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.