The Kids Ain’t Alright: Juvenile Crimes in AnnapolisJuvenile crime is a significant concern in Annapolis, as it is in many other communities. For families facing the difficult situation of having a child involved in the criminal justice system, it’s important to understand the legal consequences and available defense strategies. Today I want to talk about the complexities of juvenile crimes in Annapolis, their potential consequences, and the defense strategies that can help mitigate those effects.

First, know that juvenile crimes encompass a wide range of offenses committed by individuals under the age of 18. These offenses can be as minor as curfew violations or as severe as violent crimes. Here in Maryland, the juvenile justice system operates with the primary goal of rehabilitation rather than punishment. However, this doesn’t mean that the consequences of juvenile crime are insignificant.

CBS News reports, “According to data from the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services, juvenile crime complaints have increased nearly 75% in recent years, from 7,100 complaints in 2021 to more than 12,363 in 2023.”

CBS also notes that Maryland recently passed the Juvenile Justice Reform Act, making “it possible for children ages 10 to 12 to be charged with illegal gun possession, auto theft, harming animals and sex offenses.”

“It’s not to throw them in jail or anything like that,” Baltimore City State’s Attorney Ivan Bates said. “It’s to get them the services that they really need and that they’re crying out for based on their actions.”

Common juvenile offenses

Folks of any age can commit virtually any type of crime, but kids are accused of some more than others. Generally, that includes:

  • Shoplifting and theft: Minor thefts, including shoplifting, are frequent among juveniles. These offenses can lead to misdemeanor charges.
  • Vandalism: Acts of vandalism, such as graffiti or property damage, are often committed by minors.
  • Underage drinking and drug use: The use and possession of alcohol and drugs are common among juveniles, leading to various legal issues.
  • Assault: Physical altercations between minors can result in assault charges.
  • Traffic violations: Juveniles driving without a license or violating traffic laws are also common offenses.
  • Cybercrimes: With the rise of digital technology, cybercrimes such as hacking and cyberbullying have become prevalent among minors.

The legal consequences for juvenile crimes in Annapolis can vary significantly based on the severity of the offense, the minor’s age, and their prior criminal record. The juvenile justice system here in Maryland does emphasize rehabilitation, but there are still serious repercussions that can affect a young person’s future.

Not all children are tried as children in the Maryland justice system

In most cases, juvenile offenders are tried in juvenile court. However, for particularly serious crimes or repeat offenders, the court may decide to try the juvenile as an adult. This decision can lead to more severe penalties and long-lasting consequences. Factors considered include the nature of the offense, the juvenile’s age, prior criminal history, and whether the crime involved violence.

Potential penalties your kid may face if convicted

The penalties for juvenile crimes can range from relatively mild to quite severe, depending on the circumstances of the case. Common consequences include:

  • Probation: Juveniles may be placed on probation, during which they must comply with certain conditions such as attending school regularly, obeying a curfew, and avoiding further legal trouble.
  • Community service: Offenders may be required to perform a certain number of community service hours.
  • Fines and restitution: Financial penalties, including fines and restitution to victims, are common.
  • Counseling and rehabilitation programs: Juveniles may be mandated to participate in counseling, substance abuse programs, or other rehabilitation efforts.
  • Juvenile detention: For more serious offenses, juveniles may be placed in a detention facility for a period.
  • Transfer to adult court: As mentioned, in severe cases, juveniles may be tried and sentenced as adults, leading to potentially harsher penalties. I work tirelessly to minimize these penalties.

What are the long-term consequences of a juvenile arrest?

Even after fulfilling their sentences, juveniles may face long-term consequences such as:

  • Educational barriers: A criminal record can affect college admissions and eligibility for scholarships.
  • Employment challenges: Many employers conduct background checks, and a juvenile record can hinder job prospects.
  • Loss of driving privileges: Certain offenses may result in the suspension or revocation of driving privileges.

How an Annapolis defense lawyer like me can help

Defending a juvenile against criminal charges requires a nuanced approach that considers the unique aspects of the juvenile justice system and the goal of rehabilitation. One of the most critical steps in defending a juvenile is early intervention. Engaging an experienced Annapolis juvenile defense attorney, like me, as soon as possible can make a significant difference in the outcome of the case. Early legal counsel can help in gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, and negotiating with prosecutors.

Some strategies I might employ on your child’s behalf include:

  • Advocating for diversion. Diversion programs are designed to redirect juvenile offenders away from the formal justice system and towards rehabilitative services. These programs can include counseling, educational workshops, and community service. Successfully completing a diversion program can often result in the charges being dismissed or reduced.
  • Challenging the evidence. As with any criminal case, challenging the evidence is a fundamental defense strategy. I can question the legality of the arrest, the accuracy of witness statements, and the integrity of any physical evidence. For example, if a juvenile was charged with drug possession, I might challenge the manner in which the drugs were discovered and seized.
  • Highlighting any mitigating circumstances. Highlighting mitigating circumstances can influence the court’s decision. Factors such as the juvenile’s age, mental health, home environment, and the lack of a prior criminal record can be crucial in arguing for reduced penalties. I can present evidence of the juvenile’s good character, academic achievements, and involvement in positive community activities.
  • Plea bargaining. In some cases, negotiating a plea bargain might be the best strategy for your case. A plea bargain involves the juvenile agreeing to plead guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for a more lenient sentence. This can help avoid the risks associated with a trial and potentially harsher penalties.
  • Sealing and expungement. One very important aspect of juvenile defense is the possibility of sealing or expunging the juvenile’s record. In Maryland, juveniles can petition to have their records sealed or expunged, meaning the records are not accessible to the public and do not appear in background checks. This process can be vital for minimizing the long-term impact of a juvenile offense. I can help you with this process.

If you or a loved one is facing juvenile crime charges in Annapolis, you don’t have to go through this challenging time alone. At Drew Cochran, Attorney at Law, we fight for the best possible outcome for your case. Early intervention and a robust defense strategy can make all the difference in protecting your child’s future. Reach out now for a consultation and let us help you understand your options and fight for your child’s rights and rehabilitation. Your family’s peace of mind and your child’s future are worth the effort. Complete our contact form or call our Annapolis or Ellicott City offices to set up your initial consultation today.

And remember — Keep Calm, and Call Drew.