A status offender is a juvenile who is charged with an offense which would not be a crime if it were committed by an adult. (See Georgia Code Section 15-11-381). Such offenses include but are not limited to truancy, running away from home, incorrigibility, etc.
Children in Need of Services (CHINS)
“Child in need of services” means:
- A child adjudicated to be in need of care, guidance, counseling, structure, supervision, treatment, or rehabilitation and who is adjudicated to be:
- Subject to compulsory school attendance and who is habitually and without good and sufficient cause truant from school;
- Habitually disobedient of the reasonable and lawful commands of his or her parent, guardian, or legal custodian and is ungovernable or places himself or herself or others in unsafe circumstances;
- A runaway;
- A child who has committed an offense applicable only to a child;
- A child who wanders or loiters about the streets of any city or in or about any highway or any public place between the hours of 12:00 Midnight and 5:00 A.M.;
- A child who disobeys the terms of supervision contained in a court order which has been directed to such child who has been adjudicated a child in need of services; or
- A child who patronizes any bar where alcoholic beverages are being sold, unaccompanied by his or her parent, guardian, or legal custodian, or who possesses alcoholic beverages; or
- A child who has committed a delinquent act and is adjudicated to be in need of supervision but not in need of treatment or rehabilitation.
“Truant” means having ten or more days of unexcused absences from school in the current academic year.
“Runaway” means a child who without just cause and without the consent of his or her parent, guardian, or legal custodian is absent from his or her home or place of abode for at least 24 hours.
An unruly child is one who:
- Is subject to compulsory school attendance and is habitually and without justification truant from school
- Is habitually disobedient of the reasonable and lawful commands of the child's parent, guardian, or other custodian and is ungovernable
- Has committed an offense which is applicable only to a child
- Has without just cause and without the consent of the child's parent or legal custodian deserted the child's place of abode
- Wanders or loiters about the streets of any city, or in or about any highway or any public place, between the hours of 12:00 midnight and 5:00 a.m.
- Disobeys the terms of supervision contained in a court order which has been directed to such child who has been adjudicated unruly
- Patronizes any bar where alcoholic beverages are being sold, unaccompanied by such child's parent, guardian, or custodian and, in any of the foregoing, is in need of supervision, treatment, or rehabilitation
CHINS cases begin with a person filing a complaint with the court alleging that the child has committed a status offense. The child may or may not be placed in the Youth Detention Center. The Juvenile Court intake officer will investigate the case and determine whether it is in the child's interest to file a formal petition, divert the case, or dismiss it. If a petition is filed, it will be given to the child and parent, and the case will be scheduled for an arraignment hearing at which the child and the child's parent or guardian will be advised of the child's rights by a judge or defense attorney.
The child may then be asked whether the child admits or denies the petition (unless the child elects to remain silent). If the child denies the petition or remains silent, the case will be scheduled for a trial later. If the child admits the petition, the court may conclude the case at that time or may refer the child to a probation / intake officer and schedule the disposition hearing later.
Status offenders are subject to any disposition allowed by law, including commitment to the Department of Juvenile Justice for a period of two years. The district attorney of Athens-Clarke County prosecutes all status petitions.