Does My Child Need a Lawyer?

Maryland generally does not treat persons under the age of 18 as adults but there are a few exceptions. When a juvenile commits a serious crime such as murder, attempted murder, or rape, the prosecutor may move the case from juvenile court to adult court. Therefore, even though the juvenile offender is less than 18 years old, he or she may be treated as an adult.

In juvenile court, the legislature has many legal policies which prevent the juvenile from being found “guilty” and having a criminal record in the event that juvenile is found to have committed the criminal act. Instead of “guilty”, the juvenile is found to be “involved”.

The juvenile has the same rights as an adult has, including:

  • the right to a trial;
  • the right to be represented by a lawyer;
  • the right for the State to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the juvenile has committed the criminal act, i.e., was involved.
  • the right to cross-examine the witnesses against the juvenile; and
  • the right to remain silent accompanied by the presumption that if the juvenile does not, there is no inference of guilt.

Usually the process begins when charges are made against the juvenile and involve instances where an accusation of a criminal act has occurred and police have investigated the incident. If the police believe the juvenile committed a criminal act(s), the police prepare a statement of charges and identify the specific crime(s) the juvenile has committed. The police then provide the juvenile and the juvenile’s parents with the written charges and the parents are asked to sign a paper agreeing to bring the juvenile to future juvenile proceedings or the juvenile will be retained. However, if the charges are for the more serious charges expressed above, the juvenile will be detained until a hearing is held to consider whether the juvenile should be tried as an adult and whether the juvenile should be held in a locked-down juvenile facility. Assuming the charges are less serious, an informal hearing will be held by a social worker or mental health worker to evaluate the needs of the juvenile and to notify the prosecutor and Juvenile Services of the worker’s recommendations. These recommendations could include that the incident is isolated, that the juvenile complies with parental supervision, obeys curfew and attends school regularly, and that drugs are not an issue. Other recommendations may include that the juvenile have a hearing and be interviewed by Juvenile Services. Prosecutors have the ultimate decision-making authority as to whether or not to formally continue the process which includes trial.

The juvenile and his/her parents are informed, both before and during an informal hearing, of the rights of the juvenile to be represented by an attorney, to remain silent, that what is stated by the juvenile is confidential and cannot be used at trial as well as of those other rights as described above. Juvenile records are not accessible to the public. Generally, unless the juvenile provides written authorization, the records are not made available. Written authorization may be given by a juvenile, for instance, who seeks employment in a sensitive position.

We recommend that we represent your juvenile at the informal hearing and we are available to represent the juvenile thereafter as well should the process continue.

Fredric Antenberg has represented juveniles for over 30 years in Howard County and surrounding counties in Maryland. Contact Fred for a free initial consultation by calling 410-730-4404.