Maryland Public Information Act
What is it?

Maryland’s Public Information Act (PIA), 4-101 et seq. of the General Provisions Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland, grants people the right of access to public records while protecting legitimate governmental interests and the privacy rights of individual citizens. The PIA applies to all three branches of Maryland state government, as well as local government entities.

What does it pertain to?
The PIA grants you the right to review available records that are disclosable and to obtain copies of those records. A public record is defined as the original or copy of any documentary material in any form created or received by an agency in connection with the transaction of public business. Included in this definition are written materials, books, photographs, photocopies, films, microfilms, records, tapes, computerized records, maps, drawings and other materials.
However, some public records are confidential under federal or state statutes, under court rules, or under various common law privileges such as attorney-client privilege and executive privilege, and are therefore not releasable under the PIA. In addition, the County has the right to withhold records if it is determined that disclosure of those records would be “contrary to the public interest.”
How do I apply?
Howard County Government asks that all PIA request be submitted in writing, either via letter or email, to the Office of Public Information EXCEPT for requests that deal solely with County's Police Department or Department of Fire and Rescue Services. Requests for records maintained by the Howard County Health Department, a State agency despite its name, are to be sent to the Health Department and not the County's Office of Public Information as the Health Department is the custodian of their own records. 
In your request to the County, it is important that you specifically describe the precise records you seek so that the County can research the request. Please be sure to provide all necessary contact information as further discussions may be necessary to clarify your request.
To submit a request to the County's Office of Public Information, either mail the request to: Office of Public Information, Attn: Mark Miller, Administrator, 3430 Court House Drive, Ellicott City, MD 21043, or email ask@howardcountymd.gov. Additional contact information for the Office of Public Information can be found online or by calling 410-313-2022.

If you seek records solely from the County's Police Department (HCPD) OR Department of Fire and Rescue Services (HCDFRS) and no other Howard County Government department, you will want to contact HCPD or HCDFRS directly. To submit a request for records solely to HCPD, either mail the request to: Howard County Police Department, Attn: Records Section, 3410 Court House Drive, Ellicott City, MD 21043, or email therecordssection@howardcountymd.gov. Additional contact information for HCPD can be found online or by calling 410-313-2250. To submit a request for records solely to HCDFRS, either mail the request to: Maria Hogg, Public Information Officer, 6751 Columbia Gateway Drive, Suite 400, Columbia, MD 21046, or email mhogg@howardcountymd.gov. Additional contact information for HCDFRS can be found online or by calling 410-313-6000.

Upon receipt of your request, the County has up to 10 working days to respond, unless we notify you in writing or by email within that time period that additional time is required for us to respond. Under the PIA, Howard County has the right to charge for search time exceeding two hours as the first two are free; this fee is based on the hourly salary of the individual(s) carrying out the search. In addition, while the County has the right to charge a copying fee of $0.25 per page for a black and white paper copy, as mentioned on page 12 of Howard County Council Resolution No. 80-2015, if electronic copies of the responsive records exist, they are free of charge. However, per page 13 of the Council Resolution, when an electronic response, or portion therefore, is too large to send electronically, the Public Information Office shall convert the response, or portion thereof, to paper, CD, DVD or flash drive, as the requestor specifies. The cost of a CD/DVD is $10 per disk and a flash drive is $20 per drive.
For more information on the PIA, visit Maryland’s Office of the Attorney General website at www.oag.state.md.us/Opengov/pia.htm.