Frequently Asked Questions
- Accommodations: how to get help for disability-related and interpreter needs.
- Annotated Code of Maryland: what it is, where to find it.
- Appeals: information on appellate review.
- Arrested: what happens when you are arrested
- Attorney Information:
- For attorneys: change of address/name, pro bono reporting, certificate of good standing, active/inactive status, bar numbers (not in Maryland).
- For the public: check an attorney's status, file a complaint, legal services.
- Bad Checks: when and how to file charges.
- Bail Bond: what it is, how to post.
- Bankruptcy: how and where to file.
- Bar Exam: information on taking the Maryland bar exam, how to apply, application forms.
- Birth/Marriage/Death Certificates: how to get copies.
- Certificate of Good Standing: for attorneys.
- Child Support: where to find information, forms.
- Civil Claims: where to file.
- Collection: how to collect a judgment awarded in the District Court.
- Complaints: how to file complaints about a judge, an attorney, your case.
- Court Fees: fee schedules for Maryland courts.
- Court Records: what is available online.
- Courtroom Demeanor: what to wear, how to address the judge.
- Criminal Complaint: how to file.
- Criminal Defendant: what happens when you are arrested.
- Criminal History: what's available to the public.
- Detinue: how to get property returned.
- Divorce: how and where to file, forms to use.
- Domestic Violence: how to get help.
- Emergency Evaluation: how to obtain a petition.
- Expungement: how to remove criminal records.
- Interpreters: how to become a court interpreter.
- Judges: qualifications, how they are chosen, how to apply.
- Jury Service: everything you need to know about serving on a jury.
- Landlord/Tenant Disputes: where to file, how to resolve.
- Legal Advice: how to obtain, restrictions.
- Licenses: how to obtain marriage, driver's.
- Marriage Information: how to obtain a license, requirements.
- Mediation: alternative to going to court.
- Name Change: procedures to change your name, forms.
- Naturalization/Immigration: where to go for information.
- Notary Public: how to become a notary.
- Passports: how to obtain.
- Peace Orders: how to obtain.
- Property: how to get property returned.
- Protective Orders: how to obtain protection from domestic violence.
- Red Light Camera Program: information on the program, penalties.
- Replevins: how to get property returned.
- Restraining Order: how to get.
- Rules of Procedure, Maryland: what it is, where to find.
- Scheduling: how to resolve conflicts with A District Court date
- Sexual Assault: what to do if you are a victim.
- Sexual Consent/Statutory Rape: where to find Maryland laws concerning.
- Sexual Offender Registry: where to find information.
- Small Claims: where and how to file.
- Speed Monitoring Camera Programs: information on the program, penalties.
- Traffic Court/Ticket Information : how to pay, defend in court.
- Transcripts and Recordings: how to obtain.
- Verdicts: explanations.
- Victims: information for victims of crime.
- Wills/Probate: where to find information.
- Witness: everything you need to know about being a witness.
How do I get assistance for my special needs?
(Example: physical accommodation, spoken language interpreter)
To ensure compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), the courts have designated ADA coordinators for their facilities and services. If you have questions or need assistance, contact the appropriate ADA Coordinator. [See ADA Coordinators]
To request an accommodation under the ADA, please submit a Request for Accommodation by Persons with Disabilities (Form CC-DC49) to the court in which the case will be heard. Requests for accommodation should be submitted to the court not less than thirty (30) days before the proceeding for which the accommodation is requested.
For more information on ADA, see the Office of Fair Practices (ADA and EEO)
Spoken Language Interpreter
To request a spoken language interpreter, please submit a Request for Spoken Language Interpreter (Form CC-DC41) to the court in which the case will be heard. Requests for interpreter should be submitted to the court not less than thirty (30) days before the proceeding for which the interpreter is requested.
If you have questions, please contact the appropriate clerk's office:
Annotated Code of Maryland
What is the Maryland Code?
All of the public, general and permanent laws passed by the Maryland State Legislature are subsequently organized by subject, continually updated and published in a multi-volume print set or online web version called a code. The various topics are arranged into broad segments called “articles” (currently there are around 30) and further subdivided into thousands of sections. An illustration of broad code topics covered in this primary source of legal authority range from agriculture to business regulation to corporations and associations to criminal law, environment, family law, insurance, public safety, tax, transportation, etc. The full text of the State Constitution is also included in this Code. Unannotated versions of the code are provided by the General Assembly, Lexis, and Westlaw. See Legal Links.
Only those who are parties to a case can appeal. The party seeking to appeal must have been adversely affected by the judgment (ruling). A party cannot appeal from a judgment in his favor unless the ruling didn't grant all the relief sought. The appellant must file the appeal from the trial court where the final judgment was entered. The appeal must be filed in a timely fashion, and must be filed with the appropriate court.
You have a right to appeal a guilty judgment entered in a District Court criminal or traffic case and civil cases, including those in small claims, landlord-tenant disputes and property cases. In District Court, cases which are appealed go to the Circuit Court “de novo,” that is, the case is re-tried as if it had never been heard. A criminal case is appealed by filing Notice of Appeal (form DCCR 17.) A civil case is appealed by filing Civil Appeal (form CV37.) In both cases a fee is assessed for filing. Under certain circumstances, a bond also may be required.
Cases originating in the Circuit Court are appealed to the Court of Special Appeals, the State's second highest court. The next level of appeals is the Court of Appeals, the highest court. The Court of Appeals has the discretion to determine which cases it will or won't hear. Once the Court of Appeals decides or declines to review a case, there is no further review within the State court system. Review by a federal court may be available.
What happens when a person is arrested?
After you are arrested, you will be taken before a District Court commissioner who determines if probable cause exists to charge you. The commissioner:
- Ensures that you understand the charges against you and the possible penalties.
- Advises you of your right to an attorney.
- Advises you of your responsibilities in obtaining an attorney.
- Decides whether you should be detained or released pending trial.
- Determines whether bail should be set.
You should provide the commissioner with any information requested.
What court will hear my case?
The District Court hears most cases involving motor vehicle violations, criminal misdemeanors and certain felonies. The circuit court hears cases involving serious felony crimes.
Change of Mailing Address:
I am an active attorney in Maryland and my mailing address has changed. Who should I contact?
Change of address information must be reported to the Client Protection Fund at the 2011 Commerce Park Drive, Annapolis, MD 21401 or you may fax the information to the Fund at 410-260-3636.
Change of Name:
Who should I contact to change my name on the official "roll of attorneys"?
If you are an attorney and wish to change your name on the Court of Appeals official roll of attorneys, you must submit a written request to do so. Please be specific as to how you wish your name to appear, e.g., "from Jane Anne Smith to Jane Smith Johnson" or "from Jane Anne Smith to Jane A. Johnson," etc. You must also include a certified (RAISED SEAL) copy of the document that changes your name (marriage certificate, divorce decree, name change order). DO NOT SEND YOUR ONLY CERTIFIED COPY as what you provide to us is kept for the Court's records. The Court notifies the Client Protection Fund of the Bar of Maryland and the Maryland State Bar Association of your name change so their records can be amended to reflect this change.
Submit the written request to:
Court of Appeals
Attn: Clerk's Office
Robert C. Murphy Courts of Appeal Building
361 Rowe Blvd., Fourth Floor
Annapolis, MD 21401
Upon receipt, you will receive a written confirmation from the Clerk's Office.
How do I get a Certificate of Good Standing (certifies that an attorney is licensed to practice in the State of Maryland)? See Note*
Attorneys who do not have any disciplinary action against them can obtain a Certificate of Good Standing from the Court of Appeals. The certificate is a notification that the attorney is presently in good standing and licensed to practice in the State of Maryland. Certificates are often requested when an attorney practices outside of the state. Obtain a Certificate of Good Standing.
How do I go on Inactive Status or return to Active Status?
To go on Inactive Status, you will need to file an Affidavit of Inactive/Retired Status and pay past dues. To return to Active Status, you must give written notice to the Trustees and pay the current fiscal year's assessment. For more detailed information, see the Client Protection Fund's FAQs/Notice to Lawyers.
*NOTE: Not to be confused with a Certificate of Status for businesses which is available through the Department of Assessments and Taxation at http://sdatcert1.resiusa.org/certificate/default.asp
Does Maryland issue bar numbers to new attorneys?
No. Although many States furnish their attorneys with "bar numbers," Maryland has not adopted this practice. Attorneys licensed to practice in Maryland are identified by their names.
Where do I file my pro bono report?
The pro bono report and the IOLTA report requirements have been combined. For instructions on filing both reports, see Maryland Pro Bono.
For the Public:
Can I check to see if an attorney is licensed to practice in Maryland?
The Client Protection Fund's web site provides an online database of all attorneys admitted to practice in Maryland. All attorneys listed are considered active and in good standing and able to practice law under Maryland Rule 16-811.
How do I file a complaint against an attorney?
Attorney complaints and/or grievances are handled by the Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland. Attorney complaints can be filed by calling 410-514-7051 (or toll-free at 800-492-1660) to request a complaint form. Individuals can either complete the form and return it to the Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland at (100 Community Place, Suite 3301, Crownsville, MD 21032-2027) or write a letter to the commission that includes both your and the attorney’s name, address and phone number, along with a description of the complaint.
For more information, visit the Attorney Grievance Commission's web site or call the commission at the numbers above.
Can I check to see if an attorney has been disciplined?
There is an online listing of disciplinary actions taken against attorneys on the Attorney Grievance Commission's web site.
Does the Judiciary provide attorney referrals?
The Maryland Judiciary does not provide attorney referrals. Some local bar associations maintain attorney referral lists for a particular area. A list of local bar associations is available on the Maryland State Bar Association web site at http://www.msba.org/links/md/index.htm. Please note that clerks of the court will provide assistance with forms and court procedures but cannot provide legal advice.
What legal help is available if I can't afford to hire an attorney?
Pro bono services are legal services provided by attorneys who are volunteering their time "pro bono publico," or "for the public good." A number of non-profit organizations in Maryland can assist in obtaining a pro bono attorney. Contact the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Services at 800-510-0050 or contact the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland (http://www.probonomd.org/) at 800-492-1964 for a list of local pro bono organizations. The People's Law Library also provide's legal and self-help information on Maryland and federal law affecting low and moderate income people and their families.
For information on pro se assistance projects in each circuit court and other legal services see the Family Administration's web site.
When can a bad check violation be filed?
This depends on the reason the check was refused for payment.
- If the check was refused due to insufficient funds, the person must wait ten (10) days from the date of the refusal to bring charges. This gives the individual time to make good on the check.
- If the check was refused because the account does not exist, is closed, or has a hold on it, an application for charges may filed immediately.
How are charges filed?
Complete an Application for Statement of Charges for Bad Check (form DC/CR44) and appear in person at the commissioner’s station. Bring a photocopy of the bad check, information about the dishonored check, a description of the goods or services the individual received, and any information about the individual who wrote the check (for example, the person’s driver’s license number, date of birth and a physical description). The commissioner cannot provide you with identifying information. There are no court costs or fees for filing an Application for Charges. Attend the trial, which will be held in the District Court. You are required to personally attend the trial to testify as to the facts of the case.
For more information, see Bad Checks, How to File a Bad Check Violation.
How do you post bail or bond?
The Criminal Defendant brochure provides information on bail, trial, hearings, etc.
What is bail?
Bail is money paid to the court to ensure that an arrested person who is released from jail will show up at all required court appearances.
Who can post bail for me?
You may post bail for yourself, have someone over 18 years old post it on your behalf or use a bondsman. Whoever posts bail for you assumes full responsibility for your appearance in court. If you fail to appear as required, a warrant will be issued for your immediate arrest and the bail will be forfeited.
How does a person post bail?
Bail may be posted in the following manner:
Cash Bail - A percentage may be posted for cash bonds. All bonds that are set at two thousand, five hundred dollars ($2,500.) or less may be posted with a cash deposit of ten percent (10%). However, the person posting cash bail is liable for the full amount. If you appear for trial or the charges are disposed of before trial, the amount posted will be refunded. If you do not appear, all cash posted will be forfeited and the full amount of bail becomes due.
Property Bail - Property (e.g. land or home) in Maryland may be used to post bail, provided that the net equity in the property meets or exceeds the amount of bail. To determine net equity deduct any liens, mortgages or deeds of trust, and ground rent, capitalized at 6 percent, from the assessed value of the property.
When posting property, you need to present tax bills, assessment notices, copies of a recorded deed or other public records. Each person whose name appears on the tax bill must sign the form, unless a power of attorney has been executed by one or both parties authorizing another signature.
Intangible Assets - Acceptable intangible assets include:
- Bankbooks and certificates of deposit accepted at 100 percent of stated value.
- Letters of credit from a bank.
- Certificates for stocks listed on the American or New York Stock Exchange, accepted at 75 percent of the present exchange quotation.
Only a clerk of the court may accept intangible assets; a commissioner may not. Present the required documents to a clerk at the court location where the case is pending.
Credit and Debit Cards - Bail may be charged on certain credit and debit cards. Although a commissioner or clerk accepts the card, an independent company processes the charge. The charge includes the amount of the bail and a service fee. (These charges will appear on your next credit or debit card statement.) The card and personal identification must be produced in person at the time of posting bail. (Contact a District Court commissioner or clerk for information on cards accepted and the fees charged.)
Professional Bail Bondsman - A bail bondsman charges a nonrefundable fee to post bail. In addition to the fee, the bondsman may require collateral security or property to secure your release. Collateral will be returned to the person who posted it after disposition of the charges. The service fee and collateral received must be displayed on the bail bond form. Make certain that the information is correct on the form, that you receive a receipt and that you understand the action the bondsman may take if you fail to meet your obligations.
For the telephone number of a bondsman consult the Yellow Pages under the “Bail Bonds.”
Who handles bankruptcy cases?
Bankruptcy cases are administered at the federal court level. For more information, including forms and instructions for filing, see the U.S. Courts site at http://www.uscourts.gov/bankruptcycourts.html.
How can I obtain copies of birth/marriage/death certificates?
Birth, marriage, and death certificates can be obtained through the Division of Vital Records, Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Please check the Division's web site at http://dhmh.maryland.gov/vsa/SitePages/Home.aspx or call 410-764-3038 for more information. You can also obtain a certified copy of a marriage license from the clerk's office in the circuit court where the license was obtained. For a listing of clerk offices, see http://mdcourts.gov/circuit/directory.html.
Where can I go for information on child support?
Visit the web site of the Maryland Child Support Enforcement Program at http://www.dhr.state.md.us/csea/index.htm where you will find information on child support, a list of child support enforcement offices located statewide, an online worksheet used to estimate the child support obligation that a court may order a parent to pay, access to payment history for parents with an active child support case, and more. In addition, the Judiciary provides free, online (fill-in-the-blank) domestic relations forms, including child support forms. These forms are also available in the circuit courts.
Where do I file a civil claim?
The District Court has exclusive jurisdiction in claims for amounts up to $5,000 (small claims), and concurrent jurisdiction with the circuit courts in claims for amounts above $5,000 but less than $30,000. If your claim is more than $5,000 but less than $30,000, you may file in either District or a circuit court. If it is more than $30,000, you must file in a circuit court. District Court Brochure
How do I collect a judgment awarded in the District Court?
The court will not act on its own to collect the money you are owed. It is up to the individual who has been awarded a judgment to take the steps necessary to enforce it. If the defendant in your case is not willing to pay the debt or work out a payment plan, you will have to complete and file more forms with the court, pay the required filing fees and appear in court for additional hearings. See: Post-Judgment brochure.
About a Judge:
The Maryland Commission on Judicial Disabilities investigates complaints about judges and makes recommendations as to dismissal, further investigation, or disciplinary action. The Commission does not investigate complaints regarding the outcome of a case or judicial ruling. For more information, see the Maryland Commission on Judicial Disabilities.
About an Attorney:
The Attorney Grievance Commission oversees the conduct of both Maryland lawyers and nonmembers of the Maryland Bar who engage in the practice of law in the State. The Commission investigates and, where indicated, prosecutes attorneys whose conduct violates the Maryland Lawyers Rules of Professional Conduct as well as those engaged in the unauthorized practice of law. For more information, see the Attorney Grievance Commission's website.
If you believe that a lawyer practicing in the State has taken money from you without your consent, you may be eligible for reimbursement from the Client Protection Fund. For more information, see the Client Protection Fund's web site.
About a Case:
If you are dissatisfied with a decision in your case, you may file an appeal with the appropriate court.
If You Have Other Concerns or Issues with the Judiciary:
The judiciary ombudsman serves as an advocate for fairness, answering individuals’ questions, helping resolve individuals’ concerns and issues, and works to make the courts more user-friendly. For more information, go to the ombudsman web site.
What are the court fees?
Fee schedules are established by statute for the Appellate, Circuit, and District courts are online. If you have further questions or need more information, contact the Clerk's Office in the jurisdiction where the action is filed.
Do the courts provide relief from paying filing fees and court costs?
Yes, there are fee waiver forms for those who cannot afford to pay filing fees and court costs. However, there are certain qualifications that you must meet. These qualifications can be fully explained to you by the Clerk's Office in your jurisdiction.
Can I find court records online?
Online access to case and notice records is available. See Search Court Records.
What should I know about appearing in court?
Although there are no provisions mandating dress attire or conduct in court, court users often ask what they should wear and how they should act in court. It is important to be on time or early if possible because often your name or your case number may be called as soon as the trial begins to see who is present and who is missing. If your name is called and you are not there to respond, your case can be dismissed. If you are a defendant in a criminal case, a failure to appear warrant could be issued for your arrest.
How should I dress for my court appearance?
Again, these are voluntary suggestions. Dress appropriately for court, or as you would for a job interview.
How do I address the judge?
Judges can be called "judge" or "your honor." Refrain from calling a judge "sir," "ma'am," "mister" or "miss." Communication with the judge should be carried out with a proper amount of respect. Refrain from outlandish or rude behavior such as arguing with the judge or the opposing party or their attorney.
Can I bring my child to court?
It is not recommended to bring small children into the courtroom unless they are part of the case. In a situation where you have to bring a child to court, it is often best to locate him or her outside the courtroom with a responsible adult.
How do I file a criminal complaint?
If you believe that a crime has been committed against you or a minor in your custody, your first step should be reporting the crime to the local police department. Reporting the incident makes it a matter of record, even if the police are unable to investigate the crime. Depending upon the nature of the incident, the police may conduct an investigation. The investigation determines whether or not charges are filed by the police with a District Court commissioner. If the police file charges, the matter is now under the authority of the court. The Criminal Complainant brochure provides information on reporting the crime, filing charges, going to Court, etc.
If the police do not conduct an investigation or file charges, you may file an Application for Statement of Charges on your own with a District Court commissioner. A District Court commissioner, a judicial officer, reviews the Application for Statement of Charges to decide if sufficient evidence exists to charge the defendant (the person accused) with a crime (probable cause). You must tell the commissioner, in writing, the details of the crime.
Criminal Defendant (Person Arrested for a Crime)
The Criminal Defendant brochure provides information on bail, trial, hearings, etc.
What court will hear the case?
The District Court hears most cases involving motor vehicle violations, criminal misdemeanors and certain felonies. The circuit court hears cases involving serious felony crimes.
Will I be tried by a jury in the District Court?
All District Court cases are heard and decided by a judge. For more information on how to request a jury trial, see Criminal Defendant brochure.
How do I check my criminal history?
Criminal history information is collected and maintained by the Criminal Justice Information System (CJIS) of the Department of Public Safety & Correctional Services at http://www1.dpscs.state.md.us/. Individuals can check their own criminal history by visiting their local sheriff’s office or police barracks to request an individual review. You will be fingerprinted and your fingerprint identification will be sent to the CJIS Central Repository at P.O. Box 32708 Pikesville, MD, 21282-2708. Once received, CJIS will then process the results and mail them back to you. The charge is $18 plus the cost for a fingerprint identification. For more information, please call the CJIS Help Desk at 888-795-0011.
How do I check the criminal history of someone other than myself?
Individuals cannot check the criminal history of other individuals. Agencies can request the criminal history of an individual who is being considered for a position within that agency by applying for an authorization number. Please keep in mind that authorization numbers are given out for hiring purpose only. For more information, call the CJIS Help Desk at 888/795-0011.
Does Maryland have a sex offender registry?
Yes. The Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services and local law enforcement agencies are required to provide a list of certain types of sex offenders maintained by the state to any person who submits a written request. Residents cannot make individual requests to see if their neighbor, for example, is a sex offender. More information, including an online registry of sex offenders, is available on the web site of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services’ Sexual Offender Registry Unit at http://www.socem.info.
Where do I file for a divorce?
You may file for divorce in Maryland if the grounds for divorce occurred in Maryland or if at least one spouse has lived in Maryland for one year prior to the filing of divorce. The divorce complaint must be filed in the circuit court for the county where the plaintiff (the party filing for divorce) lives or where the defendant (other party) lives, works or owns a business.
How long must I be legally separated before I can file for divorce?
You do not need to file papers in Maryland in order to be “legally separated.” In order to establish that you are separated for the purposes of obtaining a divorce, you must:
- Not reside under the same roof.
- Not engage in sexual intercourse with your spouse for the entire period of the separation through the date the divorce is granted.
The length of time you must be separated in order to file for divorce depends on the grounds for divorce:
- If you are filing for divorce on the basis of desertion, constructive desertion, conviction of a felony or voluntary separation, the length of the separation must be at least 12 months.
- If you are filing for divorce on the basis of adultery, cruelty of treatment or excessively vicious conduct the divorce may be filed at any time after separation.
- If you are filing based on a two-year separation, you must be separated for two years.
- If you are filing on the basis of insanity, the insane spouse must have been committed to a mental institution for at least three years, and one of the spouses must have been a resident of Maryland for two years.
Where can I obtain forms and more information on divorce?
You may download free, online Domestic Relations Forms from this site including forms and instructions for filing for divorce. Each Circuit Court Clerk’s office has copies of these same fill-in-the-blank forms for divorce, custody, child support and name change cases. For assistance with these forms or more information on divorce, contact the family support services coordinator/administrator who can provide further information on pro se (self-represented) programs, pro bono (reduced or no fee) attorneys, mediation programs, co-parenting education classes and other referrals. Assistance in completing the form(s) is also available through the Legal Forms Helpline (http://www.wlcmd.org/projects.html) operated by the Women's Law Center of Maryland.
How long is the legal divorce process?
The length of the divorce process depends on the issues involved. Divorces that include marital property, custody and child support take longer than cases without these issues. A case can quickly reach its conclusion if the parties reach an agreement on all issues, either on their own or with the help of a mediator. The average length of time for a divorce case from filing to conclusion can be anywhere from two weeks to a year or more.
What can I do to ease the financial burden of the divorce process?
The least expensive divorce is one in which the parties agree on how to divide property and how to care for their children after divorce. In order to help families reach an agreement, each Circuit Court has a panel of mediators who can assist parties in settling any disputes they may have. Most mediation programs require payment of a fee for services, but low income parties may ask the court for a waiver or reduction of these fees. The family support services coordinator/administrator in each Circuit Court has information on easing the cost of a divorce.
See the Domestic Violence web site for more information, including resources, hotlines, etc.
What is a Peace or Protective Order?
Peace and protective orders are civil orders issued by a judge to prevent one person from committing certain acts against others. The personal relationship between the respondent and the victim determines which order would be filed. Protective orders generally apply to people in domestic relationships. Peace orders apply to other relationships (dating, neighbors, co-workers, acquaintances, strangers). For more information, including how to determine which order applies to your situation, see the Peace and Protective Order Brochure.
In Maryland a "restraining order" refers to a peace or protective order.
How do I file for protection from domestic violence?
A petition for protection from domestic violence may be filed in any District Court or Circuit Court in Maryland. The Domestic Violence Protection Order form is available on this web site or can be obtained in each Clerk’s office. If you need assistance with the process, contact the family support services coordinator/administrator in the Circuit Court or call the Clerk’s office and ask for the names of any domestic violence programs in your area. Some courthouses have on-site programs designed to assist victims in safety plans and filing for protection. If you need assistance and the courts are closed, contact a District Court Commissioner.
What is an emergency evaluation?
An emergency evaluation petition is a legal process that enables a petitioner to get a person who is suffering from a mental illness or is in a serious mental crisis taken into custody and examined by a medical professional in a designated emergency facility.
How do I obtain an emergency evaluation?
If person has health care provider, such as doctor, case manager or other mental health worker, call that professional for help.
If the person does not have a provider, check with county’s mental health department for possible services. If the person poses an immediate danger to him or herself, or to others, call the police.
What is an expungement?
Expungement is the removal of records from public inspection. In Maryland, records may be expunged from Motor Vehicle Administration files, police files, and court and police files. The process must be done through the proper agency. No process expunges the records from all agencies.
For more information, see Expungement.
How can I become a spoken language interpreter for the courts?
The Judiciary administers the Maryland Court Interpreter Program. For information on requirements to become a certified court interpreter, information on the registry release list of interpreters, and scheduled workshops, see the Maryland Court Interpreter Program site.
[For information on spoken language interpreter services, see Accommodations.]
How are judges chosen?
Under the Maryland Constitution, the Maryland governor fills a new judgeship or other vacancy in judicial office with an individual having certain basic qualifications:
- Must be a U.S. and Maryland citizen.
- Must be registered to vote in state elections at the time of appointment.
- Must be a Maryland resident for at least five years.
- Resident, for at least six months next preceding appointment, in the geographic area where the vacancy exists.
- Must be age 30 or older at the time of appointment.
- Must be a member of the Maryland State Bar.
The Constitution also speaks generally of a second category of qualifications, by providing that those selected for judgeships shall be lawyers “most distinguished for integrity, wisdom, and sound legal knowledge.” Although the Constitution sets forth these basic qualifications, it provides the Governor with limited guidance in making judicial appointments.
In 1970, an executive order created the Judicial Nominating Commissions to assist in the judicial selection process. Since that time, every Governor has issued a similar executive order. The primary responsibility of the Judicial Nominating Commissions has been to screen candidates for judicial office. This screening process allows the Governor to appoint the most highly qualified candidates.
How do I apply for a judicial vacancy?
To apply for a judicial vacancy, applicants are required to submit a Confidential Personal Data Questionnaire to the Administrative Office of the Courts. For more information, including a downloadable copy of the Questionnaire, see Judicial Selection Process.
Will I be paid while I serve on a jury?
Each county and Baltimore City is responsible for providing payment for serving jury duty. To learn more about serving as a Maryland juror, see Jury Service. There you will find FAQs for Employers and Employees, Do's and Don'ts During Trial and other information to help you understand the important role juries play in our justice system.
Where can I find information on landlord-tenant disputes?
The District Court provides informational brochures, including one on landlord and tenant matters. The Maryland State Law Library (http://www.lawlib.state.md.us) also offers a reference guide to landlord-tenant law in Maryland. This reference guide identifies selected legal and referral sources on landlord-tenant questions in Maryland.
How can I obtain legal advice?
Only a lawyer can provide legal advice. Many lawyers provide free or low cost initial consultation services. The local or state bar association may provide you with a list of these lawyers. (see Bar Associations)
What are pro bono services?
Pro bono services are legal services provided by attorneys who are volunteering their time "pro bono publico," or "for the public good." [See Pro Bono FAQ]
What advice can a court clerk give?
A court clerk can explain when and where a particular trial is scheduled, provide the forms requested, explain the fees required for various court actions, accept case filings and answer questions about the procedures of the court. A clerk is prohibited by law from rendering legal advice.
Marriage licenses are issued by the Circuit Court (see Marriage Information)
Motor Vehicle licenses are issued by the MVA (http://www.mva.state.md.us)
Where can I obtain a marriage license?
Maryland requires that a marriage license be obtained from the Circuit Court Clerk’s office in the county (or Baltimore City) where the marriage is to take place. It is recommended that you contact the Circuit Court Clerk’s office where you plan to marry as each jurisdiction has different license fees. If it is not convenient for you to visit the Circuit Court Clerk’s office in the location where you wish to marry, you may apply using a Non-Resident Affidavit - except in Cecil County.* Call the Clerk's Office to have a copy of the affidavit sent to you or check the Clerk's Web site to see if it is available to download.
*In Cecil County both parties to be married shall appear together before the clerk to apply for a license. See MD Code Family Law § 2-402(e)
Is there a waiting period before I can get married?
Yes. A marriage license is not effective until 6:00 a.m. on the second calendar day after the license is issued (i.e., 48-hour waiting period).
Can I get married in the courthouse?
Maryland no longer employs Justices of the Peace to perform civil ceremonies. Instead, only a judge, a Clerk of the Circuit Court or an appointed, designated Deputy Clerk of the Circuit Court may perform civil ceremonies. The hours, location and fees for a civil ceremony vary from county to county. For more information, contact the Clerk of the Circuit Court in the county (or Baltimore City) where you wish to be married.
What are the state marriage age requirements?
Maryland law states that an individual who is 16 or 17 years old may only marry with the consent of a parent or guardian who confirms that individual’s age OR with a certificate from a licensed physician verifying that an examination of the woman to be married indicated that she is pregnant or has given birth to a child.
An individual who is 15 years old may only marry with the consent of a parent or guardian AND a certificate from a licensed physician verifying that an examination of the woman to be married indicated that she is pregnant or has given birth to a child.
Individuals under the age of 15 may not marry.
How can I obtain a copy of my marriage certificate?
Please see the FAQ on obtaining Birth/Marriage/Death certificates.
What is mediation?
Mediation is a process in which a trained neutral person, a "mediator," helps people in a dispute to communicate with one another, to understand each other, and if possible, to reach agreements that satisfy everyone's needs. Mediation is voluntary. All parties involved in the dispute must agree to mediation. However, using mediation, parties do not give up their legal rights. If an agreement is not reached, parties can still go to court.
For more information, see Mediation and Other Forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution in Maryland Courts or call MACRO, the Judiciary's Mediation and Conflict Resolution Office at 410-841-2260 or visit its website, www.marylandmacro.org.
The Maryland Association for Community Mediation Centers can assist you in obtaining mediation services through your local community mediation center. For more information contact MACMC at 410-349-0080 or see visits its web site at http://www.marylandmediation.org.
If you are a party to a case, or an attorney seeking a mediator for a Business & Technology or Health Care Malpractice Claims case, the Judiciary maintains a listing of qualified mediators and other ADR neutrals for both programs:
- Mediators for Business & Technology Case Management Program
- Mediators for Health Care Malpractice Claims ADR Program
How do I go about getting my name changed?
Name changes, both minor and adult, require the filing of a Petition for Change of Name with the Circuit Court in the county (or Baltimore City) where you reside. The Judiciary provides free, online domestic relations forms, including those required to petition for a change of name of an adult or child. For more information, please contact the Clerk's Office of the Circuit Court. For a listing and contact information, see Circuit Court Clerks.
Does the state handle naturalization or immigration issues?
Immigration is a matter of federal law rather than state law. For more information, see the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services at http://uscis.gov/graphics/index.htm.
What is a Notary Public?
A Notary Public is a person appointed by the Governor to witness the signing of important documents and administer oaths. This public official must meet the requirements established by the state government for the appointment of a notary public. A notary public cannot give legal advice.
How do I become a Notary Public?
To become a Notary Public, you must be at least 18 years of age, live or work in the State of Maryland, and be of known good character, integrity and abilities. The first step is to fill out an application form, available through the Secretary of State at http://www.sos.state.md.us.
Where can I get a passport application?
Passport applications are handled by the U.S. Department of State, but most Post Office locations provide passport applications. Forms are also available at the Circuit Court Clerk’s office in the following counties: Allegany, Anne Arundel, Calvert, Caroline, Cecil, Charles, Frederick, Montgomery, Prince George’s, Queen Anne’s and Washington. For more information on obtaining a passport, please visit the the U.S. Department of State at http://travel.state.gov/passport/passport_1738.html.
The Replevin and Detinue brochure describes court procedures for the return of property.
How do I get property returned to me?
Replevins and detinues are legal actions that allow the plaintiff (the person seeking to recover the property) to seek the return of property.
Seeks the return of property, along with possible damages. Allows for the possible return/possession of the property at a Show Cause hearing, a hearing held before a trial. Filed in the District Court, regardless of the amount in dispute.
May require the filing of:
- a Complaint Form (DC/CV1)
- a Proof of Service (DC/CV 2)
- a Show Cause Order form (DC/CV 4)
Seeks the return of property or its value along with possible damages.
Requires a trial to determine rightful owner of property. Filed in District Court for actions up to $5,000. If claim is between $5,000 and $30,000, claim may be filed in either District or circuit courts. Detinues for more than $30,000 must be filed in circuit court.
Requires the filing of only a Complaint Form.
Red Light Traffic Program
How and where do I file a complaint against red light traffic cameras?
The red light cameras are installed at the expense and direction of the locality or municipality. Complaints about the location or operation of these cameras should be sent to the address on the citation. In most cases this is the address of the police agency.
Will I be assessed points if found guilty of a red light camera citation?
As stated on the red light citations: "Payment of the penalty amount for the violation will not result in points and cannot be used to increase your insurance rates."
How do these red light cameras work?
For more information on the Red Light Camera Program, please contact the law enforcement agency or municipality listed on the citation.
Rules of Procedure
What are the Maryland Rules of Procedure?
Procedural rules (also called court rules), which are adopted by our State’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, guide the litigant, who is usually represented by an attorney, on what to do and how to do it when bringing a legal dispute into one of Maryland’s courts. These rules, which have the force of law, and are mandatory, establish a uniform process for trying cases and ensure that justice is fairly administered.
Within our State court system there are different sets of procedural rules governing various types of cases in no less than five different courts. For example, separate rules exist for civil, criminal, juvenile and appellate cases and dispute resolution mechanisms. The Maryland Rules are provided as a free service by Lexis and Westlaw. See Legal Links.
What should I do if I am unable to attend a District Court date?
District Court: If you wish to request a change in the trial date for a District Court case, you must write the court before your trial date with an explanation of the circumstances that require the change. Your request is not automatically granted; it is up to a judge to determine whether to change your trial date. It may be helpful to provide documentation to support your request.
For the Circuit Court, please contact the Clerk's Office for assistance.
If you are the victim of a sexual assault, call the police to report the crime. Additional help is available through sexual assault/abuse crisis centers and hotlines. For a listing of such services, see Sexual Assault Hotlines (http://www.oag.state.md.us/Family/sahotlines.htm) provided by the Maryland Attorney General.
Sexual Consent/Statutory Rape
What is the age of consent in Maryland?
You should review the "Criminal Law" article of the Annotated Code of Maryland. This code is available at most larger county public library branches. For an unannotated version of the Code of Maryland, see Legal Links.
How do I file a small claim?
Small Claims are filed in the District Court of Maryland. Small Claims cases are decided by a judge, not a jury. For more information, see the District Court's comprehensive small claims web page.
Speed Monitoring Camera Programs (residential, school zones and work zones)
How and where do I file a complaint against speed monitoring traffic cameras?
The speed monitoring cameras are installed and/or operated at the expense and direction of the locality or municipality, or if on a state highway, by the Department of State Police. Complaints about the location or operation of these cameras should be sent to the address on the citation. In most cases this is the address of the police agency.
Will I be assessed points if found guilty of a speed monitoring camera citation?
As stated on the speed monitoring citations: "Payment of the penalty amount for the violation will not result in points and cannot be used to increase your insurance rates."
How do speed monitoring cameras work?
For more information on the Speed Monitoring Programs, please contact the law enforcement agency listed on the citation.
What do I do once I receive a traffic citation?
If you receive a payable traffic citation, you have several options, which you should review. For complete information, visit the District Court Website at mdcourts.gov/district/
What if I receive a Notice to Appear as a witness?
If you receive a Notice to Appear as a witness in a traffic case, the date, time and court location appears on the notice. Call the court the day before the trial date to confirm that the case is still on the docket. If you are unable to appear on the scheduled date, notify the court in writing prior to that date by mail. Include the citation number, defendant’s name, trial date and location, a brief explanation of why you are unable to attend, your name and your daytime phone number.
How long do trials/hearings take?
The length of your trial or hearing can vary by county, and can depend on the number of cases scheduled during the session to which your case is assigned. Many counties are working hard to significantly decrease the time individuals have to spend in traffic court by scheduling cases on an hourly basis.
How do I check to see if I have an outstanding suspension?
The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration maintains all motor vehicle records including outstanding suspensions. You can reach the MVA by calling 800/950-1MVA (out of state 301/729-4550) during regular weekday hours, or by calling 800/638-8347 for 24-hour-a-day recorded information regarding the MVA.
Transcripts and Recordings
How do I obtain a transcript or recording of my trial?
Generally, most requests for a transcript or recording pertain to a District Court action. See the District Court for more information. If you want information on the availability of a transcript or recording in a circuit or an appellate court please contact the Clerk's Office for assistance. Contact information, see the Court of Appeals - the Court of Special Appeals - Circuit Courts for the clerk's' phone listing.
When a verdict is rendered - either by a jury or judge - the actual decision is either “guilty” or “not guilty.” There is no finding of “innocent.” However, a defendant, if found "not guilty", can be described as having been acquitted. If there is a finding of "not guilty," it simply reflects the fact that the prosecution failed to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Common resolutions of cases other than by findings of "not guilty" and "guilty" include:
- Nolle pros - The state opts to end the prosecution and dismisses the charge.
- Stet - A suspension of the prosecution. The State may reopen the case without the need for the defendant to be recharged. A case may be a reopened because of the defendant’s arrest on additional charges or his/her failure to live up to some agreed-to-condition within a reasonable time after the entry of the stet.
- PBJ - Probation before judgment. This is a common resolution in many District Court trials. The defendant is found guilty or pleads guilty. However, the final entry of judgment is technically suspended. This gives the defendant an opportunity to request expungement of his record upon successful completion of the conditions or probation.
What are the rights of a victim of a crime?
As a public service, the Maryland Attorney General provides assistance to crime victims through two sources: the Director of Victim Assistance and a Criminal Investigations Division Victim Assistance Coordinator. For more information on these two offices as well as a listing of other resources, See Victim Assistance (http://www.oag.state.md.us/victim.htm) on the Maryland Attorney General's site.
Where do I go to obtain wills/probate information?
Information regarding wills, probate and the registering of wills in Maryland is handled by the Register of Wills office in each jurisdiction. The Register of Wills serves as the Clerk to the Orphans Court, which has jurisdiction over judicial probate, administration of estates and conduct of personal representatives. See Maryland Register of Wills at http://www.registers.state.md.us for general information, downloadable forms and contact information for local Register of Wills offices.
What happens if I get a subpoena to appear as a witness?
A subpoena to appear as a witness is a court order and must be obeyed. Failure to appear in court in response to a subpoena could place you in contempt of court. The subpoena may contain information or instructions about the trial. You should try to follow these instructions as it may save you time.
The State's Attorney's office for each county in Maryland (and Baltimore City) has a victim/witness assistance coordinator who can answer your questions and help you through the court process. The coordinator can also help you if you need information about your case, assistance in applying for criminal injury compensation or referrals to community victim service programs. Locate the State's Attorney for your jurisdiction at the Maryland State's Attorneys' Association web site - www.mdsaa.org.
What should I do if I am unable to appear on the scheduled date?
You should contact the attorney who has called you as a witness as soon as possible. If you are being called as a witness for the state, contact the State's Attorney in the county (or Baltimore City) where the trial is scheduled.