By Gary Collins | Fox 45 Baltimore • July 11, 2023 | Original Source
TOWSON, Md. (WBFF) — Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger slammed recent changes to juvenile justice laws enacted by the Maryland General Assembly in response to questions from Fox45 News.
In response to a series of questions sent to all Maryland state's attorneys, Shellenberger shared his frustration with lawmakers and how they are viewing juvenile justice.
I do believe that the Maryland General Assembly has taken action over the last few years which will make it more difficult for prosecutors to hold juveniles accountable for their actions,” Shellenberger told Fox45 News.
Shellenberger’s grievances come in the wake of Maryland’s worst mass shooting in recorded history.
In the overnight hours of July 2, chaos erupted during an annual block party in Baltimore’s Brooklyn Homes community. The massacre left two young people dead and 28 other people injured.
A social media video emerged soon after the shooting that showcased teenage attendees pulling what appeared to be assault-style weapons from backpacks just before shots were heard. One of the 17-year-old boys allegedly seen in the circulated video was arrested and charged Friday.
On Monday, a Baltimore City judge ordered the teen to be held without bail. The defendant has not been charged with homicide or firing a gun at the scene.
In light of the single arrest, many are questioning if prosecutors and law enforcement have been handcuffed by progressive juvenile justice laws passed by the Maryland General Assembly.
State’s Attorney Shellenberger, a Democrat, takes issue with certain portions of the Juvenile Justice Reform Act, but strongly rejects all of the Child Interrogation Protection Act.
I was adamantly opposed to the Child Interrogation Protection Act,” Shellenberger said. “The law will [does] greatly increase the number of offenses committed by juveniles because the lack of ability of the police to address a crime when they are investigating.”
The Child Interrogation Protection Act prohibits police or the courts from questioning juveniles about crimes they are accused of committing or may have key knowledge about. The law does not permit waiving this prohibition.
The act also seeks to release the child back to their parents or guardian as quickly as possible. Only in extreme cases, the new law authorizes the child's release to a detention or shelter care facility guided by the courts.
In all instances, police never have the ability to question juvenile suspects or witnesses.
Even if the child wants to talk to the police and even if their parents want the child to talk to the police, they cannot do so under the law,” Baltimore County State’s Attorney Shellenberger said to Fox45 News.
Shellenberger also believes the Child Interrogation Protection Act raises challenging logistical questions, including some his office has previously faced.
Who do you get permission from in a case like Nick Browning?” State’s Attorney Shellenberger asked of the Child Interrogation Protection Act. “He killed his parent.”
With growing demands for Maryland legislators to return to Annapolis for a special session to address rising crime concerns, Shellenberger deferred the decision to Governor Wes Moore and the Maryland General Assembly.
Sadly, I am not sure the General Assembly will be able to see the effect of their actions until a little more time has passed,” Shellenberger told Fox45 News.
Both Governor Wes Moore and Senate President Bill Ferguson have reportedly stated they do not support a special session to address crime, illegal gun possession or juvenile justice matters.
According to the Maryland Department of Legislative Services, the last special session was convened in December 2021 to address congressional and legislative redistricting maps. In 2012, the Maryland General Assembly held two separate special sessions to increase taxes and approve a sweeping gambling deal.