The Transfer Process | Maryland's Juvenile Transfer Laws
Many people are surprised to learn that children as young as 14 are automatically charged as adults in Maryland for certain offenses. Beginning at age 16, the number and type of offenses broadens to include many felonies and and also misdemeanors involving possession or use of firearms. When arrested, these children are not taken before a juvenile court judge; they are brought directly to Central Booking.
What Does a Court Consider in Deciding if a Case Should be
Transferred to Juvenile Court from Adult Criminal Court?
The defendant child has the burden of showing the court by a preponderance of evidence that it is in the best interest of the child or society for the case to be heard in the juvenile court system. The court is required to consider five statutory factors: the child’s age, the mental and physical condition of the child, the child’s amenability to treatment in programs or services available to delinquent youth, the nature of the offense, and any threat to public safety.
A transfer hearing is held before the child’s trial. The child’s age on the date of the offense—not when the child is arrested or when he or she comes to court—is what gives the adult court jurisdiction.
Preponderance of evidence is the same standard used in civil cases. Because the child’s attorney must show why the child belongs in juvenile court, the attorney must gather evidence about the child’s family and school history, about any mental health or medical treatment which the child has had or needs, and show how the child would benefit from the sort of services which the juvenile court system can offer.
A child must also be eligible for transfer in order to ask for this type of hearing. Some children, because of the type of case or because of prior court cases, cannot under Maryland law even ask for a transfer. For example, a 16 or 17-year-old child charged with first-degree murder cannot have his case heard in juvenile court. Some clients who are not eligible to ask for a transfer or whose transfer hearings are denied may be able to ask again after trial, depending on what happens in the trial. This is often called a “second chance” transfer.
The Transfer Process | Understanding the Transfer Process
How A Child’s Case Reaches Circuit Court