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Children ages 10 to 12 can now be charged with crimes in Maryland after new bill signed

Maryland juveniles held accountable in new law
Maryland juveniles held accountable in new law 02:51

BALTIMORE -- The Juvenile Justice Reform Act is now a Maryland law after it was signed Thursday by Gov. Wes Moore.

The new law makes it possible for children ages 10 to 12 to be charged with illegal gun possession, auto theft, harming animals and sex offenses.

"Today, we will sign bills that will make Maryland safer," Governor Wes Moore said. "This issue mattered too much to think that we could hope, or urge, or pray, or insist that the legislature do more without actually being willing to do the work ourselves."

Lawmakers introduced it earlier this year to address a spike in juvenile crime.

According to data from the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services, juvenile crime complaints have increased nearly 75% in recent years, from 7,100 complaints in 2021 to more than 12,363 in 2023.

From 2020 to 2023, carjacking offenses increased by more than 85% and handgun violations increased by nearly 220%.

"It's all parts of the system coming together to organize around a clear vision to create safer communities for all," Maryland Senate President Bill Ferguson said.

"This is a major bill, and to me, the people who benefit are the individuals who want to rehabilitate children," Baltimore City State's Attorney Ivan Bates said.

Bates highlighted other aspects of the bill that will benefit the state as a whole, which forms a commission to hold the Department of Juvenile Services accountable and extends probation for young offenders.

"It's not to throw them in jail or anything like that," Bates said. "It's to get them the services that they really need and that they're crying out for based on their actions."

Lawmakers also signed the budget on Thursday, which includes $16 billion for young people. 

That money will be used for schools, behavioral health and rehabilitation programs.

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