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. Such offenses include but are not limited to truancy, running away from home, incorrigibility, and unruly behavior.
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
Unruly cases begin by 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 or may decide to 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 at a later date. If the child admits the petition, the court may dispose of the case at that time or may refer the child to a probation / intake officer and schedule the disposition hearing at a later time.
Status offenders are subject to any disposition allowed by law, including commitment to the Department of Juvenile Justice for a period of two years. All status petitions are prosecuted by the district attorney of Athens-Clarke County.