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Maryland Criminal Defense Lawyers For Juvenile Misdemeanor Charges

All children make mistakes. But, when it comes to criminal charges, what may be a learning experience is now a background that blocks them employment and educational opportunities.

Protect your child’s future with the defenders you’ll find at The Law Office of James E. Crawford, Jr. & Associates, LLC; we will fight for your family as if it were our own.

What Happens If A Juvenile Is Accused Of A Crime In Maryland?

First of all, a minor can end up facing Maryland’s juvenile legal system if:

  • Someone makes a complaint about the child to Maryland’s Department of Juvenile Services.
  • A member of law enforcement makes a report to that department about the child.
  • The child is actually arrested in connection with an illegal act.

From there, juvenile criminal cases are heard in Maryland’s juvenile courts if the Department of Juvenile Services deems the case severe enough.

Maryland juvenile courts were established specifically for the trying and sentencing of juvenile offenders.

These courts, alongside other juvenile programs, are designed to help the offending child while also protecting the public from potentially dangerous youths.

Maryland law wants kids to become productive members of society – not another statistic in jail.

However, if they don’t have a true defender in court to argue their case, then they may end up stuck in the juvenile system away from their support network, even as the system tries to help them grow.

Do All Juvenile Criminal Charges End Up In Court?

No. Just because someone has made a complaint about your child or claimed they did something wrong does not automatically mean your family ends up in court.

To that end, the Department of Juvenile Services has some discretion on what happens after a child has either been reported or arrested.

In some cases, the department may “dispose” the case – or choose not to bring your case to formal court – and allow the juvenile offender to work in a rehabilitation or community program in an effort to correct their behaviors.

This is more likely to happen if the Department of Juvenile Services has justification for making such declarations, such as:

  • Evidence and petitions from the family’s legal counsel
  • The lack of prior offenses
  • The low severity of the offense

That said, if a juvenile’s offense would have merited felony charges in adult court, then the Department of Juvenile Services may indeed decide that court action is appropriate.

At that point, the charges become a delinquency case and proceed to an adjudication hearing within 30 to 60 days of the initial charge.

Will My Child Be Able To Come Home If They’re Picked Up For A Juvenile Crime?

Sometimes, juvenile defendants will be released to go home under their parent or guardian’s supervision. Other times, they’ll be held until their trial date at an appropriate juvenile detention facility.

Maryland’s juvenile courts make the decision when the child is initially booked. When deciding whether to release an accused child, the judge will consider what police officers recommend, as well as:

  • The child’s attitude and whether they cooperated with law enforcement
  • Whether the court thinks the child will be safe and be able to attend future required court sessions if they return home
  • How severe the offense was, as well as any previous convictions
  • Whether the child might hurt someone if they’re released

Juvenile defendants have the right to legal representation at this point. Their defense lawyer can help justify a release to a skeptical judge.

What Does Maryland Law Consider As “Delinquent” In Juvenile Offenses?

According to Maryland law, juvenile cases classified as “delinquent” typically involve more serious crimes – or repeated offenses – by someone under age 18.

Delinquency cases are closer to “true” adult charges. The charged offense is normally too severe for the Department of Juvenile Services to avoid court, and so must be tried before a judge.

What Happens If My Child Is Charged As A Delinquent In Juvenile Court?

For delinquency cases, Maryland juvenile courts hold what’s known as an “adjudication.” These hearings are held within 30 to 60 days of the initial charge.

It’s important to know that adjudications are not simply another hearing or basic administrative matter. In fact, adjudications are like a trial: The juvenile court hears evidence and decides whether the accused child committed the alleged crime.

Both the Maryland state attorney’s office as the prosecution and the child’s legal defense team can present witnesses and evidence to prove their respective cases.

If the court finds the child guilty of the offense, then the court schedules what’s known as a “disposition hearing.” It could be the same day or later, but it’s at the disposition hearing that the child’s “sentence” will be decided.

Possible punishments for convicted behavior may include any of the following:

  • Probation with the Department of Juvenile Services
  • “Committing” the child to a facility run by the Department of Juvenile Services (when your child is required to go to “juvie” and other such child-focused detention centers)
  • Restitution up to $10,000 to compensate for a victim’s costs incurred by the child’s actions; both the child and their guardians are legally responsible to pay the restitution

Dispositions are a good time to have excellent legal defense to mitigate possible sentences for your child.

How Are Juveniles Tried Differently Than Adults In Maryland?

Juvenile crimes are governed by a different set of rules in Maryland than those for legal adults. Since they have not reached the legal age of majority – 18 years old – they do not have the same rights granted to them in a court of law.

Juveniles charged with crimes have the right to:

  • Remain silent and not have it judged against them
  • An attorney to defend them in court

Juvenile cases in Maryland differ from adult cases because:

  • They are not required to have a trial by a jury of their peers.
  • They do not have the right to a “fair and reasonable” bail.
  • They do not have the right to a speedy trial.
  • Juvenile sentencing for criminal defenses differs from that of adults, typically less severe.

Your child’s lack of legal rights in Maryland courts – as compared to adult defendants – means that you must have a strong legal defense to fight for your child to have as fair a trial as possible while keeping their future prospects.

When Can A Child Be Tried As An Adult In Maryland Courts?

Maryland law lists three ways in which a minor offender can be tried as adults in regular court – with all of the associated punishments and records associated with it.

  1. “Discretionary transfer,” which puts offenders aged 15 and over at risk of transfer to the regular court, or if the offender allegedly committed a crime that would be punished by life in prison for an adult.
  2. “Statutory exclusion,” which transfers offenders aged 14 and up who would have been punished with life imprisonment if guilty as an adult, or offenders aged 16 and up who allegedly “committed an enumerated serious felony
  3. “Once An Adult, Always An Adult,” which rules that if a juvenile offender was previously tried and convicted as an adult and they commit another would-be felony, then they’ll go back to regular criminal court.

The third stipulation makes it very important that if at all possible, juvenile cases remain in Maryland’s juvenile court system. Otherwise, future offenses will be pretty much automatically tried in the normal criminal system.

Will A Juvenile Offense Conviction Stay On My Child’s Permanent Criminal Record?

A juvenile criminal conviction stays on their criminal record for life. Such convictions can later be used to show a “repeat offense” as an adult, and therefore merit much harsher penalties if convicted again.

However, they can request “expungement” of certain juvenile records – that is, removal of the record from public view.

The expungement process is extremely detailed and comprehensive. If you don’t request the right record, from the right department, for the right reasons, then the court may deny your petition. Many people retain lawyers specifically for the expungement processes.

Are My Child’s Juvenile Records In Maryland Eligible For Expungement?

It depends on the record and the circumstances surrounding the charges and subsequent adjudication.

Two types of juvenile records are always ineligible for expungement:

  1. An offender’s registration on Maryland’s Juvenile Sex Offender Registry, which isn’t viewable by the public.
  2. An offender’s anonymized case information included in law enforcement reporting and statistics.

However, if you’re looking to expunge another type of juvenile criminal record, then at least one of the following must be true about the record:

  • The Maryland state attorney’s office entered a “nolle prosequi,” meaning they decided not to prosecute.
  • The charge or petition was dismissed.
  • The allegations were found untrue.
  • The adjudication wasn’t held within two years of the charges.
  • The disposition hearing determined you either did, or did not, require “guidance, treatment, or rehabilitation.”

If one of those factors are true, you may be able to request expungement of the juvenile record.

However, only a defense lawyer experienced in juvenile case expungement would really be able to tell if an expungement is possible.

There are many other factors at play when a Maryland court decides whether to grant a petition of expungement. A lawyer would be able to advise you on how best to proceed in your specific situation.

“When the time came, I feel that Mr. [Jim] Crawford defended me as he would have defended his own son. Because of Mr. Crawford, my case outcome was better than I had ever dreamed of! IF YOU OR A LOVED ONE FIND YOURSELF IN A TIME OF DESPERATION……PLEASE CALL THE LAW OFFICES OF JAMES E. CRAWFORD JR & ASSOCIATES!!!!!” 

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