Georgia panel approves measure to ‘raise the age’ to charge juveniles as adults

State Rep. Mandi Ballinger speaks in a committee hearing. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM
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State Rep. Mandi Ballinger speaks in a committee hearing. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

Credit: Greg Bluestein

Credit: Greg Bluestein

A Georgia House panel approved a measure that aims to raise the age at which teens accused of committing crimes can be charged as adults.

Georgia is one of three states that charges 17-year-olds as adults when they commit crimes.

The House Juvenile Justice Committee spent the past several months studying the impact of increasing the age to 18, ranging from the developmental needs of teens to the cost to the state to change jurisdictions.

“This is really about making sure 17-year-olds aren’t burdened with criminal records that are going to hurt them in the long run,” said Josh Rovner with Washington, D.C.-based criminal justice nonprofit The Sentencing Project.

The "Raise the Age" legislation, House Bill 440, would allow cases involving 17-year-olds to be handled in the juvenile justice system. Currently, cases involving 17-year-olds are head in superior court.

Supporters of the legislation say it would keep those under 18 out of state prison and give them more access to services that aim to keep them from offending again.

The committee approved the legislation unanimously.

There were about 6,600 17-year-olds arrested in 2018, according to state data.  House Juvenile Justice Committee Chairwoman Mandi Ballinger, the Canton Republican who sponsored the legislation, has said Georgia should allow those teens to go through the juvenile court system.

Georgia, Texas and Wisconsin are the only states that charge those over 16 years old as adults.

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