Every juvenile matter begins at a DJS intake office; and each county in Maryland has one such office that processes juvenile complaints. These complaints are referred to juvenile intake by police, citizens, and schools. Sometimes youth are brought directly to the intake office by the police. Other times youth who have a complaint filed against them are required to attend a meeting with a DJS intake officer and, if possible, his/her parent or caregiver.
When a DJS intake officer is reviewing a juvenile complaint, that intake officer is required to make three determinations:
1. Assess the merits of the juvenile complaint.
Intake officers must make a decision on the merits of a juvenile complaint within 25 days after referral. An intake officer must determine whether the juvenile court has jurisdiction and whether the facts stated in the complaint are sufficient to commence a juvenile action. If not, the complaint must be disapproved as legally insufficient.
2. Determine whether judicial action is in the best interest of the public or the child.
As part of the intake process, a DJS intake officer conducts an interview with the youth, parent or caregiver and, where applicable, the victim(s). After the interview with the youth and his/her caregivers, the DJS intake officer enters information about the youth, his/her delinquency history and social history, and the seriousness of the current offense into the Maryland Comprehensive Assessment and Service Planning (MCASP) risk screen. This instrument then generates a recommended intake decision.
After interviewing the youth and his/her caregivers and utilizing the MCASP, the intake officer may make one of the following decisions:
a. Resolve the matter at intake.
b. Propose an informal adjustment period. This informal supervision consists of an agreement between DJS, the youth and his/her parent or caregiver that the youth will abide by certain conditions during the informal adjustment period. In return, DJS agrees to not forward the youth’s case to the State’s Attorney as long as he/she remains compliant. If the youth fails to comply with the terms of the informal adjustment period, DJS reserves the right to forward the youth’s case to the local State’s Attorney’s Office.
c. Authorize the filing of a petition by the local State's Attorney's Office This decision is made when an intake officer determines that a court action is in the best interest of the public or the youth. Violent felony offenses are always forwarded to the local State’s Attorney’s Office for review.
3. Make an initial determination as to whether a youth may be safely released to his/her parent or caregiver.
The final step of the intake process is the determination as to whether the youth may go home to his/her parent or caregiver (and, if so, under what conditions) or whether safety requires the youth be placed in detention or shelter care. Some youth are released to their parent or caregiver without any restrictions or conditions. Other youth are released to a parent or caregiver but required to participate in a community detention program such as electronic monitoring.
For youth who pose risks to public safety or themselves or may not appear for future court dates, DJS intake workers are required to authorize secure detention. To make that determination, intake workers utilize the Detention Risk Assessment Instrument (DRAI). This instrument is designed to make an objective assessment of the youth’s safety and flight risks. A youth may also be placed into a shelter program based on the same reasons or because a parent or caregiver is unavailable to supervise him/her. Any DJS decision to detain a youth or place him/her in a shelter program is effective only until the next available court date when a court makes the final detention determination.