Understanding Juvenile Law

understanding juvenile law

What is Juvenile Law?

In Maryland, the Juvenile Court system handles cases involving youths who are under the age of 18. In some instances, jurisdiction can stay with the Juvenile Court even after a child turns 18. In Maryland, Juvenile Court addresses different types of cases. Cases fall primarily within the following three categories: Delinquency, Children in Need of Assistance (CINA), and Children in Need of Supervision (CINS).

What is Delinquency?

This is the area that the general public is most aware of. This category deals with children who are charged with having committed an act that would be a crime if committed by an adult. These include crimes such as destruction of property, possession of marijuana, trespassing, and theft. Anyone of these crimes if committed by a youth would be handled in the Juvenile Court system. While most crimes committed by a youth are handled in Juvenile Court, there are some instances when a juvenile will have their case heard in the adult court system. These include serious crimes such as murder, kidnapping, armed robbery, and certain sexual offenses.

What are the Delinquency proceedings?

Delinquency proceedings in the Juvenile Court system are very similar to proceedings in adult criminal court. Just like an adult, children have the right to be represented by an attorney. When deciding on an attorney to represent your child, it is important to hire an attorney who has experience working with the Juvenile Court system. In the adult court you would have a trial, but in Juvenile Court you have an adjudicatory hearing. At the hearing, the court hears the evidence in the case. Both sides can produce witnesses, and they present their case. The hearing is held in front of a judge, and there is no jury. The judge will make the final decision. If the child is found to have committed the offense the next step is disposition; which is called sentencing in the adult court. The purpose of this hearing is to decide what actions should be taken to help ensure that a juvenile offender does not become a repeat offender.

Because the law is especially concerned with ensuring that underage offenders do not repeatedly commit crimes, juveniles charged with a criminal offense are often offered a proposed punishment different from those an adult would receive. Many prosecution offices have divisions specifically designed to help troubled youth. However, especially violent offenses could lead to a minor being sent to a juvenile facility for a period of incarceration.

What are CINA and CINS?

These are the final two sections that make up the area of Juvenile Law. CINA stands for Child In Need of Assistance; while CINS stands for Child In Need of Supervision. A minor is deemed to be a Child In Need of Assistance if the court suspects abuse or neglect in the home. At which time the Department of Social Services becomes involved, and they work with the parents. In a CINA case, each parent is entitled to their own attorney, and the child has their own attorney. A child is deemed a CINS if he or she has committed a crime applicable only to children; such as truancy, violation of curfew laws, running away, or habitual disobedience.