- Maryland's Circuit Courts sit as Juvenile Courts
Youth under the age of 18 charged with committing a crime are treated differently than adults. The goals of the juvenile court and the juvenile justice system are to address the causes of the misconduct while protecting the community.
- Services and Diversion Programs. Youth may be referred to the Department of Juvenile Services for treatment or counseling. Youth who are arrested may be diverted to a program by the police or be informally supervised by the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services.
- Delinquency Proceedings. In more serious cases, or if a child has had multiple contacts with law enforcement, a case can be referred to the state’s attorney who files a petition in the juvenile court alleging that the child is a delinquent. A delinquent act is an act, by a person under age 18, that if committed by an adult would be a crime.
- Detention. If the police officers and/or the court believe that a child may not appear for court or is a danger to himself or to the public the child may be placed in detention before a fact finding hearing is held.
- Detention Hearing. Children who are placed in detention by the police will have a hearing the next day before a judge or master.
- Adjudication. Within 30-60 days, the court will hold a fact-finding hearing (similar to a trial), called the adjudication. At the adjudication hearing, the court will hear the evidence in the case. The purpose of the hearing is to determine if the child committed the offense. The state’s attorney will present witnesses and evidence, and the youth (usually through his or her attorney) will also have an opportunity to present witnesses and evidence. If the child admits to the offense, no witnesses are called. If the court determines the child committed the offense, the court will schedule a disposition hearing.
- Disposition. The disposition hearing may be held on the same day as the adjudication hearing, or it may be held later. At this hearing the court will determine if the child is delinquent, and will decide whether the child needs guidance, treatment or rehabilitation.
- What can the judge order at disposition? At the disposition hearing the court can:
1. Place the child on probation under the supervision of the Department of Juvenile Services.
2. Commit the child to the Department of Juvenile Services. If so, the department will remove the child from the home and place the child in an appropriate facility for care, rehabilitation or guidance.
3. Order Restitution. The court may order the child and his or her parents to be responsible for up to $10,000 to compensate the victim for property that was stolen, damaged or destroyed, or for costs the victim incurred, including medical or funeral expenses.
Right to a Lawyer
Youth are entitled to be represented by a lawyer at all delinquency hearings. The Office of the Public Defender will provide a lawyer for the youth if his or her family does not hire its own lawyer.
Expungement of Juvenile Records
To learn more about the expungement of juvenile records, see Juvenile Record Expungement. You will find detailed information on the grounds and process for expungement of juvenile records, and the form to file to seek expungement.
For a summary of the law and process, see the following publication: