Juvenile System & Juvenile Courts

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Categories :: Criminal, Youth Law

The Purpose of Juvenile Court

  • To provide care, protection, and wholesome mental and physical development of children coming within the provisions of the law;
  • To provide for a program of treatment, training, and rehabilitation consistent with the child's best interests;
  • To protect the public interest;
  • To remove from delinquent children the taint of criminality and the consequences of criminal behavior; and 
  • To conserve and strengthen the child's family ties and separate a child only when necessary for his welfare or in the interest of public safety. 

Read the Law: MD Code Crts. & Jud. Proc. §3-8A-02

How do you get into the system?

You will enter the system in any of the following ways.

  • A citizen files a complaint about you with the Department of Juvenile Services;
  • A law enforcement officer files a report about you with the Department of Juvenile Services; or
  • You are arrested.

What steps should you take if you are caught doing something illegal?

Ask for an attorney and for your parents. You do not have to say anything to a police officer without an attorney or your parents present.      

What happens if you are arrested?

  • You have the same rights as adults - the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney.
  • Your parents or guardian are notified immediately;
  • The court then decides whether you are released to your parents or to a juvenile detention facility run by the Department of Juvenile Services;
  • If you are not released to your parents, you are sent to the detention facility.
  • A hearing is scheduled the following day to figure out if there is "probable cause" to believe that you committed the crime; if there is enough evidence to believe you may have committed the crime, you could be held until the trial (adjudicatory or merits hearing).

Read the Law: MD Code Courts & Jud. Proc. § 3-8A-14

Who decides whether you will be released to your parents or whether you will have to stay in the Detention Facility?

A judge makes this decision. The judge listens to what law enforcement officers are recommending, and the judge also considers:

  • How severe the crime was;
  • Your past record;
  • How cooperative you have been;
  • How cooperative your parents have been;
  • How hard it was to arrest you;
  • Whether you are a danger to anyone;
  • Whether your parents are willing to take you home.

Read the Law: MD Code Courts & Jud. Proc. § 3-8A-15

What happens if your case is a "delinquency" case?

Delinquency cases are also called criminal behavior, criminal wrongdoing, or law-breaking cases. The state's attorney will get involved in your case.

  • First you will have an adjudicatory hearing (also called a merits hearing). At the adjudicatory hearing, the judge or master will determine whether the factual allegations in the petition are true.
  • After the adjudicatory hearing, you will have a disposition hearing. This is also known as a sentencing hearing. At the disposition hearing, the judge or master will determine whether you need guidance, treatment, or rehabilitation, and the nature of any such guidance, treatment, or rehabilitation.
  • If it is determined that you committed the "delinquent act" (an act that would be a crime if committed by an adult), and that you need guidance, treatment, or rehabilitation, then the judge can also decide whether you should be committed to a juvenile detention facility or be placed on probation.

Can I be placed outside my home?

If you are found delinquent, the court can place you outside your home.  Generally, however, effective October 1, 2013, the court cannot place you outside your home if your most serious offense is one of the following:

However, even if your most serious offense is one of these, the court can place you outside the home, if any of the following circumstances apply:

  • You previously have been adjudicated delinquent for three or more offenses arising from separate and independent circumstances;
  • You voluntarily waive this provision; or
  • The court makes a written finding, supported by specific facts, that an out-of-home placement is necessary for your welfare or in the interest of public safety.

Will you be treated as an adult? Will adult rules and punishments be used in your case?

You will most likely go to juvenile court, unless you commit a very serious crime. If you have committed a serious crime, the regular Circuit Court will hear your case and determine whether you go to jail or get other punishment.

If your case falls into any of the following categories, it may be handled in adult criminal court:

  1. If you are 16 years or older at the time of the offense, and you are charged with any of the following offenses:
    • carjacking
    • kidnapping
    • second degree murder (or attempt)
    • manslaughter (or attempt)
    • second degree rape or sex offense (or attempt)
    • third degree sex offense
    • robbery with a deadly weapon (or attempt)
    • first degree assault
  2. If you are 14 years or older at the time of the offense, and you are charged with committing a crime punishable by death or life imprisonment:
    • first degree murder or attempted first degree murder
    • first degree rape or attempted first degree rape
    • first degree sex offense or attempted first degree sex offense
  3. If you are 16 years or older and you are charged with possession, transportation, or use of a handgun (includes all crimes arising out of the same incident.)
  4. "Waiver": You could also end up in adult criminal court by a process known as "waiver." There are two types of waiver: "waiver up" and "waiver down."
    • Waiver Up: If you have reached the age of 15, the juvenile court may send the case to adult criminal court where adult penalties apply.
    • Waiver Down: If you are automatically charged as an adult, you have the right to ask the adult court to send the case to juvenile court. If you are 16 or 17 years old and charged with murder, you are not eligible for waiver down. Read the Law: MD Code Courts & Jud. Proc. § 3-8A-03

The judge considers the following factors when deciding whether to allow a waiver up or down:

  • Your age
  • Your mental/physical condition
  • Whether you will agree to treatment
  • The nature of the crime committed and how much you participated in it
  • The public safety

Read the Law: MD Code Courts & Jud. Proc. § 3-8A-06

How long will your arrest, charge, and conviction stay on your criminal record?

Forever. However, only certain people will be able to see it under limited circumstances. You can try to have it removed through a process called "expungement."


Sexual Crimes & Registry

A person who has been adjudicated delinquent for an act that would constitute first or second degree rape or first or second degree sexual assault if committed by an adult will be required to register with the supervising authority if:

  1. the person was a minor who was at least 13 years old at the time the delinquent act was committed;
  2. the State’s Attorney or the Department of Juvenile Services requests that the person be required to register;
  3. 90 days prior to the time the juvenile court’s jurisdiction over the person terminates under § 3–8A–07 of the Courts Article, the court, after a hearing, determines under a clear and convincing evidence standard that the person is at significant risk of committing a sexually violent offense or an offense for which registration as a tier II sex offender or tier III sex offender is required; and
  4. the person is at least 18 years old.


Read the Law: MD Code Ann. Crim. Pro. 11-704.


Edited by Catherine McGuire.
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