The Juvenile Justice Reform Act took effect on October 1, 2022 and may affect the information on this page. See Senate Bill 691 and House Bill 459. This page will be updated.
The purpose of the Juvenile Justice System is to:
- provide care, protection, and wholesome mental and physical development of children found delinquent by the juvenile court;
- balance the public safety and the protection of the community while holding the child responsible to the victim and the community for the offenses committed and to help the child become a responsible and productive member of society;
- provide a program of treatment, training, and rehabilitation that fits with the child's best interests and the public interest;
- preserve and strengthen the child's family ties and separate a child from the family only when necessary for the child’s welfare or in the interest of public safety;
- hold parents responsible for child's behavior and accountable to the victim and community;
- hold parents responsible, where possible, for working on the issues that required the court’s intervention;
- if necessary to remove a child from home, provide the child a living situation as close as possible to the custody, care, and discipline that should have been given by the parents; and
- provide children in State custody with a safe, humane and caring environment and access to needed services.
Read the Law: Md. Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings § 3-8A-02
How does a child get into the system? A child can get into the system in any of the following ways:
- a citizen or agency files a complaint about the child with the Department of Juvenile Services or requests a peace order;
- a law enforcement officer files a report about the child with the Department of Juvenile Services;
- the child is arrested; or
- in certain cases, the child is charged as an adult, but tried or sentenced as a juvenile.
Intake - Within 25 days of receiving a complaint, an intake officer working for the Department of Juvenile Services decides whether there is juvenile jurisdiction and if court action is appropriate.
- The intake officer may decide to file a petition or a peace order request or both with the juvenile court;
- The intake officer may, if the victim, the child, and the child's parent or guardian agree, informally dispose of your case with certain conditions and procedures;
- The intake officer may simply refuse to authorize the filing of a petition or peace order. If you have committed an act that would be a felony if you were an adult, the State’s Attorney may overrule the intake officer’s decision and file a petition or peace order or both;
- If the intake officer decides not to file a petition or peace order, the victim, arresting officer or complaining person or agency may appeal the decision to the State’s Attorney.
Read the Law: Md. Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings. § 3-8A-10
Petitions - Petitions alleging delinquency or need of supervision are filed by the State’s Attorney’s Office within 30 days after receiving a referral from an intake officer. The petition alleging delinquency is written in clear and simple language stating the alleged facts which constitute the delinquency, and states the laws allegedly violated by the child. Felony hearings are open to the public.
Read the Law: Md. Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings § 3-8A-13
If you are arrested, ask for an attorney and for your parents or guardian. In Maryland, a child alleged to be delinquent has the right to an attorney (excluding peace order proceedings). You do not have to say anything to a police officer without an attorney or your parents present.
Read the Law: Md. Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings. § 3-8A-20
Detention or Shelter Care Prior to Hearing - If a child is arrested, the court or intake officer may order detention or shelter care. If a law enforcement officer takes a child into custody, the office must immediately notify or arrange for the notification of the child's parents, guardian, or custodian. The child may not be placed in an adult jail or other facility for the detention of adults. A hearing will be scheduled to figure out if there is "probable cause" to believe that you committed the crime. If there is enough evidence to believe you may have committed the crime, you could be held until the trial (adjudicatory or merits hearing).
The court or an intake officer may authorize detention, community detention, or shelter care for a child who may be in need of supervision or delinquent. If the child is not released, the intake officer or official who authorized the detention must immediately file a petition to authorize the continued detention.
A hearing will occur on the next court day, unless extended for no more than 5 days by the court for good cause. Reasonable notice of the hearing will be provided to the child and the child's parents, guardian or custodian. At the hearing, the judge listens to what law enforcement officers are recommending. The judge also considers:
- How severe the crime was;
- Your past record;
- How cooperative you have been;
- How cooperative your parents or guardian have been;
- How hard it was to arrest you;
- Whether you are a danger to yourself or anyone else;
- How likely you are to return to court when required;
- How safe it is for you and others for you to return home; and
- Whether your parents or guardian are willing to take you home.
Read the Law: Md. Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings § 3-8A-14; § 3-8A-15
Delinquency Case - The State's Attorney will get involved in your case.
- First, you will have an adjudicatory hearing (also called a merits hearing). At the adjudicatory hearing, the judge will determine whether the statements contained in the petition are true. The State’s Attorney will present their case. You are entitled to an attorney to represent you. Allegations must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. You have the right to remain silent and that may not be held against you. Read the Law: Md. Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings § 3-8A-18
- If the court finds that the statements in the petition are true, you will have a disposition hearing. At the disposition hearing, the judge will determine whether you are a delinquent child in need of guidance, treatment, or rehabilitation, and the kind of guidance, treatment, or rehabilitation. Read the Law: Md. Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings § 3-8A-19
- Restitution – You and/or your parents may be liable to the victim for restitution. Read the Law: Md. Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings § 3-8A-28 and Md. Code, Criminal Procedure Title 11, Subtitle 6, Part 1
If you do not understand the court proceedings, tell your attorney.
- Your attorney may request that the Department of Juvenile Services or the Department of Health study you as well as your home, family, and other things to determine whether you are competent to proceed.
- If it is determined that you are not competent to proceed, but there is a substantial probability that you may be able to gain competency in the foreseeable future, the court my order the Department of Health to provide necessary services to attain competency. These services will be provided in the least restrictive environment. The competency attainment services cannot be provided in a detention or psychiatric facility.
- If you cannot understand the proceedings within a reasonable period of time, your attorney may ask the court to have your case dismissed.
Read the Law: Md. Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings §§ 3-8A-17.1 - 3-8A-17.8
Placements Outside Home - If you are found delinquent, the court can place you outside your home. Generally, however, the court cannot place you outside your home if your most serious offense is one of the following:
- Possession of marijuana under Criminal Law § 5–601(c)(2)(ii);
- Possession or purchase of a noncontrolled substance under Criminal Law § 5–618;
- Disturbing the peace or disorderly conduct under Criminal Law § 10–201;
- Malicious destruction of property under Criminal Law § 6–301;
- An offense involving inhalants under Criminal Law § 5–708;
- An offense involving prostitution under Criminal Law § 11–303; § 11–306; § 11–307
- Theft under Criminal Law § 7–104(g)(2) or (3); or
- Trespass under Criminal Law § 6–402(b)(1) or § 6–403(c)(1).
However, even if your most serious offense is one of these, the court can place you outside the home, if any of the following circumstances apply:
- You previously have been found delinquent for 3 or more offenses arising from separate and independent circumstances;
- You voluntarily waive this provision; or
- The court makes a written finding, supported by specific facts, that an out-of-home placement is necessary for your welfare or in the interest of public safety.
Read the law: Md. Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings § 3-8A-19
Potential Treatment as an Adult - You will most likely go to juvenile court, unless you commit a very serious crime. If you are 15 years old or older OR you are charged with committing a crime that, if committed by an adult, would be punishable by life imprisonment, then the Juvenile Court may have a hearing to decide whether your case stays with the Juvenile Court or goes to the regular Circuit Court.
The Juvenile Court will consider:
- your age;
- your mental and physical condition;
- whether you will agree to treatment and how you may respond to treatment in an institution, facility, or program;
- the nature of the offense/crime and your participation in it; and
- public safety.
Read the Law: Md. Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings § 3-8A-06
If your case falls into any of the following categories, it may be handled in adult criminal court:
- You have been previously convicted as an adult of a felony and the new alleged offense would be a felony if committed by an adult;
- Certain peace order proceedings;
- If you are 14 years or older at the time of the offense, and you are charged with committing a crime, if committed by an adult, would be punishable by life imprisonment.
- If you are 16 years or older at the time of the offense, and you are charged with any of the following offenses:
- violations related to traffic laws (except if there is incarceration imposed);
- violations related to the use or operation of a boat (except if there is incarceration imposed);
- second degree murder;
- manslaughter, except involuntary manslaughter;
- second degree rape;
- robbery or attempted robbery under Criminal Law § 3-403;
- third degree sexual offense under Criminal Law § 3-307(a)(1);
- a crime in violation of Public Safety § 5-133, § 5-134, § 5-138, or § 5-203 (related to firearms);
- using, wearing, carrying, or transporting a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime under Criminal Law § 5-621;
- use of a firearm under Criminal Law § 5-622;
- carjacking or armed carjacking under Criminal Law § 3-405;
- assault in the first degree under Criminal Law § 3-202;
- attempted murder in the second degree under Criminal Law § 2-206;
- attempted rape in the second degree under Criminal Law § 3-310; or
- a violation of Criminal Law § 4-203, § 4-204, § 4-404, or § 4-405;
Read the Law: Md. Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings § 3-8A-03
Waiver: You could also end up in adult criminal court by a process known as "waiver."
- Waiver Up: If you have reached the age of 15, the juvenile court may send the case to adult criminal court where adult penalties apply. Read the Law: Md. Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings § 3-8A-06
- Waiver Down: If you are automatically charged as an adult, you have the right to ask the adult court to send the case to juvenile court. Even if you are tried as an adult, you may still ask the court to send you to juvenile court for rehabilitative care instead of imposing an adult sentence. If you are 16 or 17 years old and charged with murder, you are not eligible for waiver down. Read the law: Md. Code, Criminal Procedure § 4-202
Criminal Record - Your arrest, charge, and conviction are permanent parts of your criminal record. However, only very specific people will be able to see it and under limited circumstances. Consider whether you can have it removed through expungement.
Sexual Crimes & Registry - If you were found delinquent because of committing certain sexual offenses, you are required to register with the State if:
- you were at least 13 years old at the time the delinquent act was committed;
- the State’s Attorney or the Department of Juvenile Services requests that you be required to register;
- 90 days prior to the time the juvenile court’s jurisdiction over you terminates under § 3–8A–07 of the Courts Article, the court, after a hearing, determines under a clear and convincing evidence standard that you are at significant risk of committing a sexually violent offense or an offense for which registration as a tier II sex offender or tier III sex offender is required; and
- you are at least 18 years old.
Read the Law: Md. Code, Criminal Procedure § 11-704(c)
Juvenile Sex Offender Registry - The Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services maintains a registry of juvenile sex offenders separately from the adult sex offender registry.
You may be placed on the juvenile sex offender registry if:
- you have been adjudicated delinquent for an act that, if committed by an adult would be first or second degree rape or a sexual offense in the first, second or third degree; and
- you were at least 14 years old at the time of the delinquent act.
The registry is available only to law enforcement personnel for law enforcement purposes. When the juvenile court’s jurisdiction over you, they must remove you from the registry.
Read the Law: Md. Code, Criminal Procedure § 11-704.1