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Monday, July 4, 2011 - 2:43am

Juvenile Code Gets Rewrite

Georgia’s juvenile code rewrite is ready to be presented to lawmakers.

Supporters of the new bill hope they will hold hearings on it during a special session in August, and vote on it in 2012.

“We’ve really tried to add as much clarity as possible so that it would be easy for practitioners but also for a normal person if they wanted to find out what was going to happen in juvenile court,” said Kirsten Widner, an attorney with Emory University’s Barton Child Law and Policy Center who worked on the proposed changes.

The 250-page document covers kids who are abused, commit crimes, or deemed unruly. It would replace the 40-year-old current code.

Widner said the current code is confusing and interpreted differently depending on where you live. And she said the current law is not equitable in cases where there’s abuse or neglect.

“There are some counties in the state where a child gets a lawyer. There are some counties in the state where the child gets a guardian ad litem,” Widner said. “In some places they get both. In some places they don’t get represented at all until the case gets to determination of parental rights.”

The new code would also give judges more flexibility in sentencing kids who have committed a felony.

Hundreds of lawyers and advocates worked on the rewrite.

The bill has the support of Governor Deal and leaders in the House Judiciary Committee.