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Maryland legislature looking at juvenile justice reform in the upcoming session

Posted at 6:51 PM, Jan 12, 2023

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The aim of House Bill 459 is to limit the number of children entering the system, which data shows is likely to improve outcomes and reduce the likelihood children commit more violent offenses.

For Anne Arundel County police, they say the law is preventing them from charging people that usually would be.

Like when a 12-year-old boy brought a handgun and a loaded magazine to MacArthur Middle School.

RELATED: Police: 12-year-old student can't be charged for bringing gun to school under new law

Police tell us they weren't able to charge him.

We spoke with Senator Jill Carter who sponsored the bill in 2022.

"We have had a decline for most years, I don't know about this year for acts that were committed by young people that would be crimes if they were committed by adults. And what I talked about before is these guns should not be accessible to children, so the accountability really falls on those people that are failing to secure those guns, failing to protect the children, and failing to supervise the children," said Carter.

Anne Arundel County police named the law in their press release. Adding that since the law took effect in June of 2022, dozens of cases have ended up without charges being filed.

Senator Carter says, police do have ways to hold children accountable.

"I will say that you know I've been asked by many people about law enforcement, law enforcement is just being a little disingenuous. They have tools at their disposal to deal with accountability for children, they can file a provision with the Department of Juvenile Services for a child in need of supervision. And juvenile services can step in, do an evaluation and determine what is the best interest of the child and how do we protect the public safety too," said Carter.

Carter also pointed out that a number of these children are charged but then can't be prosecuted or convicted because children that young are generally not competent to stand trial.

Whether or not changes are made to this law, crime is going to be a major topic in Annapolis.

"Ignoring juvenile crime is creating adult criminals so absolutely there will be numerous pieces of legislation addressing juvenile crime," said Delegate Kathy Szeliga.

With a new session and so many new faces it will take some time for people to get acclimated. It could be some time until we see the juvenile crime debated in the state house.