Maryland’s Juvenile Courts handle cases involving most minors-youths who are under age 18. The court has jurisdiction even if the youth turns 18 before the case is adjudicated, and jurisdiction continues until the age of 21. In some instances, cases can start in adult criminal court and wind up in juvenile court. Cases involving children 16 years old or older charged only with traffic violations that do not carry a possible penalty of incarceration are not heard in Juvenile Court. These cases are heard on the regular traffic docket in District Court. Cases involving children 14 or older who are charged with an offense that if committed by an adult is punishable by death or life imprisonment go directly to criminal court. These cases are heard on the regular Circuit Court docket.
Certain cases involving serious charges against children 16 and older, including murder, rape, kidnapping, armed robbery, carjacking, certain hangun violations and certain sexual offenses, also go to criminal court. Such cases can be transferred from criminal to Juvenile Court, and there are also provisions to allow certain juvenile cases to be transferred to criminal court.
Cases in Juvenile Court fall primarily within these categories:
• Delinquency: Children who are charged with having committed an act that would be a crime if committed by an adult
• Citations for violation of alcohol and tobacco laws
• Children in Need of Assistance (CINA): Children who have been abused or neglected by someone responsible for their care
• Children in Need of Supervision (CINS): Children who are habitually truant, disobedient, ungovernable, or who commit an offense applicable to children only
• Peace Order requests against juveniles
• Voluntary Placement Petitions for disabled children
Adults can be charged in Juvenile Court with contributing to conditions causing a child to be alleged delinquent, in need of assistance, supervision, or failure to send their child who is over the age of 5 and under age 16 to school. Adults charged under these statutes have additional rights that children do not have.
Maryland’s 23 counties and Baltimore City have Juvenile Courts, which are part of each county’s Circuit Court. Juvenile Court also has jurisdiction over adults charged with contributing to conditions causing a child to be delinquent, in need of assistance, or in need of supervision.
Juveniles are entitled to be represented by a criminal defense lawyer in almost all Juvenile Court proceedings. A child’s parent may also have the right to an attorney.
All Juvenile Courts proceedings and records are confidential.
The adjudicatory hearing must take place within 60 days after the petition has been served on the juvenile. Before an adjudicatory hearing, the child is advised of the charges and the right to be represented by a lawyer.