I recently handled a transfer hearing for a case involving a juvenile charged with, among other things, DUI vehicular homicide. The district attorney sought to transfer the case from juvenile court to superior court, and we contested that motion. Many friends and colleagues asked me about these transfer hearings generally proceed and, in particular, how we prepared for the hearing involving a Georgia DUI-vehicular homicide charge. Below are a few of the issues that I believe are most important:
- Know your state's case law regarding the types of cases that are typically transferred. I think that one of the most compelling arguments against transferring a juvenile to superior court in a DUI vehicular homicide case is the lack of specific intent associated with this crime. Consider the appellate cases addressing whether a transfer is appropriate. In Georgia, there is not a single reported case that I am aware in which a case was transferred from juvenile court to superior court that involved a crime of general intent. How can the state show a pattern of activity in committing a general intent crime such that the juvenile is incapable of being adequately treated by the juvenile court?
- Prepare for your child's school history. A vehicular homicide charge is, for the most part, a random act. As one witness in a recent transfer hearing testified, it could be any of us. The child certainly did not intend to commit the act alleged. Nonetheless, the state will introduce even instance of poor behavior from the child's school records to show a “pattern” of misbehavior and disobedience.
- Have the child evaluated by a substance abuse counselor. Plan on the state eliciting testimony from some of the child's teachers about petty child behavioral issues in an effort to show that the child has repeatedly disregarded adult supervision. Rebut this with a professional who can establish that the child does not have a substance abuse problem, and any concerns regarding future problems can be addressed through the supervision programs provided by the Department of Juvenile Justice or your state's equivalent agency.
- Know your local department's limitations for oversight and treatment of juveniles.
- Be prepared to argue against the child “aging out” of the juvenile system. The state will argue that the child cannot be adequately treated by the juvenile system because of the closeness to adulthood.
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