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A closer look at Maryland’s juvenile justice system – II

Last time, we began providing some basic background information about Maryland’s juvenile court system in order to provide young people facing criminal charges and their parents will have a better idea of what to expect. In today’s post, we’ll continue to explore this important topic.

How matters get to juvenile court

In the event the underlying criminal matter is serious and/or the minor has had multiple run-ins with law enforcement, the intake officer with the Department of Juvenile Services may decide to refer the matter to the state’s attorney.

From here, the office will file a petition alleging that the minor is a delinquent in juvenile court. The law defines a delinquent act as one committed by a minor that would otherwise be treated as a crime if committed by someone 18 years old or older.

The hearings

In the event that the juvenile court or law enforcement officials are concerned that that the minor will fail to appear for court, and/or presents a danger to themselves or the public, he or she may be placed in detention prior to the fact finding hearing called the adjudication. However, minors placed in detention will have a hearing the day after they are placed in detention in order to have a judge or master consider the issue.

The adjudication, which is similar in nature to a trial, will be held within 30-60 days of the petition being filed. Here, the court will determine whether the minor committed the offense, hearing evidence and witnesses from the state’s attorney and the attorney representing the minor — private counsel or public defender — if they choose to do so. However, if the child admits to committing the offense, no witnesses will be called.

The disposition

If the court believes that the minor has committed the offense in question, a disposition hearing will be held — sometimes the same day. Here, the court will decide if the child is delinquent and, if so, the proper course of action:

  • Probation under the supervision of the DJS
  • Commitment to the DJS such that the child is removed from home ,and placed in a facility for a set amount of time in order to receive guidance, care and rehabilitation.
  • Restitution to be paid by the minor or their parents for up to $10,000 in damages or expenses incurred by the victim.

Any criminal matter can be serious where minors are concerned. That’s why it’s so important for those arrested for any sort of offense to give strong consideration to speaking with a skilled legal professional as soon as possible.

Sources: Maryland Courts, “Juvenile delinquency,” Accessed Nov. 3, 2014; Maryland State Bar Association, “Juvenile court,” Accessed Nov. 3, 2014

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