One of the most commonly asked questions regarding
juvenile crimes regards whether or not a minor defendant will be tried as an adult for
their alleged crimes. The simple-yet-unsatisfying answer: it depends.
Like all other states, Maryland has a separate court system designated
for minors aged 7 to 18 who have been accused of violating a criminal
statute. These courts deal in civil matters rather than criminal and have
a much greater emphasis on rehabilitation and education for minors rather
than punishment. Depending on the alleged offense and criminal history
of a juvenile defendant, however, it is possible for their case to be
transferred to the adult criminal justice system.
Ways a juvenile case can be transferred to adult court include:
Judicial waiver: The presiding judge may assert their authority to transfer the case.
Direct file: Also referred to as “prosecutorial discretion,” this is when
the prosecuting attorney has the discretion to decide whether a juvenile
will be tried as an adult.
Statutory exclusion: Statutory exclusion laws allow certain juveniles with prior criminal histories
who are charged with serious violent crimes to be tried as adults, essentially
“excluding” them from juvenile courts.
Once an adult, always an adult: Once a juvenile has been tried as an adult once, any subsequent offenses
will also be tried in adult court.
What Offenses Are Automatically Tried in Adult Courts?
Ultimately, the judge’s determination to try a case in juvenile or
adult court will be based on the defendant’s age, mental health,
agreement to adhere to future treatment options, the nature of the crime,
and the public’s safety. With that being said, there are several
crimes in the state of Maryland that are automatically handled in adult
courts for defendants age 16 or older.
These offenses include:
- Second degree murder
- Second and third degree rape or other sex offenses
- First degree assault
- Unlawful use or possession of a firearm
- Robbery with a deadly weapon
Likewise, juveniles age 14 or older who are charged with an offense punishable
by life imprisonment will likely be tried in adult court.
What Does it Mean to Be Tried as an Adult?
If a juvenile defendant is tried and convicted of a crime in adult court,
they will be subject to the same sentencing as any other adult accused
of the same offense. This includes penalties such as the loss of the right
to vote or own a firearm for certain felony convictions. Likewise, while
juvenile records are sealed upon entering adulthood, criminal convictions
in adult courts are permanently included on a defendant’s criminal
record, resulting in immense hardship when searching for jobs or applying
for higher education opportunities.
Due to these raised stakes, if your child is a juvenile defendant facing
adult prosecution, it is imperative you retain the services of a powerful
criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to protect their future and freedom against
serious consequences. Having successfully defended thousands of accused
individuals throughout my 20+ years of service as a
Salisbury criminal defense lawyer, I, Attorney William R. Hall, can provide the aggressive and results-driven
advocacy your child needs to minimize their chances of conviction.
Call (410) 205-1684 or contact my office online
today to discuss your child’s case today.