Seventeen-year-olds may soon be tried as juveniles rather than adults for most crimes in Georgia. In early March, the Georgia House passed HB 272, which raises the adult criminal age from 17 to 18 with the exception of certain violent or gang-related crimes. The bill must still pass the Georgia Senate and be signed by the governor, but winning approval from the House is a huge step forward.

Under current Georgia law, 17-year-olds are charged and prosecuted as adults for all crimes. Georgia is one of only three states in the country that still treats 17-year-olds as adults when it comes to criminal charges, according to the National Conference of State Legislators.

A foolish, youthful mistake to steal make-up from a drugstore in Georgia could land a 17-year-old in jail and result in a criminal record that follows them for the rest of their life. The impact of a criminal conviction on college admissions, graduate education, and job applications could be long-lasting.

Under HB 272, the jurisdiction of Georgia’s juvenile courts would be changed from including children ages 16 and younger to “children under the age of 18.” However, the bill stipulates that 17-year-olds would still be charged as adults for gang-related activities and certain violent crimes, including:

  • Murder
  • Rape
  • Aggravated sexual battery
  • Aggravated child molestation
  • Armed robbery
  • Certain aggravated crimes against a public safety officer

Even so, when such crimes are committed by a 17-year-old, prosecutors can still decide to send the charges down to juvenile court. And, as with current law, prosecutors would still have the option, if they see fit, to charge children ages 13 and up as adults for these violent crimes.

Proponents of the bill point to the small percentage of violent crimes committed by juveniles as a reason for raising the adult criminal age. In 2014, less than 5% of the 3,295 juvenile arrests in Georgia were for violent crimes, according to the National Center for Juvenile Justice’s JJGPS study. The study defined juveniles as those ages 10 to 17. That means over 95% of juvenile arrests were for other, non-violent crimes – in many cases, just bad mistakes made by the young defendants.

Call the Experienced Attorneys at Ghanouni Teen & Young Adult Defense Firm

Until this bill is passed by the Georgia Senate and signed by the governor, 17-year-olds are still tried as adults. If you need help with a case where a 17-year-old has been arrested for a crime, call us for assistance. The experienced attorneys at Ghanouni Teen & Young Adult Defense Firm can evaluate the charges and provide clarity on available options. Reach out to us at 770-720-6336 for a complimentary Defense Strategy Meeting.