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What Is the Legal Definition of Juvenile?

It is easy for young people in Georgia to make a mistake that breaks the law. The legal system understands this, which is why there is a juvenile court in place to handle cases of children committing crimes. However, if you are a parent whose son or daughter may be in trouble with the law, you have reason to wonder at what age is a child considered eligible for juvenile court, and at what age is a young person no longer a juvenile in the eyes of the law?

According to FindLaw, few states will send a child younger than six or seven to juvenile court. The assumption is that children younger than this do not have the capability to differentiate between right and wrong, meaning that there can be no criminal intent behind their actions.

Georgia law holds that your child remains a juvenile as long as he or she is younger than 17 years old. In other words, once your child hits his or her 17th birthday, he or she is no longer a juvenile. There are also certain serious offenses that can lead to a child as young as 13 years old being charged as an adult.

This benchmark varies in different states, however. Despite the legal age of majority being 18 across the country, in Wyoming, a 19-year-old may still go to juvenile court, while in some states the cut-off age to send adolescents to juvenile court is 16.

The rationale behind the juvenile court system is that young people have the opportunity to learn from past mistakes and become functioning members of society as they mature over time. Therefore, the emphasis of juvenile court is not on hard time but on rehabilitation and counseling.

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.