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Georgia Center For Resources & Support
Serving Adoptive Families



Ignorance Is No Defense: A Teenagers Guide To Georgia Law PDF Print E-mail

with J.Tom Morgan

Monday, the 16th of June 2008

Kim: We have with us tonight J.Tom Morgan , J.Tom is a nationally recognized expert on the prosecution of crimes against children and served as the District Attorney of DeKalb County Georgia for 12 years. he has also dedicated his career to child advocacy. He was a founding member and is currently vice chair of the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy Inc. He is also the Author of Ignorance is No Defense which explains Georgia Laws to teenagers in east to understand language .

Kim: Welcom J.Tom Morgan

JTom: Thanks Kim-glad to be here

carebear: This is my first online chat. I hope I don't mess up

Kim: J.Tom could you give us a little intoduction to you book?

Annabelle: - has joined the chat -

JTom: Sure-It covers all the Ga. laws that impact teenagers such as laws regarding sex, drugs, alcohol, theft and criminal damage to property. It illustrates these laws with actual cases involving teenagers.

Judy: - has joined the chat -

Kim: At what age are you an adult under Georgia's Criminal law?

JTom: You are an adult at age 17 for all criminal prosecutions..there are only six states where kids are treated as an adults at such a young age and Ga. is one of the six..Also, if you commit one of the 7 deadly sins, i.e., murder, rape, armed robbery, aggravated child molestation, aggravated sexual battery...you will be tried as an adult as young as 13

carebear: So many children in care are victims of abuse. If they abuse when they are older teens or young adults is there any leniency? ?

JTom: Not really, unfortunately, most of the kids I prosecuted as adults were victims of serious abuse or neglect

Veda: - has joined the chat -

Kim: Is it true that if you are seventeen and charged with statutory rape it will be part of your Criminal history for life?

JTom: That is right. If the victim is at least 14 the 17 year old is guilty of a misdemeanor and it will be on his or her criminal history..remember, females can also be charged with statutory rape

Papa bear: - has joined the chat -

dapper11: Is it a statewide curfew law or city ordiance

Judy: There have been a lot of discussions on the treating of statutory rape the same reguardless of the age difference of the child/adult. Is there a move to change this law when teens dating are involved?

JTom: The only statewide curfew is that you cannot drive after midnight and before 6 until you are 18-also, my research found there are few city ordinance curfews because they are unconstitutional

Papa bear: does statutory rape on ly include intercourse?

JTom: Judy: The Romeo/Juilett exception means that as long as the victim is 14 and the other party not older than 18 the crime is a misdemeanor...that is the only change the legislature has made

Kim: Can a teenager be charged with statutory rape even if the other person tells you he or she is 16?

JTom: Statutory rape requires intercourse, child molestation is "any immoral or indecent act done to or with a person under 16"

JTom: Kim: Ignorance of the person's age is no defense...you are absolutely liable for the person you have sex with...male or female

Kim: So a teenager could be charged with child molestation?

cindy: how does this apply if the 15 yr old was consenual but parents want to press charges?

D Wylie: - has joined the chat -

JTom: Absolutely, a teenager can be charged with child molestation if his/her partner is under 16

JTom: Cindy, consent is not an issue, if one or both of the parties are under 16 it is child molestation or statutory rape

chatadmin: In your experience,what is one of the main legal traps teenagers seen to fall into?

Shannon H: - has joined the chat -

carebear: A former foster child of mine supposedly consenual sex with a minor. He said the parents didn't want to press charges, but the state siad they had to. They are married and have been for several years now.

JTom: The biggest problem I see with teenagers is minor in possession of alcohol.

JTom: Marriage is not a defense to statutory rape, but the reality is that most prosecutors will not persue it if the persons marry.

metroatl1317: What are he charges with possession of alcohol

Sam: - has joined the chat -

JTom: Minor is possession of alcohol is a misdemeanor. If the alcohol is in a car and an open container there is another charge for open container violation. These are misdemeanors.

lgrimes38: - has joined the chat -

William W: - has joined the chat -

Kim: So if a teenager is charged it is completely up to the Prosecutor?

JTom: The prosecutor has absolute discretion as to what charges to bring and to whether to bring charges.

Veda: - has joined the chat -

metroatl1317: Do they require any programs for the teens ie aaa or any support groups

JTom: Often, a judge will require that the teen get an alcohol/drug evaluation to determine if treatment is necessary.

carebear: if a teen in care gets in trouble w/alcohol/sex etc how responsible are the foster parents

cindy: do any of these misdemeanors stay on there records after they become adults?

JTom: The foster parent is not liable for the child's behavior unless the foster parent knew or should have known of the criminal behavior. For example, if a foster parent knows that a child has consumed alcohol and the child drives and hurts someone the F.P. is liable.

Shannon H: I came in a bit late, but in the Romeo/Juliet type cases, will their profile forever be that of a sex offender once that occurs? Do they have to register? How does that all work?

ayrieal201: - has joined the chat -

JTom: No, you no longer have to register if you fall under the

D Wylie: okay what would happen to a adoptive parent if a minor if caught with narcatics and says its the parents

JTom: Romeo/Juliett exception

JTom: D Wylie-there is still the requirement of proof beyond a reasonable doubt-the kid's word probably will not be enough

ayrieal201: what are some f the newer laws that effect kids over 17

ayrieal201: what are some f the newer laws that effect kids over 17?

Papa bear: you mentioned child's word not really enough evidence, but I can think of several families whose lives/reputations have been devestated becuase the foster child falsely accused They felt like they had no other chose but to clse their home

JTom: There is a new law that takes effect July 1 involving downloading and copying music. You can only copy music from a cd or dvd for your own personal use.

Kim: Alot of our children take meds for emotional problems etc. I have heard of a foster child giving prescription meds to friends etc. could you explain what might happen in this instance?

JTom: Papa bear-I know the accusation can cause pain, but the foster parents should not be charged with a crime without more proof

D Wylie: This question is from Sam, I am 17yrs old, what if I am driving and my friends that are in the car with me are drinking can I get in trouble?

JTom: It is a felony to share a prescription drug of any type with a friend.

JTom: Sam, if your friends have the alcohol in the car you can be charged with an open container violation. If there is no alcohol in the car, but they are intoxicated, you are not guilty of any crime.

Shannon H: Sounds like the burden of proof is essential to any type of prosecution, then, right? I can see this being a big gray area in alot of cases.

JTom: The burden of proof is always with the State, thank goodness, and that burden does seem to change as to the degree depending on the type of crime. For example, I think it is easier to prove a murder case than a child sex case.

Shannon H: Does the state take into account any known history of the child if they know of special needs (Asperger's, etc.) in how serious they determine the outcome?

JTom: Shannon: I only had one Asperger case and we were unable to get the child qualified to testify in court. I know she had been abused, but the defense is entitled to thorough and sifting cross examination and she could not get through it so the case was dismissed.

dapper11: If I have an out of control teen with stealing misbehaving just out of control is can I send him to juvenile jail and how long can he stay

ayrieal201: why are laws for kids who have dui's different from adults who have the committed exact same crime?

D Wylie: This Question is from Sam, I had a protective order in place and it was violated often is there anything that can be done about it. It was against an adult

JTom: It is up to the juvenille court judge to determine punishment, but in theft cases it usually is not long, not more than 6 months

carebear: Where does the state draw the line between responsibility and compassion because of the child's history and things they can't help

D Wylie: What can be done for a teen that has behavior that is getting out of control, nothing illegal but headed in that direction

JTom: The BAC for kids under 21 is .02, for adults .08. It really does not make any sense. What is the difference between a 20 year old and 21 year old who are both .07? The 20 year old however is dui.

JTom: carebear-the child's history can be taken into account unless it is one of the 7 deadly sins, then the punishment is mandatory without excetion.

Kim: Are juvenilles with Drug problems served in the same Drug Courts as Adults? Is there something similar for Juvenilles?

JTom: D Wylie-many juvenile court judges will allow parents to bring a child in for a good old fashion tongue lashing. In fact, I have a parent bring her kid to see me this week for that very reason.

JTom: Drug courts for juvenilles is just catching on..there is one in Cobb County, but that is the only formal one I am aware of.

ayrieal201: why are school requiring drivers ed, but they are charging over 400 dollars for the class?

JTom: ayrieal201-you got me on that one-glad my kids are past 16

D Wylie: This is Sam Again, my question was not addressed

JTom: Sam sorry, yes, if a protective order is violated you need to go back to court to get an aggravated stalking warrant

D Wylie: What does that mean, I was 14 when that order was put in place and I am 17 now

dapper11: what age can a teen become emancipated

JTom: A person is emancipated at age 18 unless earlier by a court order or marriage.

ayrieal201: Why are there so many laws about teen drinking but the companies that sell the merchandise don't get in trouble, unless they get sued?

Judy: how you can a child be emancipated by a court order?

Kim: J.Tom if there is was one thing you could share with parents and teens concerning Georgia Laws what would it be?

JTom: Sam, if someone violates a protective order than that person is guilty of stalking or contempt of court

cindy: if a teen is emancipated, are they then charged as an adult?

Judy: excuse me. how young can a teen be emancipated?:

JTom: Emancipation has nothing to do with being charged as an adult...you will be charged as an adult at 17 whether you are emancipated or not.

JTom: e

JTom: Emancipation means you are no longer under adult supervision...I have never heard of an emancipated teenager under 16.

JTom: You can find out more about Ga. laws and how they impact teenagers at our website Ignoranceisnodefense.com

ayrieal201: - has left the chat -

JTom: ayrieal201-manufacturers supposedly only sale to adults, that is why they are not liable for the actions of teenagers

Kim: J.Tom as a child advocate yourself, how would you advise our foster parents about advocating for the children in their care?

Kim: We are out of time , is there any last minute questions you would like to ask J. Tom?

JTom: Kim, great question, I have worked with many foster parents, as far as I am concerned the good ones are angels on earth...our state is woefully behind when it comes to educating and protecting our young...there is a new juvenile code being proposed and it needs their backing

Shannon H: How may we learn more as questions arise? Do you have a book or website we could see?

lgrimes38: - has left the chat -

Kim: I would like toThank you J.Tom for giving us such wonderful information and being an Advocate for our children,

JTom: The book is Ignorance Is No Defense: A Teenager's Guide to Georgia Law....the website is ignoranceisnodefense.com


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