Berger, Nazarian, Zarnoch, Robert A., (Retired, Specially
5-607 of the Family Law Article ("FL") of the
Maryland Code allows a court to order an out-of-state
placement for a child who has been adjudicated delinquent
so long as the child is given a hearing with notice
to his parent or guardian and, after that hearing,
the juvenile court makes specific findings. W.Y.
("W") was a juvenile (he's now over 18) who
pled involved to his most recent set of charges and was
adjudicated delinquent. Using a form order edited by hand,
the Circuit Court for Prince George's County ordered W
placed in a facility in Pennsylvania; he contends on appeal
that the process and findings underlying the placement
decision failed to comply with FL § 5-607. In the time
since the court entered its order, W completed the
out-of-state program, and we agree with both parties that the
case is moot. Nevertheless, there are no reported Maryland
appellate opinions to guide the juvenile courts in their
application of this statute, and because the issues are
important and likely to evade review, we find this an
appropriate case to exercise our discretion to address the
merits of W's contentions.
W has a
long history with the juvenile justice system. He was first
adjudicated delinquent on March 13, 2012, also by the Circuit
Court for Prince George's County, after pleading involved
to a count of robbery. While wearing a black ski mask and
wielding what the victim believed to be a handgun (later
found to be a BB gun), W demanded the victim's book bag
and laptop. The victim recognized W from prior encounters,
and even called W by name during the robbery. When police
officers stopped him shortly after the incident, W admitted
to the robbery and consented to a search of his home, during
which the victim's property was recovered. The court,
sitting as a juvenile court, committed W to the Department of
Juvenile Services ("DJS") and recommended a Level B
placement, which in Prince George's County meant a
staff-secured, non-community residential
facility. DJS placed W at the Victor Cullen
Center in Sabillasville, Frederick County,
Maryland, where he remained from May 2, 2012 until he was
successfully discharged on October 17, 2012. Upon discharge,
the juvenile court rescinded the commitment order and placed
W on probation.
arrested again in the early hours of May 26, 2014. Police
found W sitting on the steps of a townhome in Landover,
Maryland, and approached him because he matched the
description of the suspect in a nearby robbery. As they
neared, W stood up, drew a .38 caliber handgun (containing
three live rounds) from the waistband of his pants, threw the
gun to the ground, and began to walk away. When questioned by
the officers, W said the weapon was his, but "[he]
wasn't going to do anything with it" and further
stated that he had no knowledge of or involvement in the
robbery. He was indicted as an adult, but his case was waived
to the juvenile court. W again admitted to his actions, and
again pled involved, this time to possession of a regulated
firearm by a person under age 21. The court also found W in
violation of his probation.
court held a hearing on October 20, 2014 to review W's
detention status; W was present with his attorney. The judge
told W's attorney to "let [W] know he may not be
going home." W then interjected: "And I'm
getting a lot better, out of the prison." The court
turned its attention to the attorneys to schedule a hearing
for the following month, then adjourned.
adjudicatory hearing on November 18, 2014, the court accepted
W's plea of involved, and asked him to explain his
THE COURT: Okay. Young man, why did you do this?
[W]: It was an honest mistake, Your Honor. I really
shouldn't have done this.
THE COURT: Okay. So, why did you do this?
[W]: There is no explanation for why I did it.
THE COURT: Okay. So, why did you do it?
[W]: I just-I made an honest mistake. I tell you the reason
why I did it would be an excuse . . . and there is no
excuse for that.
THE COURT: So, why did you do it?
[W]: I was being a bonehead.
THE COURT: Pardon me?
[W]: I was being a knucklehead, thinking that I could get
away with things I can't get away with.
THE COURT: Well, so why did you do it? You already had a
robbery with a deadly weapon charge . . . . Now you [have]
possession of a gun. Another one.
[THE STATE]: There was not a gun in the prior-
[W]: I understand, Sir. I understand what I done. I apologize
THE COURT: No, I am just asking why did you do it. Because
you are going to - you went to a placement, didn't you?
[W]: Yes, Sir.
THE COURT: How can I release you back into the community?
* * *
THE COURT: No, let me stop you. I just asked- because if you
don't change your lifestyle in what you are doing, you
will end up dead out here. . . . Or you going to end up
killing somebody. . . . [L]ast time I asked you the same
thing, why you walking around with a ski mask in the middle
of the summer . . . with a deadly weapon. I am just
saying-you got to change. Would I give you a break and put
you back in the community-
[W]: If I could say one thing on my behalf is that this
charge and that I went to [detention] and understand that I
could have faced even wors[e] charges and time for it.
I['m] really mature, and my age and I know that it's
time to stop playing games and do something with my life or
I'm going to throw it away. And I really don't - -
I'm not ready for my life - - I got dreams and goals and
things that I need to do. And with the support from my family
that - - I can't keep doing this.
judge then scheduled a December hearing with counsel and
ordered W's detention in the interim.
disposition hearing-the purpose of which was to determine
W's level of placement, i.e., whether he should
remain in a level B facility or move to level A-took place on
December 11, 2014. After an inaudible bench conversation, the
State and W's attorney agreed that W should maintain his
level B placement, while DJS requested a level A commitment.
The judge questioned W about the incident, again emphasizing
the similarities between his two arrests:
THE COURT: I am asking him a question because when is he
going to learn his lesson.
[W]: I mean I can't make you believe me but- I honestly
feel like that the lesson I learned when I was up in
[detention] facing that-
THE COURT: Wait, whoa, whoa, wait, how long were you gone the
* * *
[W]: Eight months.
THE COURT: And you didn't learn you lesson then?
[W]: I did. I just-I am telling you-I made a mistake, I-
THE COURT: No, no, no. It is not a mistake when you . . .
put a gun in your hand. That's not a mistake.
[W]: It wasn't a mistake, it was more of a defense. But I
should have went about it differently than what I did. And I
can't really take it back now, I mean.
THE COURT: So, what am I supposed to do with - - the
mistakes that you keep making?
[W]: I accept any consequences, Sir. (Inaudible) on
behalf of the mistakes that I know that (Inaudible).
THE COURT: You have any-the problem is you are putting
yourself in harm's way.
THE COURT: I am not asking for a response. I am just-this
[W]: I am ashamed of myself, too, Sir.
THE COURT: Madam Clerk, the Court will in fact commit [W] to
Level A. I agree, you got to stop this, young man. You are
going to wind up getting yourself killed out here.
* * *
And since he has already been at Victor [Cullen Center] he is
not going back to Victor [Cullen Center].
* * *
[THE STATE]: Your Honor, can we have a review [hearing] for
placement, it is just today- I am sorry, I just realized
THE COURT: No problem. You got [January 13, 2015].
the hearing, the court issued a written Disposition Order,
dated December 11, 2015, which ordered that W "be and
hereby is placed in Level A . . . ."
The Order consisted of a template that stated the three
classification levels for placement facilities-level A, B,
and C-into which the judge inserted an additional limitation
(which we have italicized):
A - Secured Facility - [W] is not be placed at Victor
Cullen because he was placed there in 2012.
**Equivalent facilities for the juvenile are not available in
the State of Maryland; and institutional care in the other
jurisdiction is in the best interest of the juvenile ...