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Who is a child?
Under Maryland law, a "child" is defined as any person under the age of 18. A child under the age of 13 cannot be charged with a crime.
Read the Law: Md. Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings § 3–8A–01, 3-8A-03
Treating Child as an Adult
The Juvenile Court system has exclusive jurisdiction over a child who commits a crime. This means that the child’s case is handled in the Juvenile Court System
However, the Juvenile Court will waive its exclusive jurisdiction in specific circumstances. This means there are some cases where the state courts will treat a child as an adult based on the crime committed.
Also, under Maryland Law, there are specific instances when the allegations against the child will result in the child being classified as an adult and tried in criminal court. These specific instances are:
- A child at least 14 years old has committed a crime that, if committed by an adult, would be punishable by life in prison.
- A child at least 16 years old is charged with certain violations of traffic law and laws related to the operation of a boat (except if there is a penalty of incarceration).
- A child at least 16 years old is charged with any of the following crimes:
- second degree murder or attempted second degree murder,
- manslaughter (except involuntary manslaughter),
- second degree rape or attempted second degree rape,
- robbery or attempted robbery,
- second or third degree sexual offense or attempted second degree sexual offense,
- violations of gun control regulations,
- gun violations related to a drug trafficking crime,
- conspiracy, or
- use of a regulated gun in committing a felony, carjacking or armed carjacking, first degree assault, handgun or machine gun violations.
- A child who has previously been tried and convicted as an adult for a felony offense and is charged with another felony.
- Certain peace order proceedings.
If a child is classified as an adult for any of the above reasons, the Juvenile Court no longer hears the case. Instead, the child will be tried as an adult in criminal court. However, the child/child's attorney may still petition the appropriate court to move the case to Juvenile Court.
A Child’s Right to a Lawyer in Juvenile Court
Children who have been charged with committing a delinquent act have the right to a lawyer in Juvenile Court.
- A child has the right to a lawyer at every stage of the juvenile court proceedings.
- Exceptions - A child does not have the right to an attorney in a peace order proceeding.
A child’s parents, guardians or custodians can never "waive" (give up) the child’s right to a lawyer. However, the child can waive right to counsel if :
- a petition is filed with the court;
- the child is in the presence of and has consulted with a lawyer; and
- the court determines the waiver is knowing and voluntary.
To be knowing and voluntary, a judge will consider if the child fully understands:
- the nature of the allegations alleged;
- the range of possible outcomes;
- how helpful counsel will be in determining any applicable defenses or mitigating circumstances;
- that the right to an attorney includes prompt assignment and no charges if the child cannot afford an attorney;
- that even if the child is not contesting the charges or proceedings, an attorney can help develop and present materials that could affect the outcome; and
- that the child's rights at the hearing include the right to call witnesses on the child's behalf, the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses, the right to obtain witnesses by compulsory process, and the right to require proof of any charges.
Read the Law: Md. Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings. § 3-8A-20