Have you been searching for a comprehensive answer to everything-background-check related in Maryland? Then you have finally found the right place!
We are going to tell you everything you need to know about background checks in Maryland, the laws that govern them, how to get them, and so much more!
Background Check Laws in Maryland
The Maryland Public Information Act (PIA, for short) gives the people of Maryland a very broad access right to public records while ensuring the privacy of individuals and the legitimacy of the government remains intact.
According to the act, a public record is defined as any documentary material that has been made or received by a public agency connected with the transference of public business. In simpler terms, everything from computerized documents to photos to books or drawings constitutes a “public record”.
Not all records are available under the Maryland Public Information Act due to other policies taking over in some instances. Sometimes, records are deemed confidential under federal or other state statutes, court rules, or common law privileges (attorney-client, for example). Adoption records, certain Motor Vehicle Administration records, and other personnel documents are also not accessible through the PIA.
Furthermore, agencies have the right to withhold the disclosure of other records if the reveal would be against the public interest. This can include examination information, licensing, investigatory records, and pre-decisional paperwork.
There are also clear restrictions in Maryland on access to criminal records. Here is a breakdown of the most important rules and regulations in place when employers seek to obtain criminal record information:
- Arrest and Conviction Record Restrictions — Most of the time, state-level convictions, or arrests can’t be used for employee screening without a mandate issued by statutes or the court.
- The Ban-the-Box Law — Since 2014, this law has prevented public employers and private employers with over 10 employees in Maryland from asking about someone’s criminal history during the initial job application period. Only after the candidate has been for their interview can employers issue a criminal background check. It’s worth noting that the restriction doesn’t apply for jobs at the Sheriff’s Office in Maryland or the state Department of Corrections.
- Pardoned or Expunged Records — Any criminal documents that have been sealed or removed entirely from a person’s record can’t be considered. Applicants do not have to state their previous existence either. Maryland’s laws make it illegal for employers to base an employment or firing decision on them.
The state of Maryland also places extreme restrictions on the right employers have to access a candidate’s credit history.
Employers are allowed to request a credit check if they have offered the candidate the job role on a conditional basis. However, the information gleaned from the credit report can’t be used to retract the job offer. Not to mention that there will have to be a written justified reason for an employer to conduct a credit check.
Generally speaking, agencies can respond to your records request immediately. However, under the PIA, they have a total of 30 days to comply with the request. If the agency cannot give you the right information within this time frame, the Public Information Act requires them to submit a written justified extension request.
Agencies are allowed to charge you a “reasonable fee” for making copies of public records. Sometimes, agencies might charge another “reasonable fee” for the time it takes their staff to search and review the document.
Having said this, the Maryland PIA ensures that the first two search time hours are free. So, you’ll only need to pay for any overtime.
If an agency decides to deny your request, either partly or completely, they must give you a written explanation as to why this decision was reached. In some cases, you might feel that this decision is unjust. If so, there are three routes to go down according to the Public Information Act:
- Go to Court — You’ll be able to challenge the agency’s decision here. If you win the case, you may have to pay attorney fees.
- Issue a Complaint with The Public Information Act Compliance Board — If the agency charged you more than $350 and you think that this is unfair, challenge it with this board. It’s a state entity where five Governor-appointed staff members work to settle complaints relating to unreasonable record request fees.
- Start Informal Mediation — The Public Access Ombudsman settles disputes under the PIA that you and the agency can’t resolve yourself. The Office of the Public Access Ombudsman was created in 2015 and is independent of the Attorney General’s Office.
What Shows Up On a Background Check in Maryland?
Depending on the job role you are applying for, your background check in Maryland will uncover a variety of things. Aside from your general information (birthday, full name, etc.), it may well bring up the following bits of information too:
- Driving records (some careers require you to have clean driving records)
- Drug and alcohol screening (if required by your employer, under Maryland’s law there has to be a justified reason for this request)
- Social media accounts (acts as the purest form of character reference)
- Employment history
- Medical records
- Credit reports (see the previous section for the restrictions placed on employers using them for hiring decisions)
- Education history
- Marriage and divorce records
- Criminal records (only if required by the position and if requested by adhering to the ban-the-box laws in place throughout the state of Maryland)
Background checks will be conducted through the CJIS (the Criminal Justice Information System) of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. This is where all Maryland’s fingerprint-documented criminal ID records and histories are stored. Plus, ensuring all background checks come through this department, accuracy, and abidance of laws can be ensured and maintained.
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) Code of Maryland (COMAR) 14-203, passed in 1976 in Maryland, no agencies can pull any arrest or conviction records that are over seven years old. However, if the position will pay a salary of over $20,000 per annum, employers do hold the right to request records that date back further.
However, background checks in Maryland are not allowed to disclose the following unless a court order or special provision has been issued:
- Adoption records
- Guardianship that expunges parental rights
- Juvenile corrections documentation
- CINA (Child in Need of Assistance)
- Crisis mental health evaluations
- Particular marriage license documents
- Income tax returns
- Financial statements about child support
- Reports made by guardians of alleged disabled adults
- Reports made by doctors about the medical condition of alleged disabled adults
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 also protects all candidates and employees from being discriminated against in all aspects of employment. This includes the screening (i.e. background check) process.
What Do Employers Look For On a Background Check?
Depending on the type of job you’re applying for, employers will be checking you based on a certain set of criteria. Generally speaking, they are simply trying to ascertain whether you were telling the truth on your application. However, in some cases they might look deeper into your past (and your present) by doing the following:
- Look At Your Social Media — Nowadays, most people have social media. All the things you post on your profiles allow others to see your true character and moral compass. If employers see illegal or violent behavior on your timeline, it’s likely to place some doubts in their minds about whether they want to hire you.
- Credit Checks — Maryland’s laws stipulate that credit checks are only to be used in very specific situations. Plus, certain rules have to be followed to allow employers to check your financial history legally.
- Reference Checks — This helps employers determine whether you are the best person for the job.
The Reasons Why Employers Run Background Checks in Maryland
Aside from checking for misdemeanors and other law-related behavior, there are plenty of other reasons why employers in Maryland will want to check out your background.
#1 Make Sure Everyone Stays Safe
You have likely heard an awful story or two about dangerous people in the workplace. Whether it’s grievous bodily harm, fraud, insider trading, or something else entirely, employers need to be doubly sure that their new employees won’t harm themselves, their business, or their current employees.
#2 Increase The Quality of Their Business and Team
It’s all too easy to enhance your resume these days. Because of this, employers often find that their candidates aren’t always as competent as they say they are. Running background checks can help mitigate this issue.
#3 Avoid Any Negative Press
Bad publicity can mark the end of a company. Potential applicants won’t want to work somewhere with negative press, nor will customers want to access the company’s services or products.
Keeping a positive company view starts with the people that work there.
#4 Ensure You Told The Truth on Your Application
Misinforming or fabricating the truth on your application form or resume isn’t a great practice. It might seem like a good idea at the time since it’s likely to get you through to the interview process. However, background checks always show the truth in the end.
It’s always better to be open and honest rather than unjustifiably “flashy” with your education and employment histories. Employers will thank you for it.
How Far Back Do Background Checks in Maryland Go?
Since there are various bits of information that can be accessed through a background check in Maryland, this is a somewhat convoluted answer. The easiest way to explain is to have a look at the table below before we go into more detail:
|Check Type||Time Length|
|Pre-employment background checks||They generally cover up to 7 years of criminal and court records. However, they can go back further if the court allows (see below table for more information).|
|Bankruptcy||A maximum of 10 years|
|Credit history||It can go back as far as 7 or 10 years. However, Maryland stipulates extremely strict rules and regulations regarding the pulling of credit scores/histories.|
|Criminal background checks||No arrests or convictions older than 7 years can be reported.|
|Driving records||No more than 3 years from the violation date|
|Employment and educational history||Verified throughout life|
|Professional license certification and verification||Verified throughout life|
While the Fair Credit Reporting Act Code of Maryland 14-203(5) states that arrests or convictions older than seven years cannot be reported, there is one exception. If the per-annum salary of the job role will exceed $20,000, employers are allowed to pull criminal records older than this seven-year limit.
Employers in Maryland are also not required to be informed about any expunged or sealed charges on a candidate’s record. Even in the event that this information comes to light, employers are not allowed to use it to make any hiring decisions.
Federal employment screening law ensures background checks for some industries (direct caregiving, for example) are mandatory, regardless of whether the state’s law dictates this.
How Long Does a Background Check in Maryland Take?
Depending on your request, a public agency will normally respond instantly. In some cases, you might be able to access the records via the agency’s website if it’s something that is often sought. You can visit the State Department of Assessments and Taxation to find property assessments, for example.
Otherwise, an agency has to comply with your request within 30 days under the Maryland Public Information Act. If the agency realizes that they need more time, they can submit a written extension request to you, justifying the reason for the extension. The reason cannot, for obvious reasons, be to delay proceedings.
If your background check is going through the Criminal Justice Information System (which it will be if you’re conducting employee background or criminal record checks), you’ll be expected to wait 30 days. There are also flat fees for this service (increased as of January 1, 2019) as shown in the table below:
|Full background for authorized agencies||$31.25|
|Full background for childcare personnel||$29.25|
|Maryland Mentor childcare volunteers||$15.00|
|Stat background with gold seal||$19|
|Criminal Justice full background||FREE|
|Criminal Justice state background||FREE||Attorney/Client civil||$18.00|
|Attorney/Client with pending criminal case||FREE|
It’s also worth noting that you will need to be $20.00 for the fingerprint fee, regardless of the service you choose. Fingerprint-based searches are generally reserved for official requests since they are the most accurate background check tool.
Additionally, fingerprints can only be taken at a licensed Private Provider or a Government-Operated Service. If you’re using a third-party agency, you will need to completely understand how their fingerprinting fee works.
How Long Does a Background Check For a Gun in Maryland Take?
The federal law in the United States of America dictates that federally-licensed firearms dealers must conduct a background check before the purchase of a gun or other lethal weapon.
Alongside this, the federal law also offers an option for states to become a “point of contact”. This means that the state can perform its own background checks using state and federal records. These states are also able to choose to have the FBI conduct the check through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System database.
The Secretary of the Maryland State Police is partly a point of contact in the state to integrate the Brady Act.
Anyone who wishes to buy regulated firearms (in Maryland, these are assault weapons and handguns) needs to apply via Maryland’s application form. The completed form is then sent to the aforementioned Secretary who has to confirm the contents.
The Secretary must deny the transaction of a regulated firearm if he/she receives a note from the candidate’s doctor explaining that the candidate has a mental disorder and could be a danger to others/himself/herself.
As soon as the Secretary has come to a disapproval decision, he/she is required to tell the seller or the candidate of his/her decision within 7 days, according to the Maryland Waiting Period.
Any sellers of regulated firearms that are not a federally-licensed seller is legally required to complete a gun or deadly weapon sale through a licensed firearms dealer or a law-appointed enforcement agency. This is set out in the Maryland Private Sales section.
As for long guns (i.e. rifles and shotguns), dealers must get in touch with the FBI to ensure the proper NICS checks are completed before the transference.
How Can You Get a Background Check in Maryland?
Background checks have to go through the Criminal Justice Information System of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. All Maryland’s fingerprint ID records and history are stored here.
If you live in Maryland and need to conduct a background check, you can go straight to a licensed fingerprint service location.
Alternatively, you can ask for a copy of your own criminal history record through the FBI. You must contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation directly to obtain this to ensure accuracy and legitimacy.
If you live outside of the state, you can ask for a fingerprint card by calling the CJIS in Baltimore City or by sending a letter to the CIJS central repository. Inside the letter, you’ll need to include a check made to “CJIS Central Repository”. You’ll receive your fingerprint card within 10 to 15 days.
If you are interested in your own records simply for self-assurance, you may well be able to access some of them online. See the following for more information:
- Maryland Judiciary Case Search — Before you start reading, note that you can’t use this to make employment decisions. Here, you’ll find details of official case files like the number, dates, and the type of case.
- Maryland Electronic Courts or MDEC — Here, you can look at any files in a court case that you were involved in. The public, however, cannot access this database. It’s strictly for use by your lawyer. In some cases, exceptions might be written to allow access to certain public individuals.
- Estate Search — If someone you know has died, this allows you to look at the estate they owned. You can also go via the Register of Wills to see more information on the estate.
- Land Records — Here, you can access records about any property in the state.
For those of you who want a background check to gain licensing or employment, your employer or licensing board must do this for you.
Should You Use a Third-Party Background Check Company in Maryland?
If you are an employer in the direct caregiving or medical industries, third-party background checks are not accepted even if they conduct criminal screenings. Instead, you have to go through the state or federal agencies yourself to ensure accuracy.
For other industries, however, third-party background check companies in Maryland work wonders. It will save you a lot of time since you won’t need to contact each public agency directly. Instead, a third-party organization like the ones below can do everything for you:
- Edge Information Management
- Hire Image Background Screening Specialists
- IntelliCorp a Cisive Company
- Applicant Insight
- ESR (Employment Screening Resources)
- Kress Employment Screening
- Accurate Screens
- Vantage Point
- CourtHouse Concepts
- Candid Research
- Atlantic Employee Screening
- Nationwide Screening Services
- Triton Background and Criminal Check Express
- Shield Screening
- AAIM Check
- Kemi Group LLC
What To Do If The Information on Your Background Check Is Incorrect in Maryland
If the information on your background check is wrong, you can dispute the errors under the FCRA in Maryland. You’ll be able to do this by contacting the agency that supplied the incorrect information.
It’s important to note that your dispute may take up to 30 days to be rectified.
Can You Get a Free Background Report in Maryland?
Unofficial background checks (i.e. accessing public records under Maryland’s PIA) are free. However, all official background checks required for employment, housing, and credit options must be paid for.
However, you will never be charged more than a “reasonable fee”. If you feel that you have been charged more than this, you can dispute it with the Public Information Act Compliance Board.