Good student faces hard time in juvenile court

“She goes from job to job to school,” said one of her classmates, as Timothy Stenovec reports for the Huffington Post. “She stays up until 7:00 in the morning doing her homework.” The high school girl, Diane Tran, studies college-level mathematics and advanced-level Spanish (and presumably has pretty good grades), yet she apparently spent a night behind bars for missing too many classes.

It’s almost funny if it wasn’t so sad, when most kids get in trouble for something like underage drinking, while Tran gets in trouble (and actually spends a night in jail) for missing too much school.

According to Stenovec’s report, Tran helps support her two siblings by holding down a full-time job, a part-time job, all while living with her employers because her parents are divorced and live far away.

“This remarkable young woman doesn’t deserve jail,” said one supporter, as Stenovec reports. “She deserves a medal.”

But the state in which Tran lives, similar to other states, sends minors to juvenile court when there are enough unexcused absences from school. Regarding his decision, the judge said, “If you let one of them run loose, what are you going to do with the rest of them?”

But there are worse things than a night in jail. Tran will have a criminal record if the judge continues to throw the book at her, which concerns her more than anything else.

If you or a loved one is facing juvenile charges, contact a Baltimore criminal defense lawyer before you talk to police or anyone else.


Source: Diane Tran, Honor Student At Texas High School, Jailed For Missing School

Safety complaints result in DOJ visit to Baltimore city jail

The United States Department of Justice sent monitors to visit the Baltimore City Detention Center last Wednesday. The visit underscores the unique needs of juvenile criminal defendants.

Defense attorneys, youth advocates, and even legislators have raised consistent complaints about conditions for juvenile inmates at the jail. Baltimore houses some minors at this facility when it needs to hold juveniles on adult charges. Unsurprisingly, detention of juvenile defendants in an adult population has raised safety concerns.

For example, defense attorneys successfully sought an order from a city judge to move some juveniles to another facility, the Juvenile Justice Center. The attorneys claimed that adult detainees attacked juveniles, that the facility lacked appropriate supervision, and that juveniles did not receive medical care. The jail currently houses 32 juveniles in dormitory-style rooms.

State officials claim that the safety concerns are baseless and the Department of Justice monitors have not yet disclosed their findings after the tour. However, the Baltimore City Detention Center has a history of apparent compliance issues. The Department of Justice also visited the facility in November 2010 and raised concerns about whether the jail had met requirements established in 2007.

The stakes are very high for juveniles facing criminal accusations. A criminal record can derail a young person’s career prospects from an early age and incarceration can raise serious safety concerns.

Source: Baltimore Sun, “U.S. Justice Department tours Baltimore jail on Wednesday,” Justin Fenton, Aug. 15, 2012

Justice Department seeks to fix problems in juvenile justice

Call it an early Christmas present of sorts, especially for teens in Shelby County, Tenn., but a good hard look at how young people have been treated in the juvenile justice system has resulted in an historic agreement between the Justice Department and Shelby County – and this may be just the first of its kind.

The agreement, as Kim Severson reports for the New York Times, seeks to fix a number of very serious problems involving injustice, including:

  • Strapping kids to restraint chairs for long periods of time and leaving them alone
  • Not giving those kids proper hearings while they sat in jail cells
  • No Miranda warnings (“You have the right to an attorney…”)
  • Court documents not being provided to the defendants until just prior to hearings (if at all)

Severson writes that the jailed teens of Shelby County attempted suicide at “record rates,” and given the problems listed above, it’s no wonder why. There are probably other serious issues with Shelby County that have gone unreported, like physical or emotional abuse, though that’s pure speculation.

Crime researchers have noticed that overall rates of juvenile crime have dropped across the nation, due in part to changes in public policy like the decriminalization of marijuana. And because states can no longer afford to incarcerate juveniles at recent rates, other initiatives similar to the Justice Department’s agreement with Shelby County have been gaining ground.

Source: Deal Designed to Overhaul Juvenile Justice in Tennessee

“Drinking culture” suspected at naval academy

An enormous amount of media attention is currently fixed on the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, the result of shocking allegations of rape among several of the academy’s midshipmen. According to the allegations, three male midshipmen sexually assaulted a female midshipman during an alcohol-fueled party at an off-campus rental house. Though the courts are currently working to sort out the events of the evening, some commentators are wondering how the situation could have arisen in the first place.

In the midst of these allegations, many parents are concerned with what critics are calling a “drinking culture” at the prestigious academy. In particular, some wonder if the policies of the college itself contribute to underage drinking, binge drinking and out-of-control parties.

The U.S. Naval Academy has very strict rules against underage drinking, prohibiting all freshmen from drinking. Alcohol is also forbidden in the dormitories, and it is tightly controlled everywhere on campus. All midshipmen can be subjected to random breathalyzer tests.

Despite these tight controls, binge drinking still occurs off campus, during the midshipmen’s rare moments of freedom. In particular, groups of students frequently rent off campus housing for a night and throw lavish parties. According to one professor at the academy, this is partly a reaction against the strict controls that the school has in place. “There is a ‘get back at the man’ mentality,” he says.

Indeed, reports suggest that midshipmen, aware that other college students have far more freedom to drink and throw parties, attempt to “make up for lost time” on their free weekends and during the summer. This can lead to dangerous behavior, such as underage drinking and alcohol-related violence, both of which are crimes that can put a serious dent in a student’s future prospects. Apart from the disciplinary action automatically applied by the school, a misdemeanor for underage possession of alcohol can result in heavy fines and a permanent black mark on one’s criminal record.

The U.S. Naval Academy has condemned heavy drinking among its midshipmen, stating that it does not reflect the values it expects to see in future naval officers. Still, it remains to be seen whether any institutional changes will take place as a result of the current sexual assault trial.

Source:  The Daily Herald, “Rape hearing casts light on Naval Academy’s culture” No Author Given, Sep. 08, 2013

5 Maryland liquor stores cited for selling to minors

Underage drinking is not an uncommon practice in America today. In fact, many minors drink some alcohol at one time or another, whether it is a one-time experiment or a pattern of behavior. The question naturally arises, then: If underage drinking is illegal, how do so many minors acquire alcohol?

Many get it through various illegal means, such as the assistance of a person who is over 21, or stealing it from others. A common concern, however, is that some liquor stores may not be asking for identification when a minor steps up to make a purchase.

Police in Howard County decided to begin a sting operation to crack down on suspected failure to card in the region. A 19-year-old police cadet was sent into several Howard County liquor stores where he attempted to purchase alcohol. In five instances, he was not carded and was able to purchase the alcohol successfully.

Those five liquor stores were cited for failure to card and will be facing a hearing before the Alcoholic Beverage Hearing Board. The establishments could face a fine of up to $2,000 and a possible temporary license suspension.

According to the local police chief, underage drinking contributes to drunk driving, poor judgment and risky behaviors. As a result, officers treat the crime very seriously.

Though many view a minor in possession charge as a relatively light offense, the truth is it can still result in a black mark on one’s criminal record. In many cases, the charges may have even been applied accidentally, as part of a misunderstanding during a large bust. In these cases, those who have been accused should consider refuting the charges against them with the help of a qualified criminal defense attorney.

Source:  The Baltimore Sun, “Police cite five Howard Co. liquor stores for selling to underage customers” Luke Lavoie, Nov. 22, 2013

Maryland county works to implement underage drinking prevention

Maryland leaders in Frederick County are working toward reducing underage drinking by implementing a variety of community measures. Representatives from the police department, health department and other groups have formed the Frederick County Alcohol Prevention Initiative Coalition, designed to target those establishments that allow underage drinking to occur. Officials say that prevention is the key to reducing underage drinking rates.

Not only can underage drinking lead to teens being involved in the juvenile law system, it can also cause injuries, underage drinking and driving accidents and even fatalities. Young drivers may be more dangerous when intoxicated, said one police representative, largely because the children do not know how to “handle” alcohol in their bodies. Teens who engage in underage drinking may end up facing long-term consequences, along with social and family concerns.

The answer, according to the panel, is increased awareness about the dangers of alcohol consumption. They plan to improve awareness through educational presentations. Further, the coalition plans to implement measures that monitor locations where underage drinkers are most likely to obtain alcohol. Underage drinking can occur at restaurants and bars, and liquor stores can also contribute to the deadly phenomenon. By cutting the alcohol off at the source, officers say they may be able to reduce underage drinking and its related long-term consequences for youngsters.

Establishments that encourage underage drinking should be held responsible for this inappropriate action. Underage drinking is everyone’s issue; from parents to high-school students to restaurant owners. Teens who find themselves facing allegations of minor consumption of alcohol may benefit from a consultation with a qualified attorney, who can help them learn more about their legal rights and options.

Source:, “Officials Form Group to Reduce Underage Drinking” Bejoy Joseph, Jan. 23, 2014

Changes could lead to underage drinking during spring break

Proposed legislation in one of America’s most popular spring break locations has sparked concern throughout several communities. Scores of Maryland students travel to Florida for spring break, and they could have easier access to alcohol if the new legislation is passed. The measure would make it legal to purchase hard alcohol at a grocery store, a move that some opponents say would encourage underage drinking throughout the year.

The new legislation would allow big-box stores and grocery stores to include a liquor aisle next to other, traditional items. Currently, big-box stores are permitted to sell liquor, but customers are required to use a separate entrance. Law enforcement professionals say that this move could be problematic, especially with a popular vacation time approaching. Florida’s spring break culture could cause college students and high school students to face serious penalties if they are found in possession of alcohol.

Even though detractors say that the bill should not be approved because of Florida’s unique social environment, the bill’s sponsors argue that it is time for change. Legislators say that underage drinkers are less likely to choose hard alcohol, anyway, with beer instead serving as the beverage of choice. Big-box stores are also on board with the change, though industry representatives worry that inexperienced cashiers may not be prepared to identify fake identification.

Maryland residents who find themselves in trouble with the juvenile law system in another state for underage drinking may benefit from the assistance of a criminal defense attorney. These professionals may be able to help defendants and their parents learn more about legal rights and options. Those accused of underage drinking deserve to have their rights protected, even during spring break.

Source:  News Channel 7, “Booze at the Grocery Store” No author given, Feb. 26, 2014

Maryland part of major traffic operation across 7 states

When a person is charged with a misdemeanor crime, it may result in fines or short jail terms. It’s important to know that as someone charged with a crime like underage drinking, you do have options to protect yourself. You and others in your position can benefit from a strong defense, and the people in this recent report may wish to have one ready.

A report from June 19 states that seven state police and highway patrol agencies worked together for three days during Operation Border to Border. It took place between June 13 and June 15, and it enforced traffic laws through around 791 miles of U.S. Route 15 and 124 miles of U.S. Route 17. The operation was set into place in order to help prevent traffic crashes from taking place along the corridor, which typically sees heavy traffic flow.

This operation was coordinated between seven states including Maryland, Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, New York, Virginia and South Carolina. The report claims that there were no fatalities during the three-day operation, and the traffic safety enforcement initiative resulted in 2,399 summonses and arrests around those seven states. There were also checkpoints put into place along the roads for sobriety checks and commercial vehicle inspections, along with other initiatives. Those allegedly helped combat criminal behavior.

It’s interesting to know that along the stretch of the roads, the troopers were able to stop 1,122 speeding vehicles and 35 reckless drivers. There were also 28 felony and misdemeanor arrests, four of which were drug related. During the initiative, not all stops were for arrests or checkpoints. Police also worked to help stranded motorists along the roadways.

2014 is the third year for this multi-state enforcement effort. This was the first year that U.S. Route 17 in Georgia was included.

Source:  NBC 29, “Operation Border to Border Yields 2K Traffic Violations” No author given, Jun. 19, 2014

Don’t let underage drinking affect your life forever in Maryland

Drinking underage in Maryland can cause many problems for teens or young adults. Even having a small amount of alcohol in the blood stream can be enough for a minor to be arrested and charged, leading to penalties like fines or jail time. For that reason, if you’re under age and accused of drinking, you need to defend yourself.

It’s not legal for anyone under 21 to drink alcohol. If you, as a teen or person under 21, are caught with a blood alcohol content of .02 percent or higher, you can be charged with underage drinking. If you were driving at the time when you registered the 0.02 BAC, you can be found guilty of driving under the influence even though the adult legal limit is 0.08.

As a minor, you have no reason to provide police with any incriminating evidence or information. You don’t need to be intimidated by police; if an officer asks if you’ve been drinking, you don’t actually have to answer. Underage drinking is a misdemeanor. That means that a charge and conviction will go on your criminal record. A simple mistake as a young adult, in this case, could have lifelong consequences without the right defensive strategy.

If you’ve been arrested or have struggled with an underage drinking charge, don’t try to fight it alone. Our webpage on underage drinking provides more information about your options if you’ve been stopped for or charged with underage drinking. You may be able to reduce or eliminate your charge completely, helping you keep this mistake off your criminal record. You may be able to put your past behind you and move forward without any restrictions in your record.

Underage drinking: A misdemeanor on a criminal record

Underage drinking is a big deal in today’s world. Drinking under the age of 21 is an offense in Maryland, although those underage may have a blood alcohol content under .02 without consequences from a DUI. It’s illegal for anyone under 21 to drink alcohol or to possess it; that means that they may only have a bottle in their vehicle, but it’s still illegal.

For those under 21, the limit for their BAC is .02. If the BAC is found to be over .02, then the minor can be charged with underage drinking. If your child happens to be driving with a BAC of 0.02 or higher, police may charge your child with driving under the influence.

In Maryland, underage drinking and minor in possession charges are both misdemeanors. That means that if your child has either of those charges against them and is found guilty, he or she will have that offense on his or her criminal record. Interestingly, minors often incriminate themselves. The police may ask if they’ve been drinking, but they have no legal obligation to tell an officer they have been. In fact, telling an officer that you’ve had a drink when you’re a minor can lead to criminal charges; even a small amount of alcohol can easily contribute to a BAC of 0.02.

The effects of this kind of charge on your child’s criminal record could be immense. It could be harder to find jobs that require driving or schools may look at the record when determining placement in university programs. If you’re interested in learning how to prevent criminal charges, please visit our underage drinking webpage.

Source: James E. Crawford, “Underage Drinking” Sep. 04, 2014