Common Questions

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  1. Over what kinds of cases does the Juvenile Court have jurisdiction?
  2. At what age can a child choose to leave home?
  3. Through what age are juveniles subject to the jurisdiction of the Juvenile Court?
  4. What is the age of consent for sexual relations between juveniles?
  5. Can a girl be charged with statutory rape?
  6. Can I get custody of my child through the Juvenile Court?
  7. What is an arraignment in the Juvenile Court?
  8. What should I do if my child is continually disobeying me?
  9. Can the Judge of the Juvenile Court place my child in the Regional Youth Detention Center (RYDC) if I request him to do so?
  10. What is the harshest sentence my child can receive for committing a delinquent act?
  11. What can be done if a juvenile is ordered to pay a fine, but is unable to do so?
  12. Is there any recourse for a victim if the juvenile delinquent is unable (or unwilling) to make restitution as ordered by the Court?
  13. What does it mean if my child is “illegitimate”?
  14. How can I legitimate my child?
  15. Am I entitled to be paid if I am subpoenaed as a witness in the Juvenile Court?
  16. Who can access Juvenile Court records?
  17. Can a Juvenile Court delinquency record be sealed?
Common Questions & Answers
1. Over what kinds of cases does the Juvenile Court have jurisdiction?

As found in O.C.G.A. §15-11-28, the Juvenile Court, with some exceptions, has jurisdiction over juvenile matters and shall be the sole court for initiating action concerning any child (1) alleged to be delinquent, (2) alleged to be unruly, (3) alleged to be deprived; (4) alleged to be in need of treatment or commitment as a mentally ill or mentally retarded child, (5) alleged to have committed various juvenile traffic offenses, or (6) been placed under the supervision of the court or on probation to the court.

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2. At what age can a child choose to leave home?

Although a child can make a parental selection at age 14 regarding the parent with which the child desires to live, a child is still a minor until age 18. Accordingly, a minor child is subject to the jurisdiction of the Juvenile Court for the offenses of “truancy,” “running away from home,” “incorrigibility,” and “unruly behavior.” Further, any person who harbors a child less than 18 years of age, without the permission of the legal custodian, could be subject to a charge of “contributing to the delinquency of a minor” or “interference with child custody.”

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3. Through what age are juveniles subject to the jurisdiction of the Juvenile Court?

Generally, children up to age 17 are subject to the jurisdiction of the Juvenile Court. However, the Georgia Legislature amended the Official Code of Georgia in 2003 to raise the age to 18 years in status offense cases (running away from home, incorrigibility, and unruly behavior).

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4. What is the age of consent for sexual relations between juveniles?

Age 16.

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5. Can a girl be charged with statutory rape?

Yes.

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6. Can I get custody of my child through the Juvenile Court?

No. The Juvenile Court is not a court of custody. With some exceptions, the Juvenile Court primarily handles deprivation and delinquency cases.

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7. What is an arraignment in the Juvenile Court?

An arraignment is a phase in a delinquency case at which time a juvenile is required to either “admit” or “deny” the charge(s) against him/her. If the juvenile should “admit” the charge(s), then the Court will generally proceed to the disposition phase of the case. In the disposition phase, the Court will determine the appropriate action to be taken (i.e., withhold disposition; order probation; order the juvenile to a commitment, as to a YDC). If the juvenile should “deny” the charge(s), a trial will be scheduled thereafter.

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8. What should I do if my child is continually disobeying me?

If you have exhausted all other reasonable efforts to change your child’s disobedient behavior, you can file a complaint in the Juvenile Court against the child for being “incorrigible” or exhibiting “unruly behavior.”

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9. Can the Judge of the Juvenile Court place my child in the Regional Youth Detention Center (RYDC) if I request him to do so?

No. The Juvenile Court is not designed to punish a juvenile, but to find the most appropriate method of correcting the juvenile’s delinquent behaviors. Further, unless the offense meets a certain level of severity, a commitment to the RYDC or YDC is not available.

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10. What is the harshest sentence my child can receive for committing a delinquent act?

Although most delinquent acts would generally necessitate nothing more than probation, community service and/or restitution, some juvenile offenses could result in a commitment to the State of Georgia for a period of two years. The State has the right to place a child in a wilderness camp, group home or, potentially, a YDC; all to be determined by the risk and needs of the child. Some offenses are such that there could be a commitment of five (5) years or until age 21. For some offenses, the law specifies that the same can be resolved only in the Superior Court, as such offenses are so egregious in nature, and the juvenile would be treated as an adult.

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11. What can be done if a juvenile is ordered to pay a fine, but is unable to do so?

The juvenile can be held in contempt by the Court for the willful refusal to pay or possibly be placed on probation, with the fine being converted to community service.

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12. Is there any recourse for a victim if the juvenile delinquent is unable (or unwilling) to make restitution as ordered by the Court?

If the juvenile is unwilling to pay restitution, the matter can be resolved as specified in the answer to Question 11) above. However, if the juvenile is unable to pay restitution, it may be appropriate for a claim to be made through the Magistrate Court against the juvenile’s guardian or person legally responsible for the juvenile in some cases.

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13. What does it mean if my child is “illegitimate”?

An illegitimate child is one born out of wedlock (i.e., the parents are not married to each other). Unless the child is subsequently legitimated, then the biological father has no rights to the child, only the obligation to support the child.

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14. How can I legitimate my child?

Georgia law allows a child to be legitimated by several methods: (1) both parents signing the requisite forms provided by the Department of Vital Statistics within one year of the birth of said child; (2) the biological father marrying the biological mother of said child; or, (3) filing a petition to legitimate said child. However, unless there is a matter concerning said child already pending in the Juvenile Court, a legitimation petition must be filed in the Superior Court.

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15. Am I entitled to be paid if I am subpoenaed as a witness in the Juvenile Court?

No. Unless you reside outside of Ware County, you can be issued a subpoena and will be required to attend without the payment of a “witness fee” or reimbursement of any losses from work. However, if you reside outside of Ware County, you may be entitled to mileage reimbursement from the party requesting the subpoena.

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16. Who can access Juvenile Court records?

In short, Juvenile Court records are not open to the public and only a limited group can obtain access to the same. This limited group includes Juvenile Court personnel, parties to the case (i.e., the petitioner, the parents, or their attorneys), law enforcement, Court Officers (i.e., District Attorney, Solicitor, etc.), the Department of Juvenile Justice, officers of public institutions or agencies to whom the child is committed (i.e. YDC), a parole board, and any school superintendent, principal, assistant principal, school guidance counselor, school social worker, school psychologist, or school law enforcement officer when necessary for the discharge of his or her official duties. Others can only obtain records by appropriate subpoena, Court Order or a written release by the juvenile (if an adult) or the juvenile’s legal guardian (if a minor).

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17. Can a Juvenile Court delinquency record be sealed?

Sometimes. The Juvenile Court can order the sealing of the files and records on application of the juvenile or on the Court's own motion. However, two years must have elapsed since the final discharge of the juvenile (i.e., completion of probation) and, since the final discharge, the juvenile has not been convicted of a felony or of a misdemeanor involving moral turpitude or adjudicated a delinquent or unruly child and no criminal or delinquency proceeding is pending against the person. Further, the Court must find that the juvenile has been rehabilitated.

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