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Maryland Department of Social Services Info for Criminal Defendants

Our Defense Attorney Explains What Criminal Defendants Need to Know About the Maryland Department of Social Services

If DSS makes a ruling of indicated or unsubstantiated neglect or abuse, that ruling can be appealed. The appeal of DSS’s decision is handled in a contested hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge. The rules of evidence do not apply, and there are some specific rules for how these situations are handled that are unique to these hearings.

Social ServicesAt the administrative hearing, DSS bears the burden of proof. The respondent (the person who was under investigation) is allowed to cross examine DSS’s witnesses, use the subpoena power of the administrative agency to compel witnesses to appear, and introduce documents. The responded is also entitled to see the records of the investigator before the hearing.

If criminal charges are pending, means charges were filed but not finished, the administrative hearing can not take place until after the charges are disposed of favorably to the accused.

If the person who was investigated is found guilty or pleads guilty to any crime relating to the subject of the DSS investigation, they have no administrative appeal right.

The DSS process is so closely intertwined with the criminal process, it must be handled with special care. The police and DSS investigators often work side-by-side and share information. The interviews a person who is the subject of an investigation by DSS can be used against them later on in a criminal case, or even in a civil case involving custody or divorce. The rules of the investigation process and the administrative hearing are unique to these types of cases, and it requires an experienced practitioner to guide someone through these difficult times.