Juvenile Law

Creation of Juvenile Law

The United States recognized the distinction from a juvenile to an adult back in the 1890’s. As a result, the juvenile system was created. Juvenile law is an area of the law for persons not old enough to be held as an adult for acts that they commit. 

Maryland Juvenile Law

In Maryland, the threshold to be tried in a juvenile court is eighteen (18) years of age or younger. A “delinquent child” is a minor who is deemed to have violated a law or someone who is growing up in a life of crime. In Maryland, the law is codified in: MD Code Crts. & Jud. Proc. §3-8A.

Types of Cases Handled by Juvenile Courts

The juvenile court has jurisdiction of many types of cases that deal with the juvenile offender. Cases within the juvenile court’s jurisdiction include: 

  • Criminal conduct
  • Neglect
  • Abuse
  • Child in need of assistance (CINA) 
  • Child in need of supervision (CINS)
  • Termination of parental rights
  • Adoptions
  • Delinquency
  • Persons charged with status offenses
  • School attendance matters
  • Juveniles that have run away across state lines

A juvenile can be transferred out of the juvenile court into the adult court if the juvenile court waives or relinquishes its jurisdiction over the person.

Delinquency Cases

A delinquency case is when a juvenile commits a crime. In a delinquency case, the child can be treated like an adult and transferred to the adult court. This decision can be based off of many factors, such as the age, prior record, mental condition, physical condition, and the crime being charged.

CINA Cases

A CINA case is for a child that is in need of assistance if they have been abused or neglected (physically, emotionally, and/or sexually) by any person responsible for their care. 

CINS Cases

A CINS case is for child that requires supervision if they have committed a juvenile specific crime. These types of crimes include truancy, running away from home, underage drinking, violating curfew laws and regulations, disobedience, and ungovernable behavior.

Termination of Parental Rights Cases

Termination of parental rights occurs when a juvenile court has already determined that a child is CINA or CINS and the Department of Social Services (DSS) has identified persons to adopt the child.

Citation Hearings

If a juvenile is found to illegally be in possession of alcohol (under the age of 21) they can receive a citation. A citation may be issued for possession as well as misrepresenting their age to purchase or consume alcohol. Citation hearings are heard by the juvenile court.

Contributing to Delinquency

Not only is the juvenile court responsible for most cases involving the juvenile, but an adult who encourages or allows a child to be delinquent, CINA, or CINS may also be charged in the court with the crime of contributing. 

Frequency of Juvenile Cases

The number of juvenile proceedings is on the rise, especially due to the increase in juvenile delinquency. The U.S. Census Bureau estimated in 2010 courts with juvenile jurisdiction heard over 1.3 million delinquency cases. Nationally there is a re-arrest rate of 49% within twelve months of release, and 66% within twenty-four months of release. 

Juvenile Courts in Maryland

All of Maryland’s 23 counties and Baltimore City all have juvenile courts. The juvenile court is a part of the county circuit court.
Unlike adult proceedings, the juvenile proceeding is not a simple adversary proceeding, but it is intended to correct a condition and to order rehabilitative measures and not punish misconduct. A juvenile proceeding is non-criminal in nature, and many of the protections offered to adults were not initially extended to juveniles. The Supreme Court has extended some of the protections to
juveniles through their various holdings.

Historical Cases Involving the Juvenile Court

In re Gault, 387 U.S. 1 (1967)

In 1967 the Supreme Court transformed the procedures for juvenile court in In re Gault. Mr. Gault, then 15, was taken into police custody without notifying his parents on a charge of making lewd calls to a neighbor. Mr. Gault was not given an attorney nor was he allowed to confront his accuser. The entire case was heard in chambers, where Mr. Gault was questioned by the Judge, and sent to a state institution until his twenty-first birthday. In its holding, the Court gives juveniles the same due process rights as adults. Juveniles are given the right to counsel as well as the privilege against self-incrimination. The Court imposed on the juvenile court to notify the juvenile of the charges, to give the juvenile the right to an attorney, a right to confront and cross-examine witnesses, and the privilege against self incrimination.

In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358 (1970)

In In re Winship , three years later, the Court established the standard of guilty beyond a reasonable doubt for a juvenile adjudicatory hearing. In Winship, a twelve year-old went into a locker and stole $122 from a woman’s pocketbook. The New York Court ordered placement in a training school for eighteen months, with possible extensions until his eighteenth birthday, six years later. The Supreme Court reversed stating that proof beyond a reasonable doubt is required if the act of stealing renders the juvenile liable to a six year confinement. With this decision, the Court extended to juveniles almost all of the due process guarantees that adults receive.

Fare v. Michael C., 442 U.S. 707 (1979) 

In Fare v. Michael C., the police denied a sixteen year-old who was being investigated for murder, the ability to see his probation officer. After being read his Miranda warnings, Michael signed a Miranda waiver and made inculpatory statements to the police, thus waiving his Fifth Amendment rights. The Court applied a totality of the circumstances approach and determined that Michael, who had been in trouble with the law before, understood his rights and the ramifications of the waiver.

Schall v. Martin, 467 U.S. 253 (1984)

Although in Schall v. Martin a juvenile delinquent can be detained as a “preventative measure that serves a legitimate state objective” a juvenile cannot be prosecuted in an adult court after having already had a hearing in a juvenile court, as it violates the Double Jeopardy Clause. When being interrogated, a juvenile should be afforded extra protection and should not be treated the same as an adult. When a juvenile confesses, the validity is based off of the “totality of the circumstances” and the confession must be voluntary. At sentencing, the U.S. Supreme Court also ensures protection and affords certain rights to the juvenile offender. No juvenile will receive the death penalty, or a life without parole on a non-homicide offense, and a mandatory life without parole sentence is cruel and unusual punishment. These procedural protections transformed the juvenile court to become closer aligned to the adult system.

Limits on Constitutional Protections

Since Gault, the courts extend Fourteenth Amendment rights to juveniles, but have stopped short of extending all rights afforded to the accused adult to their juvenile counterparts. The U.S. Supreme Court, recognizing the two distinct systems, has also declined to extend other protections to juveniles. For example, McKeiver v. Pennsylvania, 403 U.S. 528 (1971) established that juveniles have no Constitutional right to a jury trial in a delinquency proceeding.

Jurisdiction of the Juvenile Court

Not all cases end up in court. An intake officer at the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) will conduct an intake to determine whether the case is proper to be heard by the juvenile court. After reviewing the case, the officer can close the case, refer the child to a treatment program, or refer the case to the state’s attorney for formal charges.

Judicial Transfer (or “Waiver”) to Adult Criminal Court

Almost every state, including Maryland, has broadened the ability for a court to transfer jurisdiction
of a juvenile to the adult criminal court. A judicial waiver (judicial exclusion) is the most common
form of a judicial transfer. There are three judicial waivers: 

  • Presumptive – A presumptive waiver is used if juvenile jurisdiction is inappropriate, and each state takes varying approaches to presumptive waivers. 
  • Mandatory – A mandatory waiver only requires the juvenile court to find probable cause that the juvenile committed the crime.
  • Discretionary –  A discretionary waiver gives the juvenile court the discretion to make a determination if they wish to retain jurisdiction or if the juvenile should be tried in a criminal court.

Using a waiver, a court can transfer a juvenile to criminal court, thus imposing minimum sentences as adults, and changing the focus from “rehabilitation to retribution”. Before a waiver is ordered, a hearing must be held. The waiver can occur at any point prior to adjudication, and a reverse waiver (if applicable) occurs after a criminal case is filed.

Hearing Required Before Transfer 

Before a juvenile is charged with a crime and transferred to criminal court, they have a right to a hearing. In Kent v. U.S., 383 U.S. 541 (1966), the Supreme Court determined that the Juvenile Court by waiving its jurisdiction and transferring the case without explanation was invalid and Kent was entitled to an opportunity for a hearing prior to the entry of a waiver order. 

Statutory Exclusions from Juvenile Court 

A juvenile case can also be statutorily excluded, often seen in situations involving violent crimes or juveniles with prior records. More than half of the states have statutes that would exclude a juvenile from the juvenile court for certain offenses. If a case is statutorily excluded, it originates in criminal, rather juvenile court. Statutory exclusions have been constitutionally challenged on
due process and equal protection grounds, but have not always proven successful.

Reverse Waivers 

A defense attorney attempting to remove the matter back to a juvenile court may do so through a reverse waiver or a blended sentencing. A reverse waiver was created by Congress to balance any defects in the waiver process. Under a reverse waiver, the criminal court holds a hearing, similar to a waiver hearing, to determine if jurisdiction should go to the juvenile court. Blended sentencing allows the court (either juvenile or criminal) to impose both juvenile and adult punishment, choose either a juvenile or adult sentence, or issue a sentence beyond the age-jurisdictional limit.

Importance of Hiring an Experienced Juvenile Law Attorney

Juvenile law is one of the lesser known areas of the law. It is essential that should you have a need for an attorney for a matter related to juvenile law, that you select an attorney that is experienced not only as a lawyer, but a juvenile lawyer.

Contact the juvenile law firm of BGS Law

For years, Bethany G. Shechtel, Esq. has guided her clients through the juvenile court system and protected their rights. To learn more about how BGS Law can help you or your loved one, contact us today. 

For more information, contact us today.