If your child becomes involved with the juvenile justice system after an arrest, you may feel confused, angry and afraid for his or her future. Understanding how the juvenile system works in Georgia can help determine your next steps. 

Review the state’s juvenile justice process when a person age 17 or younger commits a delinquent act, which would be a crime in the adult system. 

Intake and detainment

If a citizen, parent or law enforcement officer files a complaint against your child for committing a crime, he or she must appear before an intake officer in juvenile court. For a misdemeanor first offense, most juveniles receive informal processing without appearing before a judge. Depending on the circumstances of the case, options may include informal adjustment, in which your child can qualify for case dismissal after meeting certain criteria for a set time period, or mediation to determine consequences during a meeting with all parties and an unbiased, trained facilitator. 

Hearing and disposition

Some serious complaints fall under review by the Georgia District Attorney. The office will review the evidence and file a petition, which leads the court to schedule an arraignment. Your child must hear the charges in front of a judge and make a formal plea of not guilty or guilty. For a not guilty plea, an adjudicatory hearing will occur at which both sides can present evidence and testimony from victims, witnesses and others.  

If your child pleads guilty or receives a judgment of delinquent at the adjudication, the judge will issue a sentence. Depending on the charges, this may include fees, license suspension, community service, restitution or probation.