What you don't know can actually hurt you -- quite a bit.
Especially when it comes to how the legal system works. Many teenagers are under the impression that they can't be tried in adult court -- or suffer adult penalties if they're convicted -- simply because they're too young to vote, buy cigarettes, drive a car and all those other adult activities.
It's not true. Children end up in adult courts all the time. The only children in Maryland that cannot be waived up to adult court after committing a crime are those aged 7 and under. The "tough on crime" attitude has planted some deep roots in society lately, and judges are increasingly sensitive to the demands of the public to punish young offenders harshly -- particularly in the aftermath of all the school shootings that have gone on.
If you're a parent of a teenager, it's important to stress that any teen over the age of 16 can end up in an adult courtroom, facing adult penalties, for a variety of crimes. They include:
- Murder in the second degree
- Voluntary manslaughter
- Sexual offenses other than rape
- Using a firearm in a robbery or drug crime
In fact, any child aged 15 or older faces the possibility of adult court for any crime, at the discretion of the judge and prosecutor.
In addition, 14-year-old children and those older will most likely face an adult trial and consequences for a number of grave offenses, including:
- Murder in the first degree or attempted murder
- Rape or attempted rape
- Sexual offenses in the first degree other than rape
On top of the original charges, it's important to understand that when a charge is eligible to move a case to adult court, all additional charges from the same incident will move with it. That can drastically increase the penalties that a young offender may face if convicted.
To protect teens, it's also important to educate them about the rights that they have when dealing with the police. Stress that it's important to never believe what a police officer tells them about evidence or plea deals -- and to remain silent if questioned until they've spoken to their attorney. All people, even juveniles, need good representation in criminal court.
Source: justkidsmaryland.org, "Maryland Law on Charging Youth as Adults," accessed May 24, 2018