What Are Arrest Records?
While a record of conviction can indicate mistakes, sociopathic behavior or a serious lack of judgment that people made in their past, arrest records are vaguer in this regard. Merely because someone has been arrested is certainly not evidence of their guilt since countless arrests are made pursuant to faulty identification or other factors leading to charges being later dismissed or not brought at all based on the lack of credible evidence.
An arrest record in Maryland contains information on the circumstances of your arrest and if charges were brought, dismissed or you were acquitted at trial. It also contains investigation reports, the nature of the charges for which you were arrested, mug shots, booking records, personal identifying information, DNA evidence in some cases and your case disposition.
Who Can Access and Use Arrest Records in Maryland?
Arrest records are a matter of public record and are accessible to anyone who wants to check on any individual. Usually, though, a comprehensive MD arrest record search is conducted primarily by employers on prospective job applicants or for credit, rental, immigration, professional licensing or college enrollment purposes. For employers, however, Maryland law provides some protections for job applicants.
Like most states, Maryland employers are restricted from inquiring about any criminal records that have been expunged and are warned about asking about an applicant’s arrest record, if not expunged, unless it bears a direct relationship to the job. If it does bear a relationship, employers are advised to consider the nature of the crime, when it was committed and the applicant’s lack of any criminal wrongdoing since then.
Pursuant to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), an employer is required to first obtain the applicant’s written consent and to notify the individual if he or she will be denied employment based on the background check. The applicant must also be given a copy of the report. After getting consent, the employer must provide the applicant’s fingerprints and employer authorization number to the Department of Public Safety & Correctional Services at http://www.dpscs.state.md.us/publicservs/bgchecks.shtml.
If the employer is considering denying a job to an applicant based on their criminal or arrest records in Maryland, the applicants should be given the opportunity to explain the circumstances or to offer mitigating information so that the employer cannot be said to have disqualified the applicant based primarily on the individual’s arrest record.
Should the applicant be denied employment based on the applicant’s criminal background check, he or she must be notified that this was the reason and be provided a copy of the report.
Where to Access Records
There are numerous websites that offer access to anyone’s criminal record in MD for a fee. Under the FCRA, however, these sites must take all reasonable measures to ensure the accuracy of the information. If a site has inaccurate information about your record, you can notify the site’s administrators who must conduct an investigation. If the contents are shown to be erroneous, the administrators must notify you and all other persons or entities to whom your report was given.
To access arrest records in Maryland, go to http://www.courts.state.md.us/casesearch2/faq.html where you can view traffic and criminal records in the District Courts from 1991 to the present. For the circuit courts, how far back you can view records depends on the individual Maryland county. For example, for Montgomery County, records are available from 1979 while in most other counties, you can view them from 1999 or 2000.
What is an Arrest Warrant?
Maryland active arrest warrants are legal documents issued by a judge to a law enforcement officer authorizing that department or official the right to arrest the person named in the warrant on sight or at the person’s home, office or any other location. An officer usually requests the issuance of the arrest warrant by presenting to a judge affidavits originating from credible and reliable sources constituting probable cause that a crime has been committed by a certain individual. Probable cause is a reasonable belief or sufficient suspicion, usually based on direct eyewitness testimony, of a crime perpetrated by someone positively identified or at least described in enough detail to distinguish him or her from others.
Bench Warrants in Maryland
Similar to arrest warrants are bench warrants issued by a judge before whom you failed to make your court appearance. If you have an attorney who did appear, he or she might ask the court to delay issuance of the bench warrant provided you make the next scheduled court appearance. As is the case all over the United States, bench warrants issued in Maryland are perpetual and do not expire until you are arrested or make other arrangements with the court or prosecutor. Many people are arrested on bench warrants years after the date they neglected to appear in court.
Child Support Warrants
Another warrant is a child support warrant. You can view these individuals, called “deadbeat parents,” by viewing any Maryland county website. These sites list the individual’s name, provide a photo if available, and the child support amount that is in arrears.
Law enforcement officials can execute arrest, bench or child support warrants in Maryland at any time. But due to insufficient funds or resources, most warrants, unless there is a violent crime involved or the person is a celebrity or public official, are not executed until the person is detained on a traffic stop or comes to the DMV.
How to Find an Arrest Warrant in MD
The police or courts do not notify you if a warrant has been issued. If you suspect a warrant has been issued for your arrest, you can go the county website to check, though most counties only list the most wanted individuals. Another source is www.e-verify.com.
Police departments maintain Maryland outstanding warrants, so you can call them to see if they have such information. Usually, no questions will be asked of you inquiry over the phone but you risk immediate arrest if you go to the police department or courthouse on your own. Your best option is to consult a criminal defense attorney to at least verify if an arrest, bench or child support warrant has been issued and to heed any advice the attorney may offer.
How to Find an Inmate in Maryland’s Correctional System
Finding an inmate who is incarcerated in a Maryland correctional facility is a relatively easy task--you again can access the website of the state’s Department of Public Safety & Corrections. The site cautions, however, that it may not list inmates who are sentenced for short stays, usually less than a month, or those who are in pretrial custody.
Other sites, such as https://www.vinelink.com/vinelink/siteInfoAction.do?siteId=21999 may provide additional information such as the inmate’s release date, case hearings, if the inmate has been released or escaped, whether the individual is under supervision of the probation or parole division and if he or she is a sex offender.
How to Expunge Maryland Arrest Records
Maryland’s expungement laws allow you to remove your arrest and police records from public access. It is in your best interests to seek an expungement, if you are eligible, since you do not want your opportunities for employment, housing, travel, credit, school enrollment, professional licensing or other benefits compromised because of an arrest that occurred years ago and resulted in no conviction.
You are eligible for expungement if:
- The charges were dropped or dismissed
- You were acquitted
- The state did not prosecute you
- The charges resulted in probation before judgment
- Your case was settled or compromised
- You were given a conditional stay of all further proceedings (stet)
You will need to obtain a petition for expungement of your court and police records in Maryland and a General Waiver and Release form from any District or Circuit court or download the forms from www.courts.state.md.us. You can file three years after the disposition or within three years of it by filing the General Waiver and Release form. If your case was compromised, you must wait three years.
If you were arrested but never appeared in court, go to the arresting agency and ask about the procedure to have your arrest date and charges removed from your record. If you did appear in court but the charges were dismissed, your petition will need your case and tracking number, date of arrest and any alias you used at the time of your arrest.
Maryland law does provide for some automatic expungement of records if you were detained by police but were never charged. The expungement takes effect 60 days after your release. If your records still exist, you will need to go to the agency to inquire about the expungement process but it must be done within 8 years of the incident, though you may still get the expungement if it is in the best interests of justice.
Once the order of expungement has been issued, you are not required to disclose expunged information about the criminal charges in a job interview or application. You should conduct a background check once the process is completed to see if your records have been deleted.