The answer to the question is yes, in Maryland a 16 or 17 year old can be charged as an adult. In fact if the if it is alleged that the juvenile committed the robbery with a dangerous and deadly weapon, original jurisdiction lies with the adult system in the Circuit Court. If there is no allegation that a weapon was used, the juvenile could only be charged as an adult upon the granting of a motion filed by the State to do so.
I had a case that illustrated this jurisdictional issue this week in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County. My client, who was just 16 years, 8 days old at the time of the alleged offense is charged with robbery with a dangerous and deadly weapon, robbery, assault and wear carry or transport a deadly weapon. He and three co-defendants were all charged with the alleged knife robbery of a man in his mid forties. I will explain the facts in a moment, but a brief overview of the juvenile versus adult jurisdiction, a topic about which I have blogged in the past, should be helpful.
In Maryland, a juvenile can be, actually must be, charged as an adult in the first instance (that is original jurisdiction vests with the Circuit Court) if the child is charged with any of the following crimes:
Second degree murder, second or third degree sex offenses, second or third degree rape, most handgun charges, armed robbery, kidnapping, involuntary manslaughter, carjacking, first degree assault, attempted murder, robbery or rape or any other felony if the juvenile has been previously adjudicated as an adult.
The Circuit Court (adult system) also has original jurisdiction over a child who is 14 or 15 years old if he or she is charged with an offense which carries either life imprisonment or the death penalty if committed by an adult (pursuant to both Maryland law as well as a recent Supreme Court decision, a person may not be executed for any crime committed while the person was under the age of 18) which includes first degree murder, first degree rape or sexual offense or any attempts of these offenses. Unfortunately, we had a tragic example in Baltimore County recently of a 15 year old being charged as an adult in the Nicholas Browning case, a case in which a 15 year old murdered his father, mother and two younger brothers. (Browning recently entered into a guilty plea to two counts of first degree murder and faces consecutive life terms in prison when sentenced).
Also in any other case a 15 year old can be tried as an adult if the court grants the State’s motion for waiver of jurisdiction. The State will sometimes file these motions for cases of possession with the intent to distribute cocaine, heroin, marijuana or other drugs or other felonies if the juvenile has a particularly bad record. Once this motion is filed the court will order the Department of Juvenile Services to conduct a study of the juvenile and will make it’s determination as to whether to order the case to be transferred to the adult system based on five factors: the age of the child, the mental an physical condition of the child, the child’s amenability to treatment, the nature of the offense and the child’s participation in it and the public safety.
In the case I had this week my client and four friends were accused of approaching the victim with a knife and demanding money and cigarettes. The victim had no money so the boys are alleged to have taken his cigarettes as well as his cell phone. 3 of the boys were sixteen and were charged as adults. One boy was 15 and was charged as a juvenile. My client, who as I said had only just turned 16 and looks like he is 13, was genuinely shocked to realize that he could be charged as an adult for. I filed a motion to transfer jurisdiction back to the juvenile division. This week, a hearing was scheduled on this issue but for whatever reason the Department of Juvenile Services had not yet prepared their report and recommendation, which is essentially the same report they prepare when the State moves to waive a juvenile up to the adult system. The case was postponed but I did get the report the next day which recommended transfer back to juvenile which is what I am confident will happen in this case.