Guide to Maryland State Background Checks

Kate Rhodes
September 27, 2023
8 min read

Maryland employers use background checks such as criminal records checks, employment verification, and motor vehicle records checks to learn about candidates' work histories and confirm application details. Having comprehensive, accurate information about candidates allows hiring managers to make more informed decisions. But complex federal, state, and local laws govern background checks, and employers have to be careful to stay in compliance. Here's what employers need to know about Maryland background checks.

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What is a Maryland background check?

A Maryland state background check compiles information on a candidate's history from Maryland public records, online databases, courts, and other sources. Background checks can include information on criminal, driving, employment, education, and credit history, and can be accompanied by drug testing for current substance use in some cases.

Businesses may run pre-employment background checks before hiring candidates to verify their credentials and experience and to confirm that they're qualified for the position. Certain background screenings may be necessary to meet industry standards or to comply with applicable laws. For example, Maryland requires criminal record background checks for childcare providers.

Organizations can conduct background checks in-house or partner with a consumer reporting agency (CRA), like Checkr, that provides professional background check services.

Maryland state background check laws and restrictions

Maryland pre-employment background check laws include a statewide Ban the Box law and some additional fair hiring laws that apply across the state. Organizations are also subject to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). In some areas, city or county regulations may also restrict background screenings.

Employers may want to get legal advice about which employment background check regulations in Maryland are relevant to them. Following the strictest laws could help organizations mitigate potential legal risks.

MD State Personnel and Pensions Code § 2-203

Summary: This law prohibits public employers from asking about a candidate's criminal history or checking their criminal record until after an interview. There are some exceptions when hiring for positions in a county sheriff's office or in the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, and when checking criminal records is required by law. See law.

MD Senate Bill 839

Summary: Under this law, employers with 15 employees or more may not ask candidates if they have a criminal record or if they have been accused of a crime early in the application process. Employers may require candidates to say if they have a criminal record or have faced criminal accusations during the first in-person interview or later. Exceptions are allowed for employers that must inquire about applicants' criminal backgrounds to comply with state or federal laws and for employers that serve minors or vulnerable adults. See law.

MD Commercial Law Code § 14-1203

Summary: Under this law, CRAs may not report bankruptcies that happened more than ten years previously, lawsuits and judgments that happened more than seven years previously or for which a statute of limitations is in effect, or paid tax liens that are more than seven years old. They may not report collections accounts or records of arrests, indictments, or convictions after seven years. And, any other negative information in a CRA's report must not be more than seven years old. These restrictions do not apply to positions with a salary of $20,000 or above. See law.

MD Labor and Employment Code § 3-711

Summary: Under this law, also known as the Job Applicant Fairness Act, employers may not deny a candidate employment, fire an employee, or set compensation or employment terms based on information in a credit report. There are exceptions for employers that must check applicants' credit histories to comply with state or federal law. Some banks and credit unions are exempt, as are investment advisors registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Employers can check a candidate's credit report after extending a job offer as long as the information isn't used for a prohibited purpose. Additionally, employers can ask for a candidate's credit history if they notify the candidate in writing and have a valid, job-related reason for needing the report. The law specifies that employers have an acceptable reason to request reports for managerial positions or positions that involve accessing certain personal information, controlling expense accounts or corporate credit cards, accessing trade secrets, or that are authorized to perform financial functions such as transferring money. See law.

MD Labor and Employment Code § 3-712

Summary: This law forbids employers from requesting candidates' usernames, passwords, or other login details for personal digital devices, social media accounts, or other online accounts. See law.

Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)

Summary: When Maryland employers partner with a CRA to conduct background checks, they should adhere to this federal law. The FCRA requires a permissible purpose, like employment, to run a background check, and candidates and employees should receive the FCRA and any applicable state or local disclosures prior to initiating any background check report. Candidates and employees must also provide written consent before the background check can be initiated. If information that appears on a background check results in an adverse decision regarding the candidate or employee, the employer is responsible for following the adverse action process. See law.

Local Maryland fair hiring laws

In addition to statewide requirements, specific city and county Ban the Box laws are in force in some locations and govern hiring for both the public and private sectors. These local laws can include additional requirements to state law.

  • Baltimore: The city's Ban the Box law applies to public and private employers with ten or more employees.
  • Montgomery County: A Ban the Box law applies to public and private employers with 15 or more full-time employees.
  • Prince George’s County: A Ban the Box law applies to public and private employers with 25 or more full-time employees.

What shows up on a Maryland background check?

A background check for employment in Maryland can show a range of information, depending on the types of background screenings the employer chooses.

Here are some typical Maryland background checks and what they show:

  • Criminal record checks examine a candidate's criminal history and show misdemeanor and felony convictions. In Maryland, a DUI conviction may appear on a candidate's criminal record.
  • Employment verification confirms a candidate's work history and shows positions or titles and dates and length of employment. This screening might also show whether a position was full-time or part-time.
  • Education verification checks a candidate's enrollment history and attendance dates at high schools, colleges, universities, and vocational schools. Degrees and graduation dates appear, and the candidate's major might be noted.
  • Credit checks report a candidate's credit-to-debt ratio and some details from their financial history, such as tax liens, collections accounts, and bankruptcies. Payment histories and amounts owed may also appear. A credit check for employment doesn't show credit scores.
  • Civil records searches report lawsuits where the candidate was a party, such as breach of contract cases, tax disputes, or harassment claims.
  • Motor vehicle record searches look at documents from Maryland's Motor Vehicle Administration and show driver's license status and class, plus history of infractions on the road.
  • Drug tests consist of panels of screenings and can detect the presence of controlled medications, illicit substances, or alcohol.

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How long does a background check take in Maryland?

A background check in Maryland can take a few minutes to a few weeks, depending on the scope of the search and whether you conduct the check manually or partner with a CRA.

Organizations that perform background checks for employment manually may face delays as they complete tasks like arranging for drug testing, waiting for previous employers to call back, and reaching out to courthouses for records. This can result in confusion for candidates who don't know how long the background check will take and who typically can't learn their status without calling HR.

Partnering with a CRA like Checkr can streamline the process, reduce turnaround times, and provide transparent updates for candidates through an online portal. CRAs on average return background checks in three to five business days, whereas 84% of Checkr’s reports are completed in under 15 minutes. Advanced data technology and partnerships with Maryland court runners can help return results more quickly than the manual process many in-house HR teams follow.

How far back does a background check go in Maryland?

How far into the past a background check in Maryland can look depends on the type of screening, the position's salary, and whether you partner with a CRA.

CRAs are required to comply with the FCRA and any applicable state or local laws when providing information in a background check report, including when publicly available information may be legally reportable. Under this federal law, non-conviction information, such as arrests or certain dismissals, older than seven years is not reportable by a CRA in a background check report. Bankruptcies may be reported for up to ten years. The FCRA includes an exception for positions with expected salaries of $75,000 or more.

At the state level, Maryland law limits how far back a CRA can report a candidate's criminal history. Information on a criminal record, such as arrests or convictions, may not appear on a CRA report if it's more than seven years old. The state law allows bankruptcies to be reported for up to ten years, but it restricts other negative information to the seven-year lookback period. Positions with expected salaries of $20,000 or more are exempt from these limits.  There are other examples when records may not be reported, such as when courts in Maryland seal juvenile records.

How to get a Maryland background check

Organizations can either perform background screenings themselves or work with a CRA. Organizations may conduct their own Maryland background checks online by searching databases, although some screenings may require visiting courthouses in person or contacting past employers or schools by phone.

For example, employers can request Maryland criminal record checks online by emailing a completed application to Maryland's Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. They must wait to be approved and to receive an authorization number. Then, they can have candidates go to an authorized fingerprinting location and request a background records check.

Employers can order driving records (MVRs) from Maryland's Motor Vehicle Administration by mail or in person at an MVA branch. They’ll also need to provide a copy of the candidate's job application or a letter of authorization signed by the candidate. Alternatively, they can apply for approval to subscribe to an online service for ordering MVRs.

Partnering with a CRA like Checkr can save time and allow organizations to easily scale up hiring. Plus, using Checkr's compliance tools can help with adherence to applicable federal, state, and local laws.

How much does an MD background check cost?

The cost of a Maryland background check varies depending on the types of screenings you order, how many you need, and who is conducting the check.

If you perform a background check yourself, you'll likely need to search databases and obtain records one at a time. Many Maryland court cases can be viewed for free online through the Maryland Judiciary Case Search, although certain records are accessible only by going into a courthouse. A fee may be charged to view or obtain copies of these records in-person.

The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services offers state criminal background checks based on fingerprints. Employers may sometimes be required to run a fingerprint background check, such as those who hire for positions that work with children or the elderly. In other cases, fingerprinting may be optional.

In-person fingerprinting carries a fee of $20, and the state background check costs $18. In addition to these fees, the fingerprinting process can cost employers valuable hiring time while waiting for paperwork to arrive by mail and coordinating fingerprinting appointments, which must take place at specific authorized sites within the state.

Employers in Maryland may also search Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) for federal criminal history records. Fees will apply when obtaining documents through PACER, and employers should use caution if running a general search for a candidate’s name. Without proper verification and understanding of fair hiring regulations, employers may risk reviewing irrelevant or non-compliant case information.

Locating other types of records may entail additional fees. For example, a certified copy of a candidate's motor vehicle records from Maryland's Motor Vehicle Administration costs $12.

Employers that partner with a CRA like Checkr can choose and customize background check packages that include screenings applicable for their industry and positions, so you can avoid the hassle of requesting records and sending in fee payments manually. Checkr offers pricing tiers for packages starting at $29.99, plus customization options that ensure employers only pay for the screenings you need.

Get a Maryland background check with Checkr

Partnering with a qualified CRA like Checkr offers Maryland employers a streamlined experience that saves time and builds trust with candidates. Our technology gives you access to accurate and clear data, which saves review time and mitigates the risks of human error. Checkr’s built-in tools also help you manage compliance in a complex legal landscape. Get started running MD background checks with Checkr today.

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The resources and information provided here are for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. Always consult your own counsel for up-to-date legal advice and guidance related to your practices, needs, and compliance with applicable laws.

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About the author

As Content Marketing Manager at Checkr, Kate is passionate about developing resources that educate employers and job candidates about background checks, hiring insights, and the opportunity to build a better future through fair chance hiring.

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