In Maryland, any person under the age of 18 is considered a juvenile. Maryland law dictates that a juvenile who commits a delinquent act is treated differently than an adult. Therefore, juvenile cases are heard in the Juvenile Court system.
The Office of the State’s Attorney has a specialized unit responsible for the prosecution of every case in the Juvenile Court system. This unit places a special emphasis on guidance, treatment, and rehabilitation.
Most juvenile cases are initially processed by the local Department of Juvenile Services intake office. There, an intake officer will decide whether to close a case, send the child to a diversion program for treatment and guidance, or refer the case to the Office of the State’s Attorney.
For cases not considered emergencies, the first action in Juvenile Court is usually the Hearing on Counsel. At this hearing, a child and his/her parents appear before a Master (Judge) and is advised of the allegations in the petition and his/her rights to counsel. If the juvenile is not detained or placed in shelter care, the adjudicatory hearing must take place within 60 days of the date the petition was served on the child and parents. (An adjudication hearing is the equivalent of a trial in the adult court system.)
If the child is found to be delinquent, the Master (Judge) will hold a disposition hearing the same day as the adjudication hearing, or the child may elect to have the disposition held on a different day not less than 5 days nor more than 30 days after the adjudication hearing.
The juvenile can be placed on probation and/or under supervision while still living in his/her own home. The juvenile can be placed in the custody or under the guardianship of the Department of Juvenile Service. The juvenile may be ordered to participate in rehabilitative services that are in the best interest of the child and family.