Barton Child Law and Policy Center Newsletter
Dear Child Advocates, this update contains:
New Laws Take Effect This Week
Mandatory Life Without Parole for Children Found Unconstitutional
GACC Seeks Presentations for Youth Law Conference
Follow Us on Twitter!

2012 Legislation Takes Effect This Week  


Bills that pass the Georgia General Assembly and are not vetoed by the Governor generally take effect on July 1 unless a different date is specified in the bill.  Here are some changes to law affecting children that go into effect this week:


HB 861 was introduced by Representative Michael Harden (R-Toccoa) on February 1, 2012.  This bill adds a new code section, O.C.G.A. 49-4-193, to require drug testing of applicants prior to the receipt of public benefits and random drug testing of existing benefit recipients.  Those who test positive once will be denied benefits but can reapply after one month with a new test.  Anyone who fails a second test will be ineligible to reapply for 3 months. Anyone failing a third test will be ineligible for 1 year, unless they successfully complete a drug treatment program, in which case they can reapply after 6 months.  All who fail a test are to be provided with a list of substance abuse treatment programs in their area, though under the terms of the bill the state is not to pay for treatment. The cost of the drug tests is to be borne by the applicant, and is not to exceed $17 if the applicant is on Medicaid. A child's benefits are not supposed to be affected by a parent's positive test, and only 1 parent per household is required to comply with the testing requirement. HB 861 was signed by the Governor on April 5, 2012.        


HB 1176 was introduced by Representative Rich Golick (R-Smyrna) on February 27, 2012.  This bill encompasses a wide range of reforms recommended by the 2011 Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform for Georgians. Though the focus of the legislation is on reform of adult criminal proceedings, there are a number of provisions of interest to child advocates.  HB 1176 amends O.C.G.A. 19-7-5 to expand the professionals required to report child abuse to include clergy members and adds definitions to clarify that coaches and university personnel are required to report.  It also amends O.C.G.A. 17-3-2.1 to eliminate the statute of limitations on sexual crimes committed against children under age 16.  HB 1176 was signed by the Governor on May 2, 2012.  Though some of its criminal justice reforms have later effective dates, all of the child-related provisions take effect this week.  

SB 366 was introduced by Senator Johnny Grant (R-Milledgeville) on February 1, 2012.  This bill amends O.C.G.A. 49-4A-11 and adds a new code section 49-4A-15 to expand the list of items considered to be contraband in juvenile detention centers.  The bill prohibits bringing telecommunications devices and other contraband past the guard line of a Department of Juvenile Justice facility, and also prohibits anyone from giving any item to a child in such facility without permission.  It also eliminates the sunset provision on short-term detention programs in delinquency cases.  Previously, the maximum time for which a court could commit a child to the Department of Juvenile Justice under the short-term program was 60 days, but in recent years that maximum was reduced to 30 days for budgetary reasons.  It was scheduled to revert to 60 days on July 1, 2013, but due to the removal of this sunset provision will remain at the 30-day maximum indefinitely.   SB 366 was signed by the Governor on May 7, 2012.     


Bills with different effective dates 

Sometimes, the General Assembly will set a different date for a bill to take effect.  The following bills passed in 2012 but take effect at a different time, which is specified in the description below:      


HB 711 was introduced by Representative Edward Lindsey (R-Atlanta) on January 11, 2012.  This bill amends O.C.G.A. 24-5-503 to expand the circumstances in which a person can be forced to testify against his or her spouse.  Specifically, in cases where one spouse is accused of a crime against a child, the testifying spouse can be compelled to give any evidence relevant to the case. Additionally, if a spouse is accused of a crime against the other spouse, such as domestic violence, the victim spouse could be compelled to give testimony.  The bill also creates a new privilege, protecting communications between a victim and an advocate at a family violence, sexual assault, or rape crisis program.  HB 711 was signed by the Governor on April 16, 2012, but does not take effect until January 1, 2013.


HR 1151 was introduced by Representative Buzz Brockway (R-Lawrenceville) on January 24, 2012.  This resolution creates a joint study commission on human trafficking.  The study commission will be tasked with reviewing and making recommendations for a comprehensive system of services for child victims of commercial sexual exploitation. HR 1151 passed the House on February 7 and the Senate on March 29, 2012. As a resolution, this legislation did not require action by the Governor, and so took effect right away.  However, the commission members have not yet been appointed.  



U.S. Supreme Court Held Mandatory Life Without Parole Unconstitutional 


On June 25, 2012, the United States Supreme Court handed down its decision in the much anticipated case Miller v. Alabama, which challenged the practice of sentencing children to life without parole for homicide crimes.  The Supreme Court has previously held in 2010's
Graham v. Florida that it is unconstitutional to sentence a child to life without parole for a non-homicide crime.

In a 5-4 decision, the court held that a mandatory sentence of life without parole for a child under the age of 18 violates the 8th Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.  Justice Kagan, writing for the majority, stated that the "foundational principle" is  
"that imposition of a State's most severe penalties on juvenile offenders cannot proceed as though they were not children."

The decision was narrowly written to speak only to sentencing schemes that leave a court no option but to impose life without parole.  Georgia's sentencing laws are more discretionary, and therefore not directly implicated by the holding.  However, the framing of that foundational principle does indicate that courts should be considering a juvenile's age in determining sentencing. 



Georgia Association of Counsel for Children Seeks Proposals for Youth Law Conference Presentations      


The Georgia Association of Counsel for Children (GACC) is seeking abstracts for workshop presentations at the 2012 Georgia Youth Law Conference. The conference will be held in metropolitan Atlanta, October 28-31, 2012. Submissions are invited on topics relevant to child welfare and juvenile defense practice. Presentations related to the representation of clients with disabilities are particularly encouraged. The deadline for submissions is July 20, 2012. A submission form can be obtained from Jane Okrasinski, Executive Director of GACC, at



Follow us on Twitter


The Barton Center is twittering information relevant to child advocacy at the Capitol.  Follow us  at @bartoncenter at to get up-to-the-minute information on topics such as:

  • Times, dates, and locations of advocacy meetings and legislative hearings;
  • Status of juvenile court-related legislation;
  • Action alerts for important pro-child initiatives; and
  • News and research on best practices for children's law.

Begin following us by clicking on the Twitter icon to the right!  Follow us on Twitter 


Quick Links...
Learn more about our work at the Barton Child Law and Policy Center Website.

Learn more about our educational opportunities for law students and other graduate students at the Barton Center at Emory Law Website.

Donate. Your contribution directly supports the work of the Barton Child Law and Policy Center to improve the lives of abused, neglected and court-involved children. In the "select fund" drop down box, please choose "Robin Nash Fellowship" to help us launch the careers of talented new child advocates or choose "other" and write "Barton Center operations" to support all other aspects of our work. Thank you for your generous support; our work would not be possible without community contributions.

Join the Barton Center email list. The Barton Child Law and Policy Center sends weekly legislative updates when the Georgia General Assembly is in session. During the rest of the year we send periodic emails with information on upcoming educational opportunities, legislative and policy developments, research findings, and changes to law, policy and practice. Sign up here to receive important updates on children's law in Georgia.