Maryland’s Public Information Act (PIA) is a law that applies to all three branches of Maryland state government and local government entities. The Act gives everyone in Maryland the right to access government records without unnecessary cost and delay. The PIA grants anyone in the state the right to evaluate uncovered records and get copies of those records. As available as these documents are, some papers are protected from disclosure. The PIA attempts to balance the public’s right to access government records. Government agencies conceal records like adoption and personnel records. The agency may decide that disclosing certain documents would be contrary to the public interest.
You may not necessarily fill out a public record request form in Maryland, although some agencies require it. A telephone call to the appropriate person at the agency, submitting a written request via mail or in-person, can get you your desired result. Agencies charge a reasonable fee for copies of public records.
Vital Records in Maryland
Vital records in Maryland are public records of life events such as birth, death, marriage, and divorce. The government keeps a record of these events, and connected parties can obtain certified copies of such events. Copies of vital records can be ordered online or by mail, or at some local health departments in the state. The Maryland State Department of Health maintains essential personal records for the state.
Interested persons can order vital records online through portals maintained by private companies. You can also get your hands on essential personal documents such as birth certificates by applying online through Maryland’s health department website.
To obtain a birth certificate by mail, complete and mail an application with your payment, a self-addressed envelope, and a copy of photo identification to:
The Division of Vital Records
P.O. Box 68760,
Baltimore, MD 21215-0036
A certified copy of birth and death costs $10.00 and $12.00 for each additional death certificate record.
Also, the cost for the commemorative Birth Certificate is $50.00. If you want a marriage and divorce (State, county) certificate, it will cost you $12.00.
Criminal Records in Maryland
Criminal records are public in Maryland, and anyone can access them. A criminal record is an official record of a person’s criminal history. It is a collection of official papers created by several criminal justice agencies in Maryland, including information gathered from the Maryland Judiciary. It is popularly known as a rap sheet, and it contains:
- Full name and birth date
- Known residential address
- Photograph or Mugshot
- Details of past arrest and outstanding warrants
- Physical description such as height, weight, tattoos, etc.
Suppose an individual or an agency is interested in conducting background checks; they can do so through the Criminal Justice Information System (CJIS). The CJIS is a subdivision of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. To access a person’s criminal history, the requester must provide the subject’s name (except when the issue is about a juvenile) and the record of the subject’s last known location.
An individual seeking criminal history would typically require the subject’s written consent. Also necessary in conducting a background check is the subject’s social security number, full name, and birth date. The requester can obtain the relevant information from the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Corrections. Getting a fingerprint card obtained from an authorized fingerprinting service firm is also a requirement for background checks.
There is a processing fee charged to obtain criminal records. However, contacting the record custodian for a fee waiver can help you get criminal history records for free. Please note that documents may or may not come without charge depending on the requester’s ability to prove financial hardship. Also, establishing that providing the records is in the public’s best interest can help facilitate your request for a fee waiver. The Maryland Department of Health offers vital links and guidelines to run a background check online through its website.
For a full background check (including State and FBI), the cost is $30.00. For background checks limited to the state, it costs $18. 00.
Court Records in Maryland
In Maryland, Court Clerks are the custodian of court records. Anyone may view the documents in person at the clerk’s office as long as you provide the case number. If you do not have the number, the clerk may locate the file with the person’s name or persons involved with the case. The Maryland Judiciary Case Search is the primary way requesters search for court records. Case Search is a summary of information in the official case file; it carries general information about a case, such as dates, case number, and type. You may view the complete case file at the clerk’s office where the case was heard and obtain copies of the records for a fee. Maryland Courts official website has a court directory to help you locate a court near you.
Sex Offender and Violent Offender Registry in Maryland
In Maryland, a sex offender is a person tried and convicted of a sex offense by the Maryland courts. Persons convicted of sex offenses are subject to the state’s sex offender registry law. It is a legal requirement for sex offenders to register with the sex offender registry program. Sex offenses generally include rape or sexual abuse. A sexual and violent offender is a person convicted of rape, attempted rape, and attempted sexual crimes in the 1st and 2nd degree, sexual offenses in the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree. The Department for Public Safety and Correctional Services manages the registry. The department updates and makes relevant information on sex offenders available to the public. You can find information on sex and violent offenders at Maryland’s Comprehensive Registered Sex Offenders Website. Interested persons can reach the registry office via call on (410) 585-3600.
Inmates Records in Maryland
The Public Safety and Correctional Services manages organized platforms dedicated to finding records on incarcerated persons in Maryland. For instance, you can find the information on prisoners from 1811-1978 through the Maryland State Archives Guide to Government Records. You can use the Inmate Locator to find inmates’ records with their names as well. The locator may not list some short-sentenced inmates. The inmate locator also excludes information on previously incarcerated persons for any reason, either by release or escape. Call (410) 585-3600 for any matters regarding the registry.
The inmate locator is available to the public through a portal provided by the Public Safety and Corrections Department.
The Secretary of State (SOS) holds business records in Maryland. You can find information on business entities and corporations by searching on the Maryland Secretary of State Corporation & Business Entity Search website. You can also find helpful information on business records on the Maryland Business Express website.
Finally, you can access public records in Maryland as far as the law permits. The processing fees are not outrageous. There are no difficulties in obtaining public documents when you know where to look, following the correct procedures with the proper requirements.