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GA Court of Appeals Rules that Child’s Indictment Must be Quashed

October 1, 2013

In Edwards v. State, the Georgia Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s denial of the defendant’s motion to quash the indictment, holding, in a case of first impression, that the 180-day time period for the State to obtain an indictment against a juvenile is not tolled when the child is released on bond.

As a result of obtaining the indictment over 280 days after the child’s arrest, the superior court was required to transfer the case to juvenile court.

The 16 year-old defendant was arrested for kidnapping and armed robbery by use of a firearm. Although he was a juvenile, the superior court had exclusive jurisdiction over the case by statute because the case involved an alleged armed robbery. Edwards was detained at a Youth Detention Center in Thomasville on August 25th, 2011. He was then released on bond on December 18th, 2011. He was indicted on June 1st, 2012—over 280 days after he was first arrested. The child then filed a motion to quash the indictment and transfer the case to juvenile court because the State failed to indict him within the statutory time period.

Jurisdiction in this case was subject to OCGA 17-7-50.1, which provides that “any child who is charged with a crime that is within the jurisdiction of the superior court…who is detained shall, within 180 days of the date of detention, be entitled to have the charge against him or her presented to the grand jury.” The statute further provides that if the grand jury does not return an indictment against the juvenile within the 180-day time limit, the case must be transferred to juvenile court. The issue for the Court of Appeals was whether the 180-day time period continued to run even after the defendant was released on bond and therefore no longer detained.

The superior court denied the motion to quash the indictment on the grounds that the defendant’s actual incarceration was less than the 180-day time limit set by the statute. The Court of Appeals disagreed, holding that the date of detention triggers the start of the 180 days, but that “nothing in the statute mandates that the defendant continue to be detained for the entire 180-day period.” The Court reasoned that the purpose of the statute was to give a detained child charged with a felony a certain date by which he could expect an indictment. Thus, preventing the detention of a child for an undue amount of time. Once the grand jury failed to return an indictment within the 180-day time period, the Court said that the only action the superior court could take in the case was to transfer it to the juvenile court. The indictment in this case was void since it was returned after the 180 days had run.

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