Juvenile Delinquency - How do I deal with criminal charges against my child?
Juvenile Court is a court of special jurisdiction that is carved out of the Circuit Court of a county to address issues of Juvenile Delinquency. The system has its own set of rules that have both similarities to both civil and criminal courts.
A Circuit Court Sitting as a Juvenile Court is considered a civil court under juvenile law, but after a number of Supreme Court cases, also gives the "Respondent" (the child charged with an offense) all the rights that an adult criminal Defendant would have if the case were in regular criminal court, with the exception to a right to a jury. Maryland juvenile lawyers represent respondents, and Prosecutors for the State of Maryland work for each specific county where each juvenile court sits.
How does it work?
So, if a child is accused of, say, theft of a motor vehicle, and that case ends up in juvenile court, that child would have a right to an adjudicatory hearing (a trial in juvenile court) where the State has the burden to prove that the child is "involved" (as opposed to guilty) beyond a reasonable doubt. The State would then have a second burden to provide evidence that the child is in need of guidance, treatment, or rehabilitation at a separate "disposition" (a sentencing-type hearing in juvenile court).
If the Court finds involvement beyond a reasonable doubt and a need for guidance, treatment or rehabilitation, the Court enters a Delinquency finding against the child in the juvenile case, and decides how to best treat the child in the court system.
Prior to going to court, the child is assessed by the Department of Juvenile Services (DJS) to decide whether the child's case should go to court to begin with.
For serious cases, like felonies or sex offenses, DJS has to send the juvenile cases to court by statute. For minor offenses, DJS can propose an informal resolution to the case if all parties agree that would avoid a juvenile record for the child. It is important to have a juvenile defense attorney at these hearings to put the child in the best position to request an informal and prepare for any court that may result if informal is not offered.
While minor offenses often find their way through Juvenile Court, complications often arise with serious cases, sex offenses, or violent felonies.
Can a child be charged as an adult?
Some of the matters, by law, require that the child be charged as an adult. In those cases, an attorney can request that the matter be "transferred" to juvenile court in order to take advantage of the special services that Juvenile Court and DJS offers to put the child back on the right track prior to saddling him with a potential criminal record. A defense attorney can analyze if the case can be moved to a juvenile case based on the applicable juvenile law.
Similarly, the State may view a child's offense to be so serious that they ask the Juvenile Court to "waive" the child to adult court, where the child would face criminal charges as opposed to juvenile petition. Both transfer and waiver hearings are important, serious, and crucial parts of the Juvenile Court, and you must have an attorney present the child in the best way possible to the court to help keep him in juvenile court.
Juvenile Court also deals with a myriad of sex offense cases that could result in the child being placed on a sex offender registry even if the case remains in Juvenile court, and an attorney can help defend and prevent the child from going on that registry.
Do I need to hire an attorney?
The Juvenile Court system is a complex system with a lot of moving parts, where the parties are not just the child, the child's attorney, and the State, but also DJS and the parents, both are considered integral parts to the case as well throughout the process. If your child is facing a charge or petition, whether it has made it to court yet or not, you need an attorney with specific experience in the Juvenile Justice system. If you were recently contacted by an intake officer with the Department of Juvenile services, this is the perfect time for a criminal defense attorney to step in and get involved with a case before it goes to court.
Both Luke Woods and Max Frizalone have years of experience between them, with Luke having a decade of juvenile defense practice in multiple jurisdictions before magistrates and judges, having received and given specialized training on all aspects of juvenile law including waiver and transfer hearings, and Max Frizalone being a former juvenile prosecutor with significant specialized training and trial experience on felony cases.
The criminal justice system was not designed for a child to represent themselves. Having a criminal defense attorney in your corner will be important as your child's case makes its way through the juvenile justice system. Our firm has multiple law offices where our private attorneys can meet with your family. If your child is facing a detention hearing, we can appear and help seek release for your child back into your custody.
Our practice spans the State, from Montgomery County, to Anne Arundel county, through Prince George's County and Howard County. We can help with a wide array of criminal offenses and help your child avoid a finding of delinquency stemming from delinquent acts. Our representation will ensure the best possible outcome for your child's future. Juvenile law is confusing, don't try to take matters into your own hands, or trust another attorney's advice who hasn't practiced in the area of juvenile law. At FrizWoods we have experience on both sides of the juvenile law system, as a State's Attorney, and representing countless juvenile respondents.
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14513 Main Street, Ste B,
Upper Marlboro, MD 20772