Juvenile Justice In Georgia: Legal Rights of MinorsWritten on March 3, 2015
It’s not unusual for kids to get into a little trouble every now and then. Getting in trouble at home or ending up in the principal’s office in school is a fairly regular occurrence. The result is usually getting grounded, having an electronic device taken away, or maybe having detention after school. Those lessons are part of growing up and often teach children that there are consequences for their actions.
If a minor is in more serious trouble and the police are involved, there is a good chance the state’s Juvenile Justice System will become involved. The state of Georgia considers those persons 16 years old and under to be juveniles. Once a person turns 17, as far as the legal system is concerned, he or she is an adult. The first juvenile court in the country was established in Chicago in 1899. The first such court in Georgia was established in Fulton County in 1911. Every county in Georgia now has a juvenile court.
In many ways, the juvenile system is similar to the adult system. If the charges are serious, juveniles may be held at a detention center that is like a jail. The juvenile’s case will involve court hearings, other court proceedings, and verdicts. There are, however, a number of differences between the juvenile and adult legal systems.
There are two types of charges in the juvenile system: “delinquent acts” and “status offenses.”
- Delinquent acts are those which would be considered crimes if committed by an adult. Examples of these acts include battery and theft, as well as more serious offenses.
- Status offenses are acts that can only be committed by juveniles. These types of offenses include truancy or being reported as a runaway.
Juveniles who commit more serious crimes, like rape or murder, can be tried as adults in Superior Court, although they would still be housed in a youth detention facility. If tried and convicted as an adult, the potential sentence could include years of prison time. This is vastly different than juvenile sentencing guidelines. A person under 17 years of age, if found guilty as a juvenile, may only be held (supervised) until they are 21.
The biggest difference between the adult and juvenile legal systems is how trials (or hearings) are conducted. An adult trial usually features a jury of the defendant’s peers. That’s not the case for juveniles. In those hearings, a judge hears the facts and renders a verdict. There is no jury involved.
The goal of juvenile justice is to rehabilitate and reform. It’s crucial that a minor is represented by legal counsel if charged. An attorney is needed for both delinquent acts and status offenses. Decisions made now can have long ranging effects for a young person. The attorneys at The Silverbach Group are here to help. We will listen and consult with you to develop the best legal strategy for all parties involved. You can reach us at 770-635-0334.