Maryland Juvenile Law Matters
I have represented minors for over 26 years. I have extensive experience representing juveniles in the Juvenile System. Remember, in Maryland, Juvenile matters are treated different from the traditional Criminal Case. One of the biggest distinctions is in Juvenile Court, if the juvenile is found involved and/or delinquent he or she is not deemed to the have committed a crime. There is no criminal conviction on the juvenile’s record. Juvenile cases are heard in Circuit Court setting as a Juvenile Court. The purpose of the Juvenile Court is to balance “public safety” and accountability and rehabilitation of the Juvenile offender.
Although, the Juvenile System is not a criminal system, by all accounts the Maryland Juvenile Court System in many ways operates very much like a quasi Criminal Court System. One major difference from Adult Criminal Court is that a juvenile disposition or finding of delinquent is not deemed a criminal conviction. This is very important distinction because the juvenile does not get a criminal conviction or a criminal record.
Remember, the Juvenile process is basically a multiple step process. The first step in the process occurs when someone comes in contact with police authorities for criminal behavior – it must be determined which Court has jurisdiction. Should the matter be heard by the Juvenile or Criminal Court? We have all heard the term “tried as an adult” in recent news stories involving juveniles accused of serious crimes. There are some situations where the juvenile can be waived to an Adult Court. Waiver to Adult Criminal Court usually involves more serious matters/crimes. If the offender is under the age of 18 then usually he or she is charged as a juvenile and Juvenile Court, then has the jurisdiction over the case. I believe it is always better for the juvenile offender to be in the jurisdiction of the Juvenile Court System. If nothing else the juvenile offender, eventually emerges without a criminal conviction. That is where I believe I can help, call me at 443-783-2451. You should contact a Lawyer who has had 26 years of experience in dealing with juvenile matters. Click here for more information on Juvenile Law.
Even when authorities seek to waive the juvenile from Juvenile Court to Adult Criminal Court a well prepared and pleaded petition for Reverse Waiver along with evidence submitted at the Reverse Waiver Hearing can be effective in keeping the youthful offender in the Juvenile Court System. The last thing you want is your child being waived to an Adult Criminal Court if it can be avoided.
The next step in the process occurs once it has been determined that Juvenile Court has jurisdiction. At this stage in the process an Adjudication Hearing is scheduled, and/or Merrit’s Hearing is held to determine whether the juvenile offender is “involved” or “not involved” and thus delinquent (these terms are tantamount to “guilty” or “not guilty”). Keep in mind, Juvenile Services may also elect to handle the case informally and then a Juvenile Hearing may or may not be necessary depending on what the Department of Juvenile Services determines regarding the charges. For example, if the allegation of wrong doing is a minor matter and the juvenile has not been in trouble before, the Department of Juvenile Services may informally seek to close the juvenile matter at intake. Another reason to retain experienced legal counsel.
If the allegations are more serious, then usually the juvenile matter will be referred for an Adjudicative Hearing or Merritt’s Hearing in the Juvenile Court. At that Adjudicative Juvenile Hearing, the Court the will determine if the juvenile is involved or not involved and/or delinquent (this is essentially equivalent to a “guilty” or “not guilty” finding in Criminal Adult Court). At this point in the process a defense attorney can call witnesses and present exculpatory evidence on behalf of the juvenile. Furthermore, once the Juvenile Court determines “guilt or innocence” of the juvenile, the case is either finished (not guilty) or then the Juvenile Court moves forward toward the disposition stage, which is held to determine what to do with the (now guilty) juvenile offender. The Court in this Hearing focuses on disposition, that is, whether probation will be extended to the juvenile offender or whether commitment is necessary.
At the disposition Phase of the Hearing, the Juvenile Court hears testimony and recommendations from Juvenile Services. The Court hears evidence concerning the background of the juvenile offender, the serious nature of the offenses the juvenile offender has committed and any recommendations from the Department of Juvenile Services. Juvenile Services makes its recommendation based on its finding and assessments. Department of Juvenile Services is required to do a complete and extensive background check on the youthful offender. At this time the Juvenile Court also hears any Mitigation Evidence on behalf of the youth. Ultimately, the Judge has the final say as to what happens to the youthful offender.
As you can see, the process is fairly complex. You absolutely do not want to “go it alone” on Juvenile Law matters. It might very well be the difference between no criminal record at all and the start of a painful string of missteps with the legal system. In Maryland, a juvenile has a right to a Lawyer at every stage of the proceedings. So, call me, Frank Benvenuto, P.A. 443-783-2451 or use my Contact Us form.