Topics on this page:
- Court Records Generally
- Motion to Seal or Otherwise Limit Inspection of a Case Record
- Maryland Second Chance Act
Generally speaking, Maryland court records and cases are open to the public. You can visit a Maryland court to look at court records or go online to see information about a Maryland case.
Read the Rule: Md. Rule 16-903
You can, however, ask a Maryland District or Circuit Court to keep the public from seeing records in your case. There are two ways to do this: 1. a “Motion to Seal or Otherwise Limit Inspection of a Case Record," and 2. a “Petition for Shielding Under MD. Second Chance Act.” This article will explain the two and how to file each one.
This motion asks the court to seal a case record or to limit inspection of a portion of the record. Case records include court papers, orders, notices, and other records on a case. The motion can be used more than once for criminal, civil, and traffic cases. The standard form motion is titled CC-DC-053. Some case records do not require this motion because the records are not public. For example, in criminal cases, the victim’s contact information is automatically shielded. For more information on automatically shielded civil and criminal records, see the Maryland Rules.
Read the Rules: Md. Rules 16-905 - 908
Who Can File
You must be a party to the case. A party to a case includes the plaintiff, defendant, a permitted intervening party, and a person who is the subject of or specifically identified in a case record. You must say what party you are on the motion.
You must give a special and compelling reason why the public should not be able to see the case.
Read the Rule: Md. Rule 16-912
File the motion in the court where the record is located and serve the motion on all parties in the case.
When the motion to seal is filed, the records you are requesting to be sealed are automatically sealed for five business days. After the five days, the court may issue a temporary order to shield the record before a hearing and final decision. If the court does not issue a temporary order to seal, than the records become visible until the court rules on the motion to seal.
Read the Rule: Md. Rule 16-912
The other parties may object to the motion within a certain period of time. In District Court, the party has 10 days to respond. In Circuit Court, the party has 15 days to respond. If a party objects, the court will hold a hearing before making a decision. The court has 30 days after the hearing is held to make a decision. If no party objects within the response period, the court will make a decision on the motion to seal.
The court will typically decide in one of three ways: grant the motion and seal the record, grant the motion and limit inspection, or deny the motion. If the court seals the record, the whole case record cannot be opened without the judge’s permission. If the court limits inspection, the court will clearly state what record may not be viewed by the public, and for how long. If the court denies the motion, the public will be able to see the record.
Read the Rule: Md. Rule 16-912
Access to a Sealed Record
The public can ask for permission to see a sealed case record. The form motion is titled CC-DC-054 and can be found online.
This petition is a one-time request to remove court and police records about 12 convictions.
You file this petition in either District Court or Circuit Court. The petition can only be filed in one Maryland county and only once in your lifetime. You must have been convicted of one of the 12 convictions in those courts. The petition can include multiples of the 12 convictions.
There are 12 shield eligible convictions:
- Disorderly conduct;
- Disturbing the peace;
- Failure to obey a reasonable and lawful order;
- Malicious destruction of property in the lesser degree;
- Trespass on posted property;
- Possessing or administering a controlled dangerous substance;
- Possessing or administering a noncontrolled substance;
- Use of or possession with intent to use drug paraphernalia;
- Driving without a license;
- Driving while privilege is canceled, suspended, refused, or revoked;
- Driving while uninsured;
- A prostitution offense if the conviction is for prostitution and not assignation. Read the Law: Md. Code, Criminal Procedure ("Crim. Pro.") § 10-301
If you have two or more convictions that came from the same incident, transaction, or set of facts, then eligibility for shielding those convictions is “all or nothing.” If any of those convictions is not eligible for shielding, then none of those convictions is eligible.
Who can file
To be eligible to file the Petition, you must complete the sentence for each conviction. Sentences include a prison sentence, parole, probation, and mandatory supervision.
Before filing the Petition, there is a three-year waiting period after the sentences are completed. If you are convicted of a crime or are a defendant in a criminal case in those three years, you cannot file the petition.
Read the Law: Crim. Pro. § 10-303
The standardized petition form, CC-DC-CR-148, should be used.
File the Petition, along with a $30 filing fee, in the appropriate court. You may file in person or online.
The court will serve the State’s Attorney and any victims. The State’s Attorney and victims have 30 days to object to the petition. If they do not object in 30 days, the court will make a decision. If they do object, the court will hold a hearing before making a decision.
If your Petition is denied, the public can still see the records. If the Petition is granted, the public cannot see the records, and the Maryland Judiciary Case Search will not show those records online.
Read the Law: Crim. Proc. § 10-304
Access to Shielded Records
Some people can see shielded records. Officials, such as police, and people with a legitimate reason can ask to see the records. The form to request access to a shielded record, called CC-DC-CR-151, is available online.
People cannot use your shielded record against you. Employers, schools, and state officials cannot make you tell them about your shielded record. They also cannot fire, refuse to hire, or deny your application because you did not tell them about your shielded record.
Read the Law: Crim. Proc. § 10-306
A successful Petition for Shielding or a Motion to Seal offer ways to keep the public from seeing your court records. If you want more information about shielding or sealing records, please visit the Maryland Judiciary's website.