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Published on 3/14/2023, 3:34:00 PM

Understanding Maryland's Juvenile Justice System for Children and Their Families

When a child is arrested, it can be a traumatic experience for both the child and their family. In order to navigate the juvenile justice system effectively, it is important to understand the process and what to expect. Understanding the juvenile justice system can help ensure that the child's rights are protected and that they receive the best possible outcome in their case.

Maryland Juvenile Laws have changed over the last few months, but the process remains largely the same.

Overview of Maryland's Juvenile Justice System

Maryland juvenile actions are civil in nature, but they mirror an adult criminal proceeding. A Maryland juvenile case begins with an allegation that a child committed a delinquent act.

What is Juvenile Delinquency?

Juvenile delinquency refers to the criminal actions of minors who have not yet reached the age of majority. In Maryland, the age of majority is 18 years old. Juvenile delinquency can refer to any illegal act committed by a minor, from minor offenses to serious crimes.

Age of Criminal Responsibility in Maryland

In Maryland, the age of criminal responsibility depends on the type of act that was alleged to have been committed. For example, a child under the age of 13 can only be charged with violent offenses. A child over 13, but under 18 could be charged with delinquency related to any other act that would be criminal if they were an adult at the time.

Children can be charged as adults in Maryland, but only under limited circumstances or upon a transfer request from the State.

What is the difference between the Adult and Juvenile Justice Systems

The juvenile justice system is different from the adult justice system in several ways. The juvenile justice system is focused on rehabilitation rather than punishment. The goal of the juvenile justice system is to help juveniles who have done wrong to turn their lives around and become productive members of society. The adult justice system, on the other hand, is focused on punishment and deterrence and focuses around the penalty of incarceration. A Maryland Juvenile Lawyer is a necessary tool in ensuring your child is represented.

What are the Goals of the Juvenile Justice System?

The goals of the juvenile justice system are to hold minors accountable for their actions, to protect the community from criminal activity, and to rehabilitate minors who have committed crimes.

How Does the The Juvenile Court Process work?

1. Arrest and Intake

When a minor is arrested, they are taken into custody by the police. The police may then release the minor to their parents or they may hold the minor in a juvenile detention center. The minor will then be processed through the juvenile court system.

2. Detention and Bail

If the minor is held in a juvenile detention center, they may be eligible for bail. Juvenile cases usually involve some form of monitoring upon the minor's release from detention, which is often referred to as Community Detention. If the minor is not released on bail, they will remain in detention until their case is resolved.

3. Adjudication

Adjudication is the process by which a juvenile court judge determines whether or not the minor is involved with the delinquent act they are accused of committing. During adjudication, evidence is presented and the minor has the right to a defense attorney. If the judge finds the minor involved, they will move on to the disposition phase.

4. Disposition

The disposition phase is where the judge decides on the appropriate rehabilitative actions needed for the minor. The judge may order probation, community service, counseling, or placement in a juvenile detention center.

5. Appeals

If the minor or their family disagrees with the judge's decision, they may be able to appeal the decision to a higher court.

What is Juvenile Sentencing?

Juvenile respondents are not actually sentenced like adult Defendants are. Instead, at disposition there is a rehabilitative plan laid out by the Department of Juvenile services, along with arguments from the child's attorney and the State.

What are the Types of Juvenile Sentences?

There are several types of dispositions that a juvenile court judge may impose. These include probation, community service, counseling, or placement in a juvenile detention center.

What Factors are Considered in Juvenile Sentencing?

When determining the appropriate sentence for a minor, the judge will consider a number of factors. These may include the seriousness of the crime, the minor's age, prior criminal record, and the minor's behavior during the court proceedings. Additionally the Department of Juvenile services should conduct a Predisposition Investigation, or PDI. This investigation should include a social history as well as mental health and drug evaluations.

What are the Consequences of Juvenile Cases?

Juvenile sentences can have serious consequences that can affect a young person's life for many years to come. Depending on the severity of the offense and the type of disposition imposed, consequences may include:

Being removed from the family home

Juveniles can be sentenced to confinement in a juvenile detention center, a group home, or a youth correctional facility. While these facilities are generally designed to be less punitive than adult jails or prisons, confinement can still be a traumatic experience for young people.

Community service:

Courts may require juveniles to perform community service, such as picking up trash in parks or working at a local charity.


Juvenile probation can include a variety of conditions, such as curfew, drug testing, and mandatory counseling. These probation conditions are imposed by the Department of Juvenile Services


Juveniles may be required to pay restitution as part of their sentence. Restitution in juvenile cases is rare; however, the State may also seek to have these costs ordered against a child's parents as well.

It is important to note that juvenile cases can have long-lasting consequences beyond the immediate penalties imposed by the court.

What are the Juvenile Rights and Protections in Court?

Juveniles accused of a crime have certain rights and protections under Maryland law. Finding the right juvenile lawyer is the key to making sure your child's rights aren't infringed upon. These include:

A. Right to Counsel:

Juvenile defendants have the right to be represented by an attorney throughout the juvenile court process. If the juvenile and his or her family cannot afford an attorney, the court will appoint one through the Office of the Public Defender.

B. Right to a Speedy Trial:

Juvenile defendants have the right to a speedy trial, which means that their case must be resolved within a certain timeframe. In Juvenile Court we commonly refer to this date as the James Date, which is a 60 day deadline.

C. Protections Against Self-Incrimination:

Juvenile defendants have the right to remain silent and to not incriminate themselves. Juveniles are often interrogated by Police during an investigation. They have an enhanced Miranda right as opposed to an adult, and their statements are analyzed differently than those given by adults.

D. Other Rights and Protections:

Juveniles also have other rights and protections, such as the right to be informed of the charges against them, the right to confront witnesses, and the right to an impartial judge. Juvenile cases are civil in nature, and children are not entitled to a jury trial.

Bring a real juvenile lawyer to Court for your child

In conclusion, it is important for juvenile defendants and their families to understand the Maryland juvenile justice system and the potential consequences of a juvenile sentence. With the help of an experienced attorney, counseling and support services, and education and job training programs, juveniles who have been involved in the criminal justice system can move forward with their lives and achieve success in the future.

The juvenile defense lawyers with FrizWoods have decades of experience in juvenile courts as both Juvenile Prosecutors and Juvenile Public Defenders. Max and Luke know the ins-and-outs of Juvenile law, and will make sure that your child receives the best defense possible. Contact us today for a free case consultation.