In the State of Georgia, most cases concerning children who are 16 years of age and under are handled by the Juvenile Court system. That system was designed to balance sentencing options with the potential for successful rehabilitation. As a result, penalties in the Juvenile Court system often reflect the age of the child at the time of the offense, and any record of the conviction will often remain confidential, even in the child’s later, adult years.
There are, however, certain factors that may lead to the transfer of a juvenile case to the Superior Court—allowing the child to be charged as an adult and potentially subjecting the child to more severe penalties.
In general, any person 17 years of age or older is considered an adult when charged with a crime in the State of Georgia. If the child turns 17 years old the day after the crime is committed, they may still be considered an adult regardless of the offense.
In addition, if the child is 13 years of age or older and is charged with certain violent crimes, they may also be considered an adult and their case may be transferred to the Superior Court. Under O.C.G.A. § 15-11-560, the Superior Court has exclusive jurisdiction over the trial of any child 13 to 17 years of age who is alleged to have committed any of the following offenses:
(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;
(9) Aggravated assault if committed with a firearm upon a public safety officer as such acts are prohibited under subsection (c) of Code Section 16-5-21; or
(10) Aggravated battery upon a public safety officer as such acts are prohibited under subsection (c) of Code Section 16-5-24.
The differences in the sentences between these two justice systems are incredibly pronounced. For example, in Juvenile Court, a child under 13 years of age who is convicted of armed robbery will likely be evaluated for emotional, physical, or mental health issues to determine what may have influenced their criminal behavior, and ultimately may be sentenced to spend time in a youth detention center.
On the other hand, a child who is 13 to 17 years of age and convicted of the same offense is likely to have their case transferred to the Superior Court where they could face a minimum of 10 years in prison.
If you need help resolving a criminal case for someone under the age of 17, contact Criminal Law Attorney Patrick McDonough of Andersen, Tate & Carr. For more information, or to request a case evaluation, call our law office at (770) 467-3205.
We have been very successful at reaching the best possible outcome for our clients, and our attorneys are here to help you through this difficult and stressful time.