Few situations are more difficult for parents than the arrest of a minor child. You probably feel a combination of anger, uncertainty and fear about the penalties he or she will receive and how the arrest will impact future plans such as college and career.

Learning more about the juvenile justice process in Georgia can provide a bit of peace of mind during this difficult time so that you can advocate for your child’s rights.

What happens after the arrest?

After an offense such as drug possession, driving under the influence or vandalism, the arresting officer will bring your child to the local precinct. An intake officer will begin the investigation process once a parent or guardian arrives. You can also retain a criminal defense attorney to attend the intake session.

The initial investigation lasts no more than 72 hours. After three days, the court will either dismiss the charge for lack of evidence or schedule a hearing.

Will my child remain in detention?

Few children remain in juvenile detention pending a hearing. Usually, the court grants a release unless the child suffers neglect or abuse at home or poses a danger to others or himself or herself. When the court does decide to detain your child, the judge must hold a detention hearing during this initial 72-hour period. Otherwise, the court will release the child to your care.

What should we expect at the court hearing?

Your child should attend the hearing with you and his or her criminal defense attorney. The judge may either dismiss the case because of a lack of evidence or order a formal hearing and sentencing in the case of a serious or repeated offense.

Often, however, he or she offers the child an informal adjustment. With this process, a minor remains under court supervision for three months but remains at home. He or she must attend school, stay out of trouble and potentially attend counseling. A successful adjustment period may result in the dismissal of charges.