Juvenile Court has jurisdiction over all individuals under the age of 17 with few exceptions. Unlike other courts a person does not plea guilty or not guilty. They either admit or deny the alleged crime. An admission or a loss at trial results in a delinquency. Important: Delinquency is not a guilty plea. Juvenile courts are designed to rehabilitate rather than punish. Most offenses are sealed when the offender completes his sentence or turns 17. However, the laws are becoming stricter and cases that used to be sealed are making it onto a person’s permanent record. Georgia passed laws that went into effect in the beginning of 2014 that expand the number of designated felonies and the level of punishment imposed for these offenses.
The right to a jury trial does not exist in juvenile court, but all other rights remain the same. Such as the state’s right to prove an individual’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt or a right to be free from illegal search of seizure. A trained lawyer should file all the motions he or she would in a criminal case plus any motions relevant to the juvenile’s specific case. If a juvenile denies the allegations he/she will be afforded a hearing in front of a judge where the state will have to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. The Juvenile Court shares its jurisdiction with the Superior Court in the designated county where the alleged crime took place. The types of punishment and programs available in Juvenile Court are different than those in state and superior courts.
These are the most serious cases heard in juvenile court. They are not sealed and result in a permanent criminal record. Starting January 1, 2014, designated felonies were split into two categories. Class A designated felonies include the following crimes aggravated assault and battery; armed robbery, not involving a firearm; arson in the first degree; attempted murder; hijacking a motor vehicle; kidnapping; trafficking drugs; and participating in specified gang activity. Class B designated felonies include arson in the second degree; attempted kidnapping; battery on a teacher; robbery; and certain conduct related to gang activity; smash and grab burglary; and possession with intent to distribute drugs.
If a child is facing one of these allegations they need competent representation. There will be two parts to their case. The hearing to determine if the child committed the offense followed by a committal or sentencing hearing where a judge decides whether or not to place the child in restrictive custody.
Any case if prosecuted as an adult could result in life in prison or the death penalty has concurrent jurisdiction with superior court and can be prosecuted in superior court. The District Attorney files a motion to remove the case from juvenile court to superior court and indicts the case. If the case is removed then the juvenile will be prosecuted as an adult. The maximum sentence a juvenile can receive in the juvenile court is a five years in a juvenile detention center. The maximum they can receive in superior court is life without parole.
Any case involving a person 13-17 years in age in which the charge is; (i) Murder (ii) Voluntary Manslaughter; (iii) Rape; (iv) Aggravated sodomy; (v) Aggravated Child Molestation; (vi) Aggravated Sexual Battery; or (vii) Armed Robbery if committed with a firearm will be charged in superior court and can be removed in extreme circumstances to a juvenile court.
If your child faces a designated felony or criminal charges in superior court then contact our office for a free consultation.