article
- Investigation records (GP § 4-337)
- Any record that may compromise public safety and security (GP § 4-352)
Besides the above, Maryland law also permits record custodians to exercise discretion when determining if a record should be disclosed.
How to Obtain Police Records in Maryland
Individuals who wish to obtain police records in Maryland can submit a request to the records custodian of a city, county, or state law enforcement agency. These agencies create, maintain, and disseminate police records in line with the state's Public Information Act. They also have guidelines for providing records to the public.
Generally, police record requests in Maryland are made in writing. Thus, one may write a letter or fill out a request form and submit it to a law enforcement agency in person, by mail, online, or via other provided means.
For instance, at the state level, the MDSP has an online form for requesting records on its website. Using this form, the requester can describe the sought-after record and submit a police record request online. After submitting the form, the requester will receive an email confirming receipt. Upon receiving the request, the MDSP has 30 days to grant or deny the application. If the agency turns down the request, the custodian will issue a written notice to the requester within ten days, stating the reasons for the denial, the statute supporting the nondisclosure, and the remedies available to the requester.
Similarly, in Anne Arundel County, individuals may request local police records by letter or with the Public Information Request form.
In general, police record custodians in Maryland have the authority to waive the requirement for a written application. These officials can also charge a reasonable fee for any record request.
Are Police Reports Public Records in Maryland?
Yes, certain police reports can be accessed by the public in Maryland. A police report is a document containing information about an incident or arrest that took place within a jurisdiction. This includes domestic violence, traffic accidents, burglaries, home invasions, assault, and theft.
A police report is a point of reference for criminal justice agencies investigating a crime or incident. It also benefits victims and third parties who may need it for official purposes (for example, insurance claims).
Some police reports include criminal investigation reports, incident reports, and motor vehicle accident reports. The reports are created and maintained by the local police departments or sheriff's offices and may be acquired by interested persons. Usually, requesters obtain Maryland police reports by submitting online, by mail, or in-person requests to a state or local police agency.
Nevertheless, each agency reserves the right to deny a request if disclosure of the report may threaten the privacy or security of an individual or if the requester does not comply with the guidelines stipulated by the agency. For instance, in Montgomery County, police reports are only issued to persons directly involved in an incident. As such, when a request for such a report is received, the Montgomery County Department of Police will verify that the inquirer is an authorized person.
How to File a Police Report with Maryland Law Enforcement
The type of incident determines the filing process for police reports in Maryland. Usually, when the incident is an emergency, individuals are advised to call 911 to get help from the nearest police station. Besides the emergency line, police stations provide contact numbers that individuals may dial to report the issue. However, when the incident is a non-emergency, an individual may file the report online, stop by the station, or call a designated number.
Each law enforcement department has its guidelines for filing police reports. For example, requesters can use the agency's incident reporting system to file a police report with the Maryland Capitol Police Department (MCP). However, not all incidents can be reported online. Below are some incidents that do not qualify for online reporting via the MCP's system:
- Violent Crimes (personal assault, kidnapping, robbery)
- Sex Crimes (rape or sexual assault)
- Vehicle theft (theft of a vehicle, trailer, motorcycle)
- Lost/Stolen License Plate
- Domestic Violence
- Assault and Battery resulting in serious injuries (including injuries requiring hospitalization or medical treatment)
- Traffic accidents that result in serious injuries (except in cases where all parties have deserted the scene)
Likewise, the police department in Baltimore City has an online portal for filing police reports for non-emergency incidents. However, requesters must meet the conditions set by the agency to report an incident.
Where to Find Free Public Police Records
Residents can generally visit or contact a Maryland police agency to access police records for free. However, when a person's request requires the custodian to make copies of a record, the requester will be billed.
For example, the state police charge a fee if a requester's search time for a record exceeds two hours or the individual requests copies of the record to be mailed to them. However, applicants will not be required to make any payment if the total cost of photocopies does not exceed $1.
Interested persons may also lookup free police records using online databases provided by local or state police departments.
How to Find Mugshots in Maryland
Mugshots are pictures taken after one has been arrested. Usually, when an individual is arrested and taken to the station, the booking officer takes down their information and confiscates their personal belongings. The officer will also take a photograph for identification purposes, among other procedures. This photograph is officially referred to as a mugshot.
Mugshots in Maryland are considered public records under the Public Information Act (PIA) and may be accessed by request to a local or state police agency.
Some agencies also maintain online databases that can be searched to find mugshots. For instance, an interested person can view mugshots of persons convicted of a sex offense through the Sex Offender Registry maintained by the Maryland DPSCS.