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Published on 10/11/2022, 10:42:00 AM

Children charged as adults in Maryland

Although the state of Maryland has separate juvenile and adult criminal court systems, children in Maryland can be charged as adults under certain circumstances. And when this happens, it is imperative that juveniles charged as adults and their parents or guardians seek legal assistance as soon as possible.

Otherwise, a child who is charged as an adult faces the prospect of serious penalties, such as incarceration with adult offenders as a reuslt of an adult Court case. In this article, we examine the topic of children charged as adults in the state of Maryland, and how to navagate the juvenile justice system.

Juvenile Court

Court stepsIn most cases, children in Maryland who are charged with crimes go to juvenile court. Juvenile court is a court of special jurisdiction that addresses issues of juvenile delinquency within the juvenile justice system.

This special court system has its own set of rules for juveniles. A circuit court that sits as a juvenile court in the state of Maryland is considered a civil court pursuant to juvenile law. Juvenile Court is held seperately from adult court, and is usually confidential.

However, youthful offenders in juvenile court are afforded all of the rights that are afforded adult criminal defendants in regular criminal court (with the exception of the right to a jury). Under Maryland law, all juvenile cases are decided by Judge trials, or bench trials.

When Can a Child Be Charged as an Adult?

Although most juvenile criminal cases are tried in juvenile court, some crimes of a more serious nature result in juveniles as young as 14 years old being charged as adults in Maryland. Specifically, children may be charged as adults for the following crimes in the state of Maryland:

1. First-degree murder, second-degree murder, and attempted murder:

To be charged as an adult for first-degree murder, a juvenile must be at least 14 years of age.

2. First-degree rape, second-degree rape, third-degree sex offenses, and attempted rape and sex offenses:

To be charged as an adult for first-degree rape, a juvenile must be at least 14 years of age.

3. First-degree assault:

To be charged as an adult for first-degree assault, a juvenile must be at least 16 years of age.

4. Abduction and kidnapping:

To be charged as an adult for abduction and kidnapping, a juvenile must be at least 16 years of age.

5. Several types of firearms and handgun-related offenses:

To be charged as an adult for a variety of firearms and handgun-related offenses, a juvenile must be at least 16 years of age.

6. Manslaughter:

To be charged as an adult for manslaughter, a juvenile must be at least 16 years of age.

7. Robbery, carjacking, and attempted robbery:

To be charged as an adult for robbery, carjacking, and attempted robbery, a juvenile must be at least 16 years of age.

How to get a child out of Adult Court in Maryland?

As noted above, some types of criminal charges in Maryland require juveniles to be charged as adults. However, in such cases, an attorney may request that the matter be transferred from adult court to juvenile court to take advantage of the services that the juvenile court offers to youthful offenders.

Transfer Hearings

Court stepsWhen a juvenile is charged as an adult, his or her defense attorney can analyze whether the case is one that is eligible to be transferred to juvenile court based on the applicable law. With the exception of a first-degree murder charge, the attorney of a juvenile defendant charged with one of the above crimes may file a transfer motion requesting that the court order the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services to conduct an evaluation of the juvenile defendant and submit a report to the court.

After the juvenile defendant's attorney makes such a request, the court schedules a special hearing, which is called a transfer hearing. At the transfer hearing, a judge determines whether the case should be transferred to the juvenile system or remain in the adult system.

And although first-degree murder, which includes felony murder and accomplice liability theories, doesn't permit a juvenile's criminal defense attorney to make a transfer request, there may be other options available to juveniles charged with these crimes.

Transfer Hearing Factors

Court stepsAt a transfer hearing, a juvenile defendant and his or her attorney must prove that it is more likely than not that the juvenile can be rehabilitated through the services provided in the juvenile criminal system.

During the transfer hearing, the court may receive testimony, exhibits, and other types of physical evidence. At the hearing, the juvenile defendant has the right to remain silent throughout the proceeding, and it is common for juvenile defendants to exercise this right.

In determining whether to transfer a juvenile defendant's case to juvenile court, the court considers the following five factors:

  • The juvenile's age

  • The juvenile's physical and mental condition

  • The juvenile's openness to obtaining treatment in juvenile programs

  • The nature of the juvenile's alleged crime

  • The public safety

Although all of the factors listed above are weighed equally by the court, recent legal developments regarding transfer hearings have resulted in courts putting a strong emphasis on a juvenile's openness to participating in the services offered by the juvenile system.

In other words, this means that the court closely examines whether the juvenile appears to be open and receptive to the services that are offered in the juvenile system and whether it appears as if the juvenile will benefit from them.

Previously, juveniles would routinely be denied a transfer request simply due to the heinous or outrageous nature of the crimes with which they were charged. However, these recent developments in this area have shifted the court's focus from the nature of the charges to the juveniles themselves.

Waiver Hearings

Conversely, the state may consider a juvenile's offense to be so serious that it asks the juvenile court to waive the juvenile to adult court, where the juvenile would face criminal charges as an adult. In this situation, it is imperative that the juvenile be represented by an experienced criminal defense attorney so that they can avoid an adult criminal record.

An experienced attorney will argue against the transfer and attempt to convince the court that the juvenile's case should remain in juvenile court and be addressed in the juvenile justice system.

The Bottom Line

Court stepsWhether a juvenile is initially charged as an adult, or the court requests that the juvenile's case be transferred from juvenile to adult court, it is important for the juvenile to enlist the services of an experienced Maryland criminal defense lawyer.

A criminal defense lawyer will ensure that the juvenile's rights are protected as he or she moves through the legal process and do everything possible to ensure that he or she receives the services necessary to reduce the odds of recidivism through the juvenile justice system.

Contact a Maryland Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you are a juvenile or the parent of a child facing adult criminal charges in the state of Maryland, it is imperative that you contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.

At FrizWoods, our experienced criminal defense attorneys are dedicated to defending juveniles and adults against criminal charges of all kinds.

If your child was recently arrested - make us your first call!

Attorneys Luke Woods and Max Frizalone are known throughout the state of Maryland for obtaining successful results for their clients, and they have a reputation for aggressive and effective representation in the juvenile justice system.

When you come to us for help with your Maryland criminal case, attorneys Woods and Frizalone will use their vast experience and knowledge to provide you with the strongest defense possible. Please contact us as soon as possible to schedule a free initial consultation with one of our experienced criminal defense attorneys.