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Office of the County Attorney


Frequently Discussed Topics

The Office of the County Attorney provides this information as a public service, with the hope that you will find it helpful in familiarizing yourself with legal issues that may affect you. This is not a subsitute for personal legal advice, which must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case. While we attempt to ensure the accuracy of this information, we cannot promise that everything on this web site is complete or up to date.

Caveat: Always refer to the most current version of the Montgomery County Code to insure accurate information.

Criminal matters:
The State's Attorney's Office for Montgomery County is responsible for prosecuting serious criminal and motor vehicle cases before the District and Circuit Courts for Montgomery County. You may contact the State's Attorney's Office at (240) 777-7300 or  call 311.

Pending court cases:
Our office is not connected with the court system and cannot provide information on pending court cases. For further information, you may contact the Circuit Court Clerk at (240) 777-9466 or the District Court Administrative Commissioner at (240) 279-1526.

Legal advice on private issues:
Citizens needing legal advice on private issues should retain a private attorney. Check the local Yellow Pages for informative listings by name and area of practice or contact the Bar Association of Montgomery County's Legal Referral Service at (301) 424-3454.

Legal services for the indigent:
These services may be obtained from the Legal Aid Bureau, Inc., Metropolitan Maryland Office, (301) 927-6800 or (888) 215-5316.

Board of Education:
Our office does represent the Board of Education. You may contact us at (240) 777-6700 or call 311 and your call will be appropriately directed.

Abuse/Neglect of Vulerable Adults:
The Department of Health and Human Services, Aging and Disability Services, investigates allegations of abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation of vulnerable adults. See Title 14 of the Family Law Article. The intake office screens all referrals, and when appropriate, will send a team of a nurse and social worker to investigate. (Intake: 240-777-3000 or call 311)  

The Animal Services Division, a Division of the Police Department, responds to complaints such as animals at large, cruelty to animals, dangerous animals, etc. They can answer questions regarding animal licensing and vaccination. This Division will also collect animals, for appropriate reasons. The Animal Services Division can be reached at (240) 773-5925 or call 311.

Since 2003, State law has permitted mothers to breastfeed their children in public locations without interference.

Burglar Alarms:
For nuisance alarms in residential areas, refer callers to the Department of Environmental Protection at (240)777-7720 , which handles noise ordinance matters under Chapter 31B of the Montgomery County Code.  

Child Abuse & Neglect:
The Child Protection Services HOTLINE is (240)777-4417. Callers who wish to report suspected abuse or neglect of a child should call the HOTLINE. Reports may be anonymous.
Health and Human Services (HHS) has a new Information Line at (240)777-1245 that provides information about HHS services and programs, including Child Care Assistance, Rental Assistance, Health Care Services, Mental Health and Substance Abuse Programs.
Leaving Children Unattended: § 5-701(s) of the Family Law Article of the Maryland Code defines “neglect” as “the leaving of a child unattended or other failure to give proper care and attention to a child by any parent or other person who has permanent or temporary care or custody or responsibility for supervision of the child under circumstances that indicate that the child’s health or welfare is harmed or placed at substantial risk of harm.”
§ 3-602.1 of the Criminal Law Article of the Maryland Code defines “neglect” as “the intentional failure to provide necessary assistance and resources for the physical needs or mental health of a minor that creates a substantial risk of harm to the minor’s physical health or a substantial risk of mental injury to the minor.”
In addition, a separate provision in the Maryland Statewide Child Protective Services Screening Procedures (SSA 95-13) describes an unattended child as: one who has been abandoned; a child less than 8 years old left in the care of either an unreliable person or someone less than 13 years old; a child between 8 and 12 years old left alone longer than briefly without sufficient contact or safety information (phone numbers of parents, neighbors, etc.); a child 12 years old or older who is left alone for long periods or overnight with responsibilities beyond his or her capacity or if the child has a special mental or physical disability that creates a greater risk.

Child Support:
Child support is handled by a State agency—the Office of Child Support Enforcement. For inquiries on child support enforcement, refer the caller to: Debbie Hinds (301) 610 - 4628 or Christopher J. Kunz, Special Counsel, Montgomery County Office of Child Support Enforcement, 51 Monroe Street, Suite 811, Rockville, Maryland 20850. (301) 610-4510 or (800) 332-6347

Property Line disputes and trepass:
These are private issues that the County does not become involved in. You should contact a private attorney to discuss your rights and options.

County Code:
The Office of the County Attorney publishes the Montgomery County Code in-house and sells it to subscribers. Subscribers may purchase the entire Code, the Zoning Ordinance, or individual chapters. You may purchase these items in print form or on CD-ROM. These resources are also available on-line at Subscribers to the entire Code or the Zoning Ordinance receive periodic updates. Individual chapter requests are not updated. You may request an order form and cost information by calling (240) 777-6700.

Generally, claims against an employer are private matters. If, however, your situation involves discrimination, it may be within the jurisdiction of the County Human Rights Commission. The Human Rights Commission is available to screen your situation, to determine if your situation merits a claim against your employer, and to assist you with filing a complaint, if appropriate. You may contact the Human Rights Commission at (240) 777-8491.

Fortune Telling:
Forecasting or foretelling, or pretending to forecast or foretell, the future by cards, palm reading, or any other scheme is prohibited in Montgomery County.

Gambling, including bingo and raffles, is regulated by State law. Please refer to the Maryland Annotated Code for provisions regulating these issues or contact the Maryland Attorney General's Office at (410) 576-6300.

Depositing handbills on automobiles on public property is prohibited by the Montgomery County Code. You may distribute handbills on private property, with the consent of the property owner.

Landlord and Tenant:
The Commission on Landlord-Tenant Affairs, (240) 777-3600, can answer questions involving the rights and/or obligations of a landlord or tenant. Security deposit matters are regulated by State law. Please refer to the Real Property Article of the Maryland Code or contact the Maryland Attorney General's Office at (410) 576-6300 with these questions.

The Departmentof Permitting Services, (240) 777-6210, can provide information regarding permits required for particular structure types. If the property is within a homeowners' association, different or additional requirements may apply. Also, not all municipalities follow the County Code. These municipalities may have their own regulations.

Property line disputes and trespass:
These are private issues and you should contact a private attorney to discuss your rights and options. The Office of the County Attorney cannot give private advice.

The County Code requires all property owners—commercial establishments, multi-family dwelling units (apartment buildings), and single-family residential areas—to clear snow from sidewalks adjacent to the property within 24 hours of the end of the precipitation. If a snowplow re-deposits snow, the property owner has 24 hours from that event to clear the sidewalk again. § 49-24A Montg. Co. Code.
Although exceptions may exist, the following are the reference telephone numbers you may need for these questions:
Complaints that snow has not been cleared:
single-family residences (240) 777-7623
multi-family residential (240) 777-3785
or non-residential (240) 777-3600
bus stops (240) 777-5800
Assistance needed to clear snow: CASA de Maryland (301) 431-4177; Montgomery County Volunteer Center (240) 777-2600

The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) created the process and easement documents that create transferable development rights (TDRs). If you seek to create TDRs, you should contact the M-NCPPC at (301) 495-4600. The Office of the County Attorney reviews easements creating TDRs for form and legality and keeps an ongoing list of the numbers assigned to the TDRs. We do not, however, maintain information that would confirm the status of available TDRs for any particular property. We also do not record the easements in the land records and have no involvement in the subsequent sale or transfer of the TDRs. You can determine whether TDRs have been created on a property or how many remain availalbe by conducting a title examination. A private attorney can help you with the title examination.

No matter what time of year it is, one of the most common questions involves trees and tree limbs. It may be a tree from a neighboring yard overhanging the caller’s property or limbs that have fallen into the caller’s yard. You need to determine the precise facts—the County does not remove trees or tree limbs unless they are in the public right of way (DOT handles this under its roads authority). If the tree is diseased, see Chapter 18 of the County Code for the County regulations regarding removal.
The general rule is that a property owner may remove a part of a tree that overhangs his property as long as he does so in a manner that does not harm the tree. Obviously, limbs that have fallen off can be removed. Melnick v. CSX Railroad Company, 312 Md. 511, 540 A.2d 1133 (1988).
The County does not regulate who is responsible for the cost of this removal—this decision becomes a private one that we cannot give advice about. Obviously, the homeowner could cover the expense or he could speak with his neighbor to try to share the expense.
In addition, an owner of residential property has an obligation to maintain “shrubbery, trees, vines, hedges, and other vegetation, including dead trees and branches” so they do not constitute a danger to the public health or safety. §26-9(b) (5) and §26-10(a) Montg. Co. Code (2004) (enforced by the Department of Housing and Community Affairs).

A vendor permit is required for selling any goods, such as food, flowers, and crafts, or providing services, including mobile food vendors, door-to-door vendors, and vendors selling from sidewalks and median strips. The Department of Permitting Services can answer most questions regarding vendor regulations, (240) 777-6300. If questions relate to roadside produce vendors, the Department of Economic Development will assist you through their agricultural program, (301) 590-2823.

The Office of the County Attorney can answer general zoning questions related to information contained in the Montgomery County Zoning Ordinance, including permitted land uses, special exception uses, setback and height limitations, parking, and signs. If a more detailed answer is needed, contact the Department of Permitting Services, (240) 777-6240, or consult with a private attorney about particular circumstances. If the property is within a municipality, different requirements may apply.



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