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Juvenile Justice Reform Imminent

annapolis-237078_960_720-300x195The 2024 Maryland legislative session is creeping toward a close, but the details of numerous impactful criminal law bills are still up for debate.  No criminal law bill has generated more attention than juvenile justice reform, which has been a hot topic for several years.  Last year the General Assembly approved measures to prevent juvenile interrogations without counsel and prohibit children under 13 from being charged with most non-violent offenses A storm of juvenile motor vehicle thefts in the Baltimore and Washington Metro areas led to public outcry, which in turn forced lawmakers to reconsider their stance on children and crime.  Now, both the Senate and the House have passed a bill to re-tighten juvenile justice provisions that were loosened less than one year ago.

The main focus of the bills is to address crimes committed by 10–12-year-old children that were previously exempt from prosecution.  Specifically, the crimes being discuss are motor vehicle theft and firearm possession.  Both houses agree that motor vehicle thefts committed by children aged 10-12 should be handled by the criminal justice system, but do not mistake this as a call for these children to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.  Rather, the lawmakers are suggesting that these juveniles face a soft introduction to the criminal justice system through mandatory diversion programs and Children in Need of Supervision petitions or CINS.  The House bill would also require local school boards to provide alternatives to public school education for children who are required to enter on the juvenile sex offender registry after being found involved or delinquent of felony sex crimes.  This provision appears to be in direct response to public outcry over a 15-year-old who was found involved in a second-degree rape case and returned to public school shortly thereafter.  To sum it up, there will be juvenile justice reform in 2024 that aims to roll back some of the recent changes.  We will post a follow up article after the General Assembly agrees on a conglomerate proposal to send the Governor.

Juvenile justice has dominated the headlines, but there are other criminal law bills that may become law within the next year.  Proposals to allow shielding or expungement of first offense Maryland DUI and DWI cases has gained some traction.  Shielding or expunging would require a probation before judgment (PBJ) disposition and have a wait time of 3-5 years after probation was completed.  Under Maryland law DUI is the unique offense that is not expungable even with a PBJ.  Some lawmakers are also pushing to strengthen Maryland animal cruelty and child pornography laws but allowing for increased punishments in certain circumstances.  Animal abuse and child pornography have always been hot button topics for lawmakers, and in many cases, it can be argued that defendants charged with these crimes are treated disproportionally harshly.

We will continue to follow all criminal law proposals from the 2024 legislative session and will post a follow up article after the dust settles on these bills.  If you have been charged with a crime contact Maryland defense attorney Benjamin Herbst anytime at 410-207-2598.  Benjamin specializes in juvenile crimes such as firearm possession by a minor and motor vehicle theft.  He is also an experienced Maryland sex crimes lawyer who has successfully defended adults and juveniles charged with third degree sex offense, rape, fourth degree sex offense, sexual abuse of a minor and child pornography.  Benjamin is also a skilled Baltimore DUI lawyer who has extensive experience in state and federal court.  Contact Benjamin anytime or a free consultation at 410-207-2598.


Juvenile justice reform bills approved, work to resolve differences begins,

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