Know Your Rights in the Juvenile System & Juvenile Courts

Constitutional Protections for Juveniles

Under Maryland law, a “child” is defined as an individual under the age of 18 years. If you or your child has been accused of an offense, they have many of the same rights as an adult — including the right to remain silent, right to a speedy trial, right to due process, and the right to the assistance of counsel at every stage of the proceeding. If you are arrested, immediately ask for your attorney and your parent(s) or guardian(s). 

There are certain limits on constitutional protections afforded to juveniles. For example, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in McKeiver v. Pennsylvania, 403 U.S. 528 (1971) that juveniles have no Constitutional right to a jury trial in a delinquency proceeding. Although Maryland does not permit jury trials for juvenile cases, some other states do.

Can I Be Treated as an Adult?

This depends on the severity of the offense and your age at the time the alleged offense occurred. The Juvenile Court has jurisdiction over children alleged to be delinquent, unless excepted by statute. In many states, including Maryland, the court can transfer a juvenile case to the adult criminal court through a judicial waiver.

For serious crimes, you may be tried in the Circuit Court as an adult. Pursuant to Cts. & Jud. Proc. Article, § 3-8A-03(d), the following cases are typically handled by an adult criminal court, unless an order removing the proceeding to the juvenile court has been filed;

  1. A child at least 14 years old alleged to have done an act which, if committed by an adult, would be a crime punishable by life imprisonment
  2. A child who previously has been convicted as an adult of a felony and is subsequently alleged to have committed an act that would be a felony if committed by an adult
  3. A child at least 16 years old alleged to have committed any of the following crimes;
  • Abduction
  • Kidnapping
  • First or Second degree murder (or attempted)
  • Manslaughter, except involuntary manslaughter
  • First or Second degree rape or sexual offense (or attempted)
  • Robbery or attempted robbery with a deadly weapon
  • Third degree sexual offense
  • Firearm-related violations of § 5–133, § 5–134, § 5–138, or § 5–203 of the Public Safety Article
  • Using, wearing, carrying, or transporting a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime
  • Carjacking or armed carjacking
  • Assault in the first degree
  • Firearm or machine gun violations of § 4–203, § 4–204, § 4–404, or § 4–405 of the Criminal Law Article

Waiver 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.

Right to Request Removal

If you are automatically charged as an adult, you have the right to request your case be sent to juvenile court instead. Once a Circuit Court sitting as an adult criminal court transfers a case to juvenile court, the juvenile court cannot thereafter return the case to the adult criminal court. 

Source: Cts. & Jud. Proc. Article, § 3-8A-03(d)

Factors the Court Must Consider

In determining whether a case should be handled in the adult or juvenile system, the court shall consider the following criteria individually and in relation to each other on the record:

  1. Age of the child;
  2. Mental and physical condition of the child;
  3. The child’s amenability to treatment in any institution, facility, or program available to delinquents;
  4. The nature of the offense and the child’s alleged participation in it; and
  5. The public safety.

Source: Cts. & Jud. Proc. Article, § 3-8A-06(e)

Other Types of Cases

The juvenile court does not have jurisdiction when children who are at least 16 years old allegedly violated traffic or boating laws, except where such violations carry a penalty of incarceration. The juvenile court also does not have jurisdiction over peace order proceedings where the victim is a person eligible for relief under Maryland’s Protective Order statute of the Family Law Article. 

Parental Notification

Under Maryland law, if a law enforcement officer takes a child into custody, the officer must immediately ensure the child’s parents, guardian, or custodian are notified.

Could My Child Be Held in a Juvenile Detention Facility Until Their Hearing?

In determining whether a child should be placed in detention prior to a hearing, a judge will consider several factors, including; 

  • The child’s age
  • Whether detention is required to protect the child or others, including the alleged victim
  • Whether the child is likely to leave the jurisdiction 

If Found “Delinquent”, Could My Child Be Placed Outside Our Home?

If your child is found delinquent, their placement will depends on the severity of the offense, whether your child has been found delinquent in the past, and whether the court makes a specific finding that an out-of-home placement is necessary. At a disposition hearing, the court may;

  • Place the child on probation or under supervision in his own home or in the custody or under the guardianship of a relative or other fit person, upon terms the court deems appropriate, including community detention
  • Commit the child to the custody or under the guardianship of the Department of Juvenile Services, the Maryland Department of Health, or a public or licensed private agency on terms appropriate given Maryland’s public policy regarding juveniles
  • Order the child, parents, guardian, or custodian of the child to participate in rehabilitative services that are in the best interest of the child and the family
  •  Adopt a treatment service plan pursuant to § 3-8A-20.1 that proposes specific assistance, guidance, treatment, or rehabilitation of a child

Source: Cts. & Jud. Proc. Article, § 3-8A-19

There are certain limitations on the court’s ability to commit a child to the Department of Juvenile services. Unless certain statutory exceptions apply, a court cannot commit a child to the Department of Juvenile Services for out–of–home placement if their most serious offense is:

  • Possession of marijuana under § 5–601(c)(2)(ii) of the Criminal Law Article;
  • Possession or purchase of a noncontrolled substance under § 5–618 of the Criminal Law Article;
  • Disturbing the peace or disorderly conduct under § 10–201 of the Criminal Law Article;
  • Malicious destruction of property under § 6–301 of the Criminal Law Article;
  • An offense involving inhalants under § 5–708 of the Criminal Law Article;
  • An offense involving prostitution under § 11–303, § 11–306, or § 11–307 of the Criminal Law Article;
  • Theft under § 7–104(g)(2) or (3) of the Criminal Law Article; or
  • Trespass under § 6–402(b)(1) or § 6–403(c)(1) of the Criminal Law Article

A child can be committed to the Department of Juvenile Services if their most serious offense is listed above, if; 

  1. The child previously has been adjudicated delinquent for three or more offenses arising from separate and independent circumstances;
  2. The child waives the above prohibition and the court accepts the waiver as knowing, intelligent, and voluntary; or
  3. The court makes a written finding, including the specific facts supporting the finding, that an out–of–home placement is necessary for the welfare of the child or in the interest of public safety.

Importance of Hiring an Experienced Juvenile Law Attorney

Because juvenile law is one of the lesser known areas of the law, it is important to hire an attorney who understands its nuances and unique facets. 

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



The content on this website is published for general information only, and is not intended to provide legal advice or opinion(s). Relevant legal advice can be given, and relied upon, only after firm has entered into an agreement to represent client(s). 


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