Youth offender with head in hands, Maryland

Reversing Waivers for Juvenile Offenders in Maryland

Experienced Annapolis criminal defense attorney helping the accused

When a child is charged with a crime, that child may be charged as a juvenile or as an adult. The decision often rests on two factors: the age of the accused child, and the severity of the alleged crime. While horror stories abound of children being tried, convicted, and sentenced as adults, it is possible to have a child offender moved from adult court to juvenile court.

At Drew Cochran, Attorney at Law, we know that you’re worried about your kids. That is why our juvenile defense lawyers in Annapolis and Ellicott City work so hard to have youthful offenders stay in the juvenile system, and to move them back into that system whenever possible. If your child is facing criminal charges in the adult system in Maryland, don’t wait – call us right now to see if we can help.

What is a discretionary waiver?

In Maryland, the juvenile court has the option to “waive” its right to jurisdiction in certain cases. What that means is that depending on the circumstances, the court can decide to let the adult criminal justice system try your child’s case.

Understand that whether the court waives the case has a LOT to do with jurisdiction – as in, which court has jurisdiction over the case. And that is a MUCH more complicated decision than you might think.

Which court has jurisdiction over juvenile cases in Maryland?

Under the law, a Maryland juvenile court may have its own jurisdiction over a child offender, or it may have to share jurisdiction with another court – and that’s determined by how old the offender is, what the crime was, and where it was committed.

Basically, if the offender was under the age of 18 when the crime was allegedly committed, the juvenile court should have jurisdiction up through the offender’s 21st birthday, unless:

  1. The offender has been convicted of a previous felony crime as an adult.
  2. The offender is 14+ of age and commits a crime that could result in a life sentence as an adult.
  3. The offender is 16+ and commits:
    1. A traffic or boating violation that results in incarceration.
    2. Any of the following felony crimes:

In any of these cases, the court first has to have a waiver hearing (which is held before the adjudicatory hearing) to determine whether or not it SHOULD waive jurisdiction. The court also must give notice to the victim of the crime that the hearing is being held in case the victim wants to submit a victim impact statement, which the court can then consider in its decision.

So, that’s how jurisdiction works.

When can a criminal court reverse a waiver to send a case back to juvenile court?

An adult criminal court can send a case back to juvenile court if the adult court thinks it’s in the best interest of the child to do so. There are times, though, when such a reverse waiver is not allowed. Per Reverse Waiver Code of 1957, Art. 27, Sec. 594A:

[The] court may not transfer a case of any child who (1) has previously been convicted of an excluded offense; (2) has previously been waived/transferred to juvenile court and adjudicated delinquent; or (3) is accused of first degree murder and was at least 16 at the time of commission. The law specifies various factors that must be considered in making a reverse waiver determination.

So basically, if your child is a first-time offender, and hasn’t been charged with first-degree murder, there’s a very good chance one of our Annapolis juvenile defense lawyers can argue to have your child’s case moved back to juvenile court.

Is it better for a case to be heard in juvenile court in Maryland?

In our opinion, yes – it is ALWAYS better to have a case heard in juvenile court, for a lot of reasons. First, juvenile cases are closed to the public. If an adult goes to trial over an assault case, literally anyone can just go into a courtroom and watch it. (Or, given changes to the justice system recently, log online and watch it.) The results are public, too, so the name of the accused will be searchable. That doesn’t happen in juvenile court.

Second, there are exceptions for children in need of assistance, or CINAs. Basically, that means the court takes home life and mental health into account. If your nephew, say, lashed out at an abusive parent and came to live with you to escape, the court will consider that information relevant to his case.

Third, the case may remain sealed, even if the child is convicted of a crime. You can’t search them online, and some cases may be expunged entirely. There isn’t even a fee associated with juvenile record expungement, which is a nice bonus.

Finally, and this is really important, juvenile courts can offer different options to the offenders. For example, say your child gets busted for drugs. Instead of going to prison, the court can sentence your child to rehab or a treatment program. Adult courts can do this, too, but given that juvenile records can be sealed or expunged, it’s much, much better to get this option from a juvenile court instead.

How can an Annapolis defense lawyer help get a case transferred back to juvenile court?

Any time we represent juveniles, the very first thing we do is make sure the case stays in juvenile court. If the juvenile court waives jurisdiction, we immediately petition to have the case transferred back to juvenile court. Understand that this can take some time, because the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services is going to have to get involved and do their own study. Once DJS is involved, though, they only have 30 days to submit their report.

Then, we represent your child at the formal reverse waiver hearing. The court will look at five different factors:

  1. Age of the child;
  2. Mental and physical condition of the child;
  3. The child’s amenability to treatment in any institution, facility, or program available to delinquents;
  4. The nature of the offense and the child’s alleged participation in it; and
  5. The public safety.

Your kid has a right to attorney representation for this hearing, and we’ll argue that he or she should remain in the juvenile system. If things go our way and your child is transferred back to juvenile court, then we can begin to work on getting him or her out of detention and back home.

Speak with an Annapolis juvenile defense lawyer about a reverse waiver

At Drew Cochran, Attorney at Law, we know what’s at stake if your child’s case gets waived out of juvenile court. We don’t think one mistake should ruin your child’s life forever. If you need representation for a transfer hearing, let our criminal defense lawyers in Annapolis and Ellicott City help.  Please call the office at 410-271-1892 or complete our contact form to schedule a consultation.

And remember: Keep Calm – and Call Drew.