Frequently Asked Questions - Other

FAQ's from the Comptroller

Other Questions

Note: These frequently asked questions are found on the Maryland Judiciary's website.

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.

Can I check to see if an attorney is licensed to practice in Maryland?
The Client Protection Fund's website 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 (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 website 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 during the current and past two fiscal years on the Attorney Grievance Commission's website.

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 website. 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 at 800-492-1964 for a list of local pro bono organizations. The People's Law Library also provides 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 website.

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 of age 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:

  1. Cash Bail
    A percentage may be posted for cash bonds. All bonds that are set at two thousand, five hundred dollars ($2,500.00) 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Intangible Assets
    Acceptable intangible assets include:

    1. Bankbooks and certificates of deposit accepted at 100% of stated value;
    2. Letters of credit from a bank; and
    3. Certificates for stocks listed on the American or New York Stock Exchange, accepted at 75% 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.

  4. Credit and Debit Cards
    Calvert County only accepts cash or a certified check for bail payments. Calvert does NOT accept credit and debit card as a form of payment for bail. *Only certain counties are equipped to accept 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.)
  5. 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 your 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 website.

Where do I go to obtain copies of birth/marriage/death certificates?
Birth, marriage, and death certificates are available through the Division of Vital Records, Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Costs, forms and other information can be accessed at the Division's website or by calling 410-764-3038.

Marriage certificates can also be obtained from the Clerk in the location the marriage took place in.

Where can I go for information on child support?
Visit the website of the Maryland Child Support Enforcement Program, 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

Complaints: 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.

Complaints: 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 website.

Complaints: About a case
If you are dissatisfied with a decision in your case, you may file an appeal with the appropriate court.

What are the court fees?
Fee schedules, 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 here.

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?
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," or "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 of 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.

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.

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. 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 purposes 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 website of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services' Sexual Offender Registry Unit.

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, and
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.

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 website 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.

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 website 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 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 a person has a 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 the 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 website.

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 FAQ's 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.

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."

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.

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 website to see if it is available to download. The Calvert County Clerk's Office does have it available for download here.

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 license physician verifying that an examination of the woman to be married indicated that she is pregnant or has given live birth to a child.

What is a 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 live 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.

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 visit their website.

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

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.

What are the Maryland Rules of Procedure?
Procedural rules (also called court rules), which are adopted by our State's highest court, the Supreme Court of Maryland, 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.

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 of recording in a circuit or an appellate court please contact the Clerk's Office for assistance. For contact information, see the Supreme Court of Maryland - the Appellate Court of Maryland- Circuit Courts for the clerk's phone listing.

Please call the Clerk's office for information on how to obtain a transcript or recording of your case in Calvert County. You can reach the Calvert County Clerk's office at 410-535-1600.

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 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 of 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 on the Maryland Attorney General's website.

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 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. Contact the attorney or person requesting the subpoena for more information or if you are unable to appear on the scheduled date.

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 website.

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.