Juvenile Style: Defense Strategies and Approaches

Strategies and Approaches for Defending Juveniles

Over the years, we have represented a number of juveniles who have been charged with crimes such as underage drinking, possession of fake IDs, and misdemeanor theft.

First we meet with the client and get the client’s version of events.  Next, through the process of discovery, we examine the police officer’s explanation of the incident.  We can even obtain dispatcher voice recordings to see whether the officer’s statement of probable cause is consistent with the transmissions being relayed to dispatch.  Probable cause (that the likelihood that a crime took place or was about to take place is more probable than not) is required for an officer to apprehend and make an arrest.  Further, we can interview witnesses and subpoena records and witnesses to appear before the court.

We also assess the charges that the officer has alleged and that the state’s attorney (the prosecutor) seeks to bring.  Often, prosecutors will, at least initially, “stack” the charges.  But many of the separately listed charges are actually for the very same alleged transgression and the charges merge.  Under the legal doctrine of merger, an individual can’t be charged redundantly or for lesser included offenses (where a more serious charge has all the same elements of a lesser charge, the individual can’t be charged and punished for both).  For example, it is a crime under both the Criminal Article and the Transportation Article to possess a fraudulent driver’s license.  But this doesn’t mean an individual can be charged for the misdemeanor twice and face twice the penalties.  We look at the charges and then look at the law to determine whether the charges alleged are appropriate or should be reduced.

Using methods we have employed in the past, we have often been able to obtain dismissals or lesser charges from the prosecutor.  For example, in alcohol related incidents, we have advised clients to receive and participate in an alcohol evaluation and treatment program.  The goal is for the client to receive an assessment related to their drinking and to then undertake the steps necessary to mitigate bad drinking habits.  Upon successful completion, we try to impress this progress upon either the prosecutor or judge to try to receive a favorable outcome for the client.

Fred Antenberg is an attorney who is located in Columbia, Maryland and handles juvenile defense cases in Howard County and surrounding counties.  CONTACT Fred at 410-730-4404.