Having a child be accused of a crime is probably one of the top fears for a parent, but our system does not treat juveniles the same way they do adults. The most obvious reason for the disparate treatment is that juveniles are unable to make fully informed decisions in the way adults are. Accordingly, our juvenile system takes a different approach to juveniles that commit “crimes.” The focus in the juvenile system is never punishment but rather rehabilitation. In the adult system, however, punishment is a key component in determining the appropriate disposition of a case.
In Georgia, juveniles who allegedly committed a crime are almost always processed through the juvenile justice system. There are, however, some rare occasions when a juvenile – someone 17 or younger – will be charged as an adult and processed through the adult criminal system. This blog focuses on situations in which a juvenile can find himself in adult court. We will discuss the juvenile process in more detail in a separate blog.
When Can Juveniles be Charged in Adult Court?
In Georgia, there are essentially two ways a juvenile could end up in adult court. The first way is contingent on the alleged crime. In the State of Georgia, the Superior Court (adult court) has exclusive jurisdiction over the trial of any child between the ages of 13 to 17 who is alleged to have committed the following offenses. In other words, if a child allegedly committed one of the below offenses, the case automatically starts in adult court.
- Murder in the second degree;
- Voluntary manslaughter;
- Aggravated sodomy;
- Aggravated child molestation;
- Aggravated sexual battery;
- Armed robbery if committed with a firearm;
- Aggravated assault if committed with a firearm upon a public safety officer;
- Aggravated battery upon a public safety officer.
The second situation that will land a juvenile in adult court is when a prosecutor requests a “discretionary transfer” to the adult court. In essence, this means that the prosecutor will ask the court to prosecute the case in adult court instead of juvenile court, but there is no guarantee that the court will allow the case to be transferred.
How an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help
Just because a juvenile is charged in adult court does not mean the case will stay there. There are essentially two ways to have a case sent back to juvenile court, which we will discuss in a separate blog, but it is important to have an attorney who can help you navigate through these issues. The difference between being charged as a juvenile and an adult can have life-altering consequences, so it is not something to be taken lightly.
If your child is currently facing criminal charges, or is the subject of an ongoing investigation, reach out to our office for a free consultation.