Affray Charges in Georgia Juvenile Courts

Georgia Juvenile Affray Charge

Affray is a common charge seen in juvenile courts in Georgia. Under Georgia law, affray is defined very simply as a fight between two or more people in a public place to the “disturbance of the public tranquility.” O.C.G.A. § 16-11-32. In Georgia, affray is classified as a misdemeanor offense. Due to the impact an affray charge can have on a juvenile, it is critical to hire an experienced affray lawyer in Georgia.

The Fight Must Take Place in Public

To constitute an affray charge, the fight must occur in a public place. This is considered an “essential element” of an affray charge. See Gamble v. State, 113 Ga. 701, 39 S.E. 301 (1901). To sustain a juvenile court adjudication, the State must affirmatively prove that the location of the fight was a “public place.” Georgia courts have held that a private place may be made public by throwing it open to the public, the mere fact that a group of people is located in a particular location does not necessarily make it a public place. Gamble v. State, 113 Ga. 701, 39 S.E. 301 (1901).

The Law Requires Multiple Combatants

An affray charge requires that two or more individuals participate. One person cannot be convicted alone for participation in an affray. If one combatant is acquitted or charges are otherwise dismissed, the other combatant cannot be adjudicated (or convicted, in adult court) for affray.

For example, in In the Interest of S.W., a 16-year-old juvenile believed that defendant S.W. had called her a derogatory name. Ultimately, the two exchanged blows, and both were charged with affray. The other juvenile was ultimately acquitted at her juvenile court trial, but S.W. was adjudicated delinquent on an affray charge. S.W. appealed on the grounds that the acquittal of the co-combatant required her acquittal as well, and the Georgia Court of Appeals agreed. The Court of Appeals held that “where two [are] indicted for an affray, the successful defense of one operated as an acquittal of both.” In the Interest of S.W., 269 Ga.App. 108, (2004).

Relationship to Other Charges

While affray itself is a misdemeanor offense, both in Georgia juvenile courts and in adult courts, it is often charged in conjunction with more serious crimes.

For example, an affray can serve as the basis for a charge under O.C.G.A. § 16-15-3, the criminal gang activity statute. The gang statute requires not only that the individual charged to be a member of a criminal street gang, but also that he or she commit some overt act in furtherance of the gang's interests. This was illustrated in In re. X.W., where the juvenile allegedly instructed a student on becoming a gang member, organized a fight, and gave the student a booklet on gang history and jargon. The Court said that not only was there adequate evidence to prove that the juvenile was in a gang, but that he participated in a crime of violence – an affray – sufficient to satisfy the “overt act” requirement of the gang statute. In re. X.W.,301 Ga.App. 625, 688 S.E.2d 646 (2009). Because a violation of the gang statute is a Designated Felony offense, an affray in conjunction with this charge could potentially result in serious consequences, including time in a Georgia youth detention center. This is why it is so important to hire one of our Georgia Juvenile Affray Attorneys.

Defenses to Juvenile Court Affray Charges

In Georgia, you do have the right to defend yourself if you are attacked. Defending yourself from an attack is not the same as being a willing participant in an affray, and Georgia courts have recognized this distinction. This is because, if one person is attacked and subsequently defends himself or herself, he or she did not actually intend to participate in the affray. And affray requires intent to fight on the part of both parties. Johnson v. State, 135 Ga.App. 361, (1975). In In the Interest of S.W., the Court of Appeals noted that “where the evidence shows that one party acts entirely in self-defense, while the other assaulted and beat her, the aggressor could be guilty of an assault and battery, but neither of them could be guilty of an affray.” In the Interest of S.W., 269 Ga.App. 108, (2004). As such, if your Georgia Juvenile Court Affray Attorney can prove to the judge that you were acting in self-defense, this would result in an acquittal on the affray charge.

Possible Juvenile Court Punishments for an Affray Charge in Georgia

If a child is adjudicated delinquent on an affray charge in a Georgia juvenile court, the judge may order any combination of the following:

  • Probation, which may be supervised or unsupervised;
  • Counseling for the child and/or the parents;
  • Completion of a high school diploma or GED program;
  • Community service; and/or
  • Suspension of your child's driver's license, which may last until your child's 18th birthday, or prevention of your child's ability to get a driver's license until his or her 18th birthday.

It is very common for judges to order probation, counseling, and community service for a first-time, misdemeanor affray charge. If the child has a history with the juvenile court, he or she may be looking at more intense consequences. If the child has at least one prior felony offense, the child may be committed to the Department of Juvenile Justice or sent to a juvenile detention facility for up to 30 days.

While juvenile probation may not seem overly burdensome, in reality, it can be a considerable imposition on families. The entire family is under scrutiny and may be required to participate in counseling, drive the child to community service, and pay probation fees. One thing that many people do not realize about juvenile probation is that it can be extended beyond the time that would be permissible in adult court. For an adult misdemeanor (like affray), probation could only last for up to one year, because that is the maximum possible sentence under the misdemeanor statute. But many juvenile courts are quick to extend juvenile probation for any infraction, including some that would ordinarily be seen as typical teenage “growing pains.”

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If your child has been charged with affray in juvenile court, he or she has most of the same important rights that adults have when they go to court. This includes, importantly, the right to a Georgia Affray Attorney who can ensure that all of your child's other invaluable rights are protected. Make sure your child gets the best possible representation. Call today.

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