Georgia house members held a special session on January 3, 2020, to consider house Bill 440, which would raise the age of the juvenile court jurisdiction to include 17-year olds. If the bill is passed, it will apply to offenders age 17 and younger except those that have committed serious crimes.
Georgia’s current law on Trying Youth as an Adult
Georgia, Texas, and Wisconsin are the only three states with laws on the books that treat 17-year-olds as adults in criminal court.
Georgia statute §16-3-1 states that the minimum age for criminal prosecution is 13 years old. You are an adult for criminal prosecution at the age of 17.
The Seriousness of the crime
In Georgia, two circumstances lead to a child under 17 being tried as an adult in Superior Court. The first is the Seriousness of the crime. The superior court has exclusive jurisdiction over the trial of any child 13 to 17 years of age who is charged with committing any of the following offenses (O.C.G.A. §15-11-560):
(2) Murder in the second degree
(3) Voluntary manslaughter
(5) Aggravated sodomy
(6) Aggravated child molestation
(7) Aggravated sexual battery
(8) Armed robbery if committed with a firearm
The second circumstance that gives the Superior Court jurisdiction over a juvenile is if the prosecutor in the Juvenile Court requests that the case be transferred from Juvenile Court to Superior Court, also known as a “discretionary transfer.” Essentially, this means that the prosecutor in the Juvenile Court can decide to have the case transferred to Superior Court no matter the type of offense committed. It is in his or her discretion to do so under the law.
If a Child is Convicted in Adult Court, where are they incarcerated?
O.C.G.A. §17-10-14. Any child under the age of 17 convicted of a felony and sentenced as an adult to life imprisonment, or a specific imprisonment term, will be committed to serving his or her sentence in a detention center of the Department of Juvenile Justice until the age of 17. After this, he or she will be transferred to the Department of Corrections to serve the remainder of the sentence.
The state of Georgia is notoriously tough on crime, especially for juvenile offenders. If your child has been charged with a crime, it’s essential that they contact an experienced criminal defense attorney, such as Tyler Moffit, to explain the system, and work to get charges or sentencing reduced, depending on the crime.