Every county in Georgia has a juvenile court where children under 17 years of age can be prosecuted for delinquent acts, unruly behavior, and traffic violations. While the rulings in these courts are different from adult trials, being summoned to juvenile court is a serious matter that requires immediate attention.
Unruly and Delinquent
A notable difference between juvenile and adult criminal trials is that juveniles cannot be found “guilty.” Instead, juvenile court determines if a child is unruly (in need of services) or delinquent.
Unruly verdicts indicate that a child is disobedient, and needs some form of supervision or treatment. For example, if a child is caught loitering late at night, possesses alcohol, or is deemed as uncontrollable by parents or guardians.
Delinquency, however, is when a child has committed an actual criminal offense. Instead of being convicted of a crime, a child typically faces treatment and rehabilitation. Unless the crime committed was a felony, juvenile records will not carry into adult criminal records.
Can Juveniles Ever Be Prosecuted as Adults?
Yes—a 1994 amendment to the Georgia Juvenile Court Code provides that juveniles can be tried as adults under conviction of any of the following crimes, unless under the age of 13:
- Voluntary manslaughter
- Aggravated sodomy
- Aggravated child molestation
- Aggravated sexual battery
- Armed robbery (committed with a firearm)
If found guilty of these types of crimes, a child will face adult punishments.
Appealing a Juvenile Conviction
Like adults, juveniles have the right to an attorney and to file an appeal. A notice of appeal must be filed within 5-days of receipt of the court order. For immediate help from one of our attorneys, call Wadkins & Wallace at (706) 221-9451.