Juveniles Tried As Adults

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The superior court shall have exclusive jurisdiction over the trial of any child 13 to 17 years of age who is alleged to have committed any of the following offenses:
(1)    Murder;
(2)    Voluntary Manslaughter;
(3)    Rape;
(4)    Aggravated sodomy;
(5)    Aggravated child molestation;
(6)    Aggravated sexual battery; or
(7)    Armed robbery if committed with a firearm.

O.C.G.A. § 15-11-28(b)(2)(A).
Because a child accused of committing the above crimes must be tried as an adult, early consultation with a lawyer is crucial. There are possible ways to reduce the charges and get the case sent to juvenile court where the child will be treated more fairly. A lawyer will have to work closely with the judge and district attorney to transfer a case.

There is increasing research and study into the psychology of children and teen minds and how charging and punishment in adult court does not fairly or effectively treat delinquent behavior. The Department of Justice has compiled these studies concluding that children are likely not deterred by the threat of adult prosecution and recidivism is actually worse for those kids exposed to adult court and prison. See Juvenile Justice Bulletin, OJJDP, August 2008 available at www.ojp.usdoj.gov. Such research and scholarship can be useful in negotiating with the district attorney in your case.

If a lawyer does not obtain a transfer from either the district attorney or the judge, it is almost impossible to appeal the issue. In Martin v. State, 256 Ga. App. 527 (2002), the Court of Appeals stressed that the judge is under no duty to transfer a case or investigate whether to transfer.

It is equally important to fight transfer to superior court. The juvenile court can transfer a case to superior court if there are reasonable grounds to believe that the child committed the delinquent act alleged; that the child is not mentally retarded or mentally ill; that the interests of the child and the community require the transfer be made; and that the child was at least 15 years of age at the time of the alleged delinquent conduct. O.C.G.A. § 15-11-30.2.

School Searches & Interrogations

Increasingly, children are being searched and interrogated while at school. These actions by school officials and police at school often lead not only to school punishment, but also charges in juvenile court or even adult charges in superior court. Because of the increasing stakes, scrutiny and oversight of the searches and interrogations that are taking place in schools are crucial to the criminal defense of a child. In these circumstances, a motion to suppress a child’s school statements or evidence found through a search is often the first line

In the Interest of T.A.G., 292 Ga. App. 48 (2008)

T.A.G. was implicated in a robbery of two boys at school, and an assistant principal took him to his office to question him. T.A.G. admitted taking money from one of the kids, but not from the other. In a second interview, T.A.G. admitted taking money from the second kid as well.

A school resource officer (a police officer assigned to the school) was present at the second interview. The officer did not ask questions and was there for “safety purposes.” The principal questioned the student and asked the officer if the student could be charged with a crime, the officer answered that he could be charged with robbery.

The trial court refused to suppress the first statement finding that there was no police involvement. The court granted the motion as to the second statement because a police officer was involved. The court found that the police were trying to usurp the student’s Miranda rights by having the school official ask all the questions but then using the statements as evidence against the child.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s decision citing State v. Young, 234 Ga. 488 (1975). In Young, the Georgia Supreme Court held that there are three types of people: (1) private individuals; (2) government agents whose conduct constitutes state action; and (3) police who are subject to the Fourth Amendment and the exclusionary rule.

School officials are considered type 2 people. When they violate the Fourth Amendment, they are subject to a civil damages claim, but the violation does not result in the exclusion of the evidence. When school officials get police involved, however, both Miranda and the Fourth Amendment apply.

State v. K.L.M., 278 Ga. App. 219 (2006)

A student overheard that K.L.M. was arranging to sell drugs during school, and told the principal. The principal called a public safety officer for assistance. When questioned, K. refuses to speak. The principal said, “Search him!” and the officer searched K and found marijuana.

The trial court granted K’s motion to suppress, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. A school official could have gotten away with the search, but the officer could not. The fact that the officer was acting at the behest of the principal did not excuse him from the requirement that he have probable cause to search a subject.

It is imperative to fight the evidence and charges against children who are in a vulnerable position to be abused by the system. A lawyer who is knowledgeable of the available remedies is paramount to a desirable result.

Source by Elizabeth Brandenburg

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