When Are Juveniles in Georgia Charged as Adults?

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Every now and then a news story pops up on your timeline about a child being charged and prosecuted as an adult in some state or another for a crime he or she allegedly committed.

For instance, I’m sure you’ve heard about the recent “Slender Man” case, in which, two 13-year-old Wisconsin girls were charged as adults after attempting to kill one of their classmates to appease the fictional “Slender Man.” You’ve also probably heard about the Academy Award winning documentary Murder on a Sunday Morning—about the trial of then 15-year-old Brenton Butler for the murder of a tourist in Jacksonville, Florida back in 2000. The trial ended with Butler being found not guilty.

As a Georgia resident, you may have heard about the widely known case involving the prosecution of Lawrenceville teenager Chris Routh, who was charged with the murder of a young child in his care when he was 14-years-old. Routh, too, was acquitted and now works as a Public Defender here in Georgia. And, I have no doubt that you have heard about the 2010 death of Conyers resident “Nikki” Whitehead who was killed by her 16-year-old identical twins. The “twins” were initially charged with murder but plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter.

These are stories we’ve all heard about, but most of the cases involving child prosecutions in adult courts don’t make the national news. In Georgia courts and courts across this nation juveniles are being prosecuted as adults for crimes they allegedly have committed while under the age of 17.

Juveniles in Adult Court…

In Georgia, there are two circumstances that lead to a child under 17 being tried as an adult in Superior Court. The first involves the seriousness of the offense allegedly committed.

Under Georgia law, a child can be found guilty of a crime once he or she has attained the age of 13 years at the time of the act, omission, or negligence constituting the crime. O.C.G.A. §16-3-1. Thus, the state of Georgia allows for the criminal prosecutions of teenagers. But, as we’ve illustrated, all juvenile criminal cases do not stay in juvenile court. In the state of Georgia, the superior court has exclusive original jurisdiction over the trial of any child 13 to 17 years of age who is alleged to have committed any of the following offenses (O.C.G.A. §15-11-560):

(1) Murder;

(2) Murder in the second degree;

(3) Voluntary manslaughter;

(4) Rape;

(5) Aggravated sodomy;

(6) Aggravated child molestation;

(7) Aggravated sexual battery; or,

(8) Armed robbery if committed with a firearm.

In all of the cases mentioned, specifically the Georgia cases, the accused were charged with one of the offenses listed above and, thus, satisfied the statutory requirement for a child to be tried as an adult under Georgia law. However, a child doesn’t have to be charged with committing a heinous crime to be prosecuted as an adult.

The second circumstance that gives the Superior Court jurisdiction over a juvenile requires the prosecutor in Juvenile Court to request that the case be transferred from Juvenile Court to Superior Court also known as a “discretionary transfer.” Essentially, this means that the prosecutor in 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.

What Happens if a Child Under 17 is Convicted in Adult Court…

Any child under the age of 17 years is convicted of a felony and sentenced as an adult to life imprisonment or to a certain term of imprisonment will be committed to the Department of Juvenile Justice to serve his or her sentence in a detention center until the age of 17. After which, he or she will be transferred to the Department of Corrections to serve the remainder of the sentence. O.C.G.A. §17-10-14.

It’s Important to Consult an Attorney if Your Child’s Case Has Been Transferred to Superior Court…

If you are the parent of a child who has been charged with a crime and his or her case has been transferred from Juvenile Court to Superior Court or your child has been charged with committing one of the statutory offenses that gives the Superior Court original jurisdiction over your child’s case then it is imperative that you consult with an attorney as soon as possible. Why, you ask? Because under O.C.G.A. §15-11-560, at any time before indictment, the district attorney may decline prosecution in the Superior Court of a child 13 to 17 years of age alleged to have committed any of the offenses specified above. Which means that an attorney experienced in Georgia’s juvenile laws could possibly have the case transferred back to Juvenile Court.

Contact Bixon Law…

Your child deserves the best representation possible. As experienced juvenile law attorneys, we can evaluate your child’s case and work to get the best outcome possible. Call us today for help with your child’s case at 404-551-5684 and for a free consultation.