Should Rape Charges Be Heard in a Juvenile Court?A Maryland case highlights the balances courts must consider in deciding whether teenagers should be tried in adult court or juvenile court. Four teenagers, according to a report in the Baltimore Sun, are accused of sexually assaulting a student with a broomstick. The four students were charged as adults. One student was charged with one count of first-degree rape. The other three students were charged with attempted first-degree rape.

The four students, according to the prosecution, left the sophomore section of their locker room to “broom” younger classmates in the freshmen section. The prosecutors claim that one student, Smith, used a broom to attack a freshman. It is the request by Smith, through his attorney, to transfer the case to juvenile court that is being heard first. A Maryland judge will decide whether to approve the transfer or keep the case in the adult court. Smith is the teenager who was charged with first-degree rape.

The lawyer for the 15-year-old Smith claims that the defendant:

  • Has “intellectual deficits.”
  • Believed he was following “what he thought was an established ‘prank’” within the high school football program.
  • That the request for removal is supported by the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services. The department was assigned by the court to review Mr. Smith’s case. They recommended the transfer to juvenile court based on the teens “age, his amenability to treatment, and the degree of risk he posed to public safety.”
  • Cooperated with the school and with the detectives investigating the case.

The prosecution claims the attack was a “vicious attack” that should be kept in adult court. An attorney for the victims says that the public deserves to know how such an incident could have occurred in a public school.

The differences between juvenile and adult court

Juvenile courts focus on rehabilitating a juvenile instead of punishing him/her. Juvenile proceedings are private where adult proceedings are public. There are strict rules of evidence in adult cases. In juvenile cases, the rules of evidence are less strict because the aim is to help the juvenile.

Sentences in adult court can last a lifetime. In juvenile court, punishments usually terminate when the juvenile reaches 18-years-of age.

Judges need to consider numerous factors when deciding whether to approve a transfer to juvenile court. They must consider the juvenile’s age, education, family background, health, the possibility for rehabilitation, and other factors. Judges must also consider the safety of the public. In many cases, the severity of the crime is a major factor. A crime such as rape is more likely to be kept in adult court whereas a crime of shoplifting will likely be heard in juvenile court.

At Drew Cochran, Attorney at Law, we fight for juveniles. Even when the crimes are serious, teenagers can turn their lives around if given the proper chance. Teenagers are still children who don’t often understand the seriousness of society’s rules. To learn more how we can work to protect the rights of your children, please call me at 410.777.8103, or use my contact form to set up an appointment in my Annapolis office. If your child is being held in a detention center, I will travel to see him or her.

Just remember: Keep Calm – and Call Drew.