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The Georgia legislature has completed their most recent session. In the course of the session they took up certain issues involving the criminal justice system but did not address one of critical importance. The state is one of only four that considers 17-year-olds as adults for the purpose of criminal prosecution. The negative impact of prosecuting all 17-year-olds as adults instead of viewing their transgressions as juvenile crimes is significant.

A teenager placed into the adult criminal justice system may suffer physical and psychological trauma that could have a permanent impact on his or her life. The same teen placed into the juvenile system would likely have access to support and counseling designed to help them re-enter society and become a successful adult. In addition, an adult criminal record could have a life-long impact and may limit one’s education and employment opportunities.

Raising the age from 17 to 18 does not mean that a 17-year-old could not still be punished as an adult if the nature of the crime warranted it. There are means to enable that to happen, but all crimes committed by a 17-year-old might not rise to that level. Legislation to raise the age from 17 to 18 has been introduced in the state legislature.

When a young person is accused of committing juvenile crimes in Georgia, it can have serious implications for his or her future. Those who face criminal charges are presumed innocent until and unless found guilty in a court of law. This holds true regardless of the accused party’s age. An experienced attorney can help ensure that a person’s legal rights are understood and protected throughout legal proceedings.