FILE - Georgia Rep. Mandi Ballinger

Georgia State Rep. Mandi Ballinger, R-Canton

The Georgia House Juvenile Justice Committee held a special meeting Friday to consider raising the age at which a child can be tried as an adult.

It's been a prolonged effort by some legislators to change the state's law to follow most of the country.

Rep. Mandi Ballinger, R-Canton, chairman of the committee, called the meeting at the state capitol to bring awareness about a bill filed in the last legislative session that seeks to rewrite current law.

Georgia is one of three states that still prosecutes 17-year-olds in adult court. House Bill 440, also known as “Raise the Age,” would raise the age of juvenile court jurisdiction to include 17-year-olds. 

Although Georgia’s current law calls for adult court for offenders 17 and older, district attorneys have the option to redirect certain offenders to juvenile court.

If HB440 becomes law, it would apply only to juveniles 17 and younger who have not committed murder, sexual battery, armed robbery or other serious crimes. All other offenders 17 and under will have the ability to be directed first to the juvenile justice system.

Ballinger’s bill stalled in February on the House floor. She held other meetings after the session to discuss the proposal. Friday’s meeting included presentations from juvenile justice advocates and subject experts.

About 6,600 17-year-olds were charged with crimes in 2018, according to Ballinger.

There are currently 71 prisoners younger than 18 serving time in Georgia’s adult penal system, according to Georgia Department of Corrections’ January report. 

Friday’s discussion on the bill is 11 days ahead of the start of the 2020 legislation session.

Staff Reporter

Nyamekye Daniel has been a journalist for three years. She was the managing editor for the South Florida Media Network and a staff writer for The Miami Times. Daniel's work has also appeared in the Sun-Sentinel, Miami Herald and The New York Times.