Civil citations in Maryland are also known as minor violations. They are often associated with traffic violations like failing to signal, running a red light, or driving with an outdated inspection sticker. Maryland also issues civil citations for the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Although civil citations do not usually result in large fines, people who receive them worry if they will go on their records and harm their futures. The answer to this question is not straightforward. While civil citations do not appear on criminal records, they can lead to your arrest. They can also appear on your driving record.
Many people who receive civil citations are unsure about the nature of the violation. They often wrongly assume these are criminal offenses rather than civil measures. Baltimore criminal defense attorney Randolph Rice explains the conditions under which a civil citation will appear on your record after a violation in Maryland.
What is a Civil Violation?
Civil violations are civil penalties imposed by the state against an individual to compensate for alleged harm. If you run a red light, break the speed limit, or park in a place you are not permitted to in Baltimore, Dundalk, Towson or elsewhere, the state demands money.
Civil violations are distinct from civil damages in a lawsuit. These are matters between two (usually private) parties in which one sues for an injury or another wrong. Civil citations are brought by the state against a private individual. Unlike criminal penalties, they are not intended to punish the at-fault party. Although criminal offenses habitually involve fines, they can also entail other sanctions like jail time or probation. Failure to comply with civil violations can result in criminal charges.
As a rule of thumb, receiving a civil citation in Maryland will not go on your record. In other words, it will not appear on your criminal record. However, civil violations can show up on your driving record. This is important because you may end up paying higher insurance premiums. Clocking up too many Maryland traffic violations can lead to the loss of a driver’s license which dramatically limits your ability to work.
When Will Receiving a Civil Citation in Maryland Appear On Your Driving Record?
If you receive a payable traffic citation in Maryland, you can pay the fine without attending a court hearing, unless you dispute the citation. According to Maryland Courts, you must meet the terms of the citation within 30 days. You can admit the violation and pay the full fine online, by mail, on the phone, at a local district court, or at a Motor Vehicle Administration kiosk. You can ask for a “waiver hearing” and plead “guilty with an explanation” or ask for a trial to plead not-guilty.
If you fail to take one of the three courses of action within 30 days of receiving a Maryland traffic citation, the Motor Vehicle Administration will be notified. The department may suspend your driver’s license. A record of the suspension of your driver’s license will remain on your driving record.
Motorists in Maryland who are given “Must Appear” citations or have a “Must Appear” notice with their payable citation, will continue to receive automatic trial date notices. A judge often issues a bench warrant against people who fail to attend court hearings, leaving them with a criminal record for something that may have started with a minor traffic infraction.
Can Civil Citations in Maryland Be Removed from Your Driving Record?
Yes. Many driving infractions are removed from your driving record after a period of time. This process is called expungement. While people with criminal records must apply for the removal of records, the MVA expunges many records automatically. The MVA demands no fee for automatic expungement.
If your license has never been suspended for a safety offense, it has never been revoked, and you have no history of moving violations, the citation will be removed after just 31 days. Drivers with one or more previous moving violation whose license has never been suspended or revoked for a driver safety offense will have a citation expunged after three years.
Drivers with one previous license suspension must wait five years to get a citation removed from their driving record. If your license was previously revoked and you had multiple suspensions for driver safety offenses, you will have to wait 10 years for a civil citation to be cleared from your record.
Do Points from Moving Violations Stay on Your Driving Record?
If your license was suspended or revoked or you committed a more serious traffic violation, you may incur points. According to the MVA, points are a public record that can be seen by insurance companies and employers for three years after the offense. Points remain on your record until the MVA officially expunges them. The points are no longer considered “active” 24 months after the violation date.
Will Civil Citations in Maryland Affect Insurance Premiums?
Civil citations can affect your insurance premiums. However, only moving violations will be considered by an insurer. An insurance adjuster may assume a speeding offense makes you a more serious accident risk and hike up your premiums. The same cannot be said of parking for three hours in a two-hour zone.
Some states allow you to remove your first moving violation by attending a driving school, states PocketSense. In Maryland, your insurance premiums are not affected if you admit a moving violation that was caught on a speed camera or a red light camera.
Will Civil Citations for Possession of Marijuana in Maryland Remain on My Record
Maryland uses a system of civil citations for the possession of under 10 grams of marijuana. The civil citation represents limited decriminalization of cannabis. In most cases, a civil citation for possession of marijuana will not appear on your record. The citations do not appear on the Maryland Judiciary Case Search. However, a civil citation can appear on your record if you fail to pre-pay a fine, you admit marijuana possession but don’t pay the fines and costs associated with the fine, you receive probation before judgment but don’t pay fines and costs, or the case is not removed from an inactive docket.
You can pre-pay civil citations for the possession of marijuana unless you are under 21, or you are over 21 and have two previous citations for the possession of small quantities of marijuana. In these instances, you must appear at a court hearing. Failure to appear at court will likely result in a bench warrant for your arrest and you will end up with a criminal record for an act that began as a civil citation.
Consult a Maryland Civil Citation Defense Lawyer About Your Criminal Record
At the Rice, Murtha & Psoras, we have represented thousands of defendants across the spectrum from murder suspects to drivers facing moving violations. It’s important to know whether a civil citation will appear on either your driving record or a criminal record. All scenarios as different. We can only give legal advice if you make an appointment for a formal consultation with a lawyer. It’s important to know whether a civil citation will affect your career prospects or your car insurance premiums. We can advise you on the best course of action to avoid a citation showing up on any record. Please contact us for a consultation today.
Civil citations do not appear on the Maryland Judiciary Case Search. The public cannot find a citation for possession of marijuana or another civil citation. However, a beefing up of the law in 2016 may allow details to appear online if fines are not paid. Details of this nature could prove detrimental to job applications or applications for educational courses.