How the Georgia Criminal Justice System Treats Juvenile Offenders vs Adult Offenders

People have many different views on how criminals should be treated. Many people believe that some crimes deserve the harshest punishments, regardless of the perpetrators. Others believe that the government should take a more lenient view towards many crimes.

However, nearly everybody agrees that children who commit crimes deserve different penalties than those faced by adult criminals. Children’s brains remain undeveloped, leaving them incapable of making fully-informed rational decisions.

Likewise, minors are not at the legal age of adulthood. As such, the legal system for adults could not apply to them.

So, governments created a category called juvenile offenders to handle these cases. This way, they could offer special protections to underage offenders consistent with their ages. The solution also allows them to avoid recognizing full adulthood rights for minors.

The State of Georgia developed a comprehensive Juvenile Code in 1971 to deal with these cases. In this system, juvenile offenders receive different penalties for breaking the law from adult offenders.

If you’d like to learn more about these differences, you’ve come to the right place! We’ll examine how Georgia distinguishes between juvenile delinquency and adult criminality in the following guide.

Georgia Juvenile Code Essentials

Before we get into the specifics of the Georgia system, let’s first explain who qualifies as a juvenile offender. The Georgian juvenile justice system addresses alleged criminal activity enacted by minors 17 or younger.

As such, anybody under 18 naturally qualifies as a juvenile offender. This law contrasts with some states that cut off the juvenile delinquency age at 16.

However, there are situations in which people who meet the juvenile age limit may face trial as adults. Some of these crimes include:

  • Murder
  • Voluntary manslaughter
  • Rape
  • Aggravated child molestation
  • Aggravated battery
  • Armed robbery

A court can also try a juvenile as an adult if the prosecutor petitions the Supreme Court. In these instances, the child must be at least 15 years of age when they committed the offense. The crime would also have to qualify as a felony if it were committed by an adult.

The Five Objectives of Juvenile Offenders Laws

As mentioned before, the Juvenile Code that Georgia enacted in 1971 continues to drive and define the state justice and correctional system. However, the Code also received amendments in a 1973 Act.

These amendments aimed to achieve five objectives with the Juvenile Code. These aims included:

  1. Redefining “Child” to set Juvenile court jurisdiction
  2. Realigning jurisdictional limits of Juvenile and Superior Courts
  3. Clarifying procedures for mentally challenged minors
  4. Restricting the publication of juvenile offenders’ names
  5. Providing for Superior Court referrals for a Juvenile Court

These five aims established clear roles for every party involved in juvenile crime cases. These objectives determined who qualified as a juvenile offender, the court’s relationship to minors, and the media’s responsibilities in these cases.

These updates were the most significant changes to the Code since its implementation. However, several other updates and revisions have occurred since the 1973 Act.

One significant update in recent years was the establishment of a Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform. This Council seeks alternative routes to detention, focusing instead on intervention programming in the community.

Unruly and Delinquent Status

So, what are the differences between a juvenile offenders’ legal proceedings and an adult criminal’s? First, Georgia’s legal system does not pronounce juveniles guilty of a crime.

Instead, the state deems a child to be either unruly or delinquent. There are significant differences between these two rulings.

The state determines a child to be unruly if they need any of the following:

  • Supervision
  • Treatment
  • Rehabilitation

What does this look like in practice? The state’s laws recognizes nine actions that constitute an unruly child’s behavior, including:

  1. The habitual truancy from school without justification
  2. Habitually disobedient towards the lawful rules and commands from parents, guardians, or other custodian
  3. Committing an offense that only applies to a child
  4. The desertion of their homes
  5. Wandering or loitering on the streets between 12:00 am and 5:00 am
  6. Patronizing a bar
  7. Possessing alcoholic beverages
  8. Disobeying the terms of supervision outlined in a court order
  9. Committing a delinquent act

So, how does an unruly child differ from a delinquent? A juvenile offender receiving a delinquent charge is akin to an adult becoming convicted of a crime.

A delinquent child has committed a crime under the Georgia legal code and needs treatment and rehabilitation. Instead of convicting this offender, the court works with the criminal defense lawyer and the prosecution to develop a treatment plan.

Usually, this treatment includes additional supervision and appropriate rehabilitation methods. This treatment’s goal is to restore a child to acting in proper behaviors.

Hiring an Attorney for Juvenile Offenders

Hiring an attorney is an essential component of protecting juvenile offenders. After all, a juvenile offender does not have a fully developed brain or the rights of a legal adult.

As such, a juvenile offender is incapable of representing himself in court. Ideally, you should hire an attorney who specializes in juvenile offender law. These attorneys can provide several benefits and services in your case.

A lawyer can have a case diverted to ensure the juvenile receives no court record. However, they can only do this if the minor committed a mild offense. They can also arrange for a juvenile’s release from pre-adjudication detention.

They also help ensure your child doesn’t end up tried as an adult. While this wouldn’t typically happen, it could become a threat for older minors. Juveniles between the ages of 13-17 could be at risk of this outcome.

Finally, as mentioned before, we will work with the judge and the prosecution to create a rehabilitation program. So, defense attorney Jarrett Maillet plays a critical role in helping your minor change their behaviors after the trial.

Hiring the Best Juvenile Offenders’ Attorney

Juvenile offenders require specialized care to get their lives back on track. To get started, find a Georgia legal firm that can protect your minor from the worst of the criminal justice system.

If you’re looking for that firm, there’s good news! We offer expert legal assistance to help your minor receive the defense they need. Contact us today to discover more about our services!

Jarrett Maillet J.D., P.C.

210 E 31st St

Savannah, GA 31401

(912) 713-3426