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Criminal law experts host talk with area youth
Slots still open for Wednesday event at UNG's Oakwood campus
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Do You Know the Law?

What: A conversation with youth and local law enforcement
When: 6:30 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Continuing Education Building at the University of North Georgia, 3820 Mundy Mill Road, Oakwood
How much: Free
More info:, 770-535-5835

Do you know the law?

On the surface it’s a simple question, but staying within the boundaries of a complex criminal justice system can be more difficult than it seems, particularly for younger people.

And there are important distinctions to know, Hall County Juvenile Court Judge Cliff Jolliff said.

"In some ways, until you’re 18 you’re a minor, but in the criminal laws, when you turn 17 — and some crimes, when you turn 13 — you’re prosecuted as an adult," he said.

Wednesday evening at the University of North Georgia’s Oakwood campus, public officials, Jolliff among them, will seek to educate young people on how the law affects and applies to them.

Department of Juvenile Justice Commissioner Avery Niles is hosting the event, set for 6:30 p.m. and called "Do You Know the Law: An Engaged Conversation with Our Youth and Local Law Enforcement."

The event will target those between the ages of 12 and 21, said Andre Cheek, education consultant with the department.

"Commissioner Avery Niles actually came to me and said that he would like to host a teen forum starting in Gainesville-Hall County, and then possibly expanding across the state of Georgia, educating teens on the law, things they need to know to prevent them from coming into the system," she said.

The event aims to address problems in the community pro-actively, and not re-actively, Cheek said.

"It’s about educating them and having a conversation, as opposed to talking to them after they get in trouble," she said.

At least 75 people have confirmed they will attend, but Cheek said she would like more if possible.

Jolliff previewed some of the information the panel hopes to convey.

"I think the focus is to try to help young people understand what the difference is between a misdemeanor and a felony, and how that applies to you if you’re in juvenile court versus adult court," Jolliff said.

He cited an example of a situation that a young person might assume is merely a deviant behavior, not a felony.

"You’re 13 in the state, and you engage in sexual behavior of a certain kind with another kid, and you find yourself prosecuted as an adult for a crime that carries a 25-year minimum prison sentence with no parole. That’s the best example," Jolliff said.

Those between 13 and 16 with experience in juvenile court may not realize a more egregious offense can mean serving serious time, Jolliff said.

"People don’t know that, and so when it happens to them — you think about it ... it’s important to let kids know some of these things," he said.

A light meal will be provided at the event, Cheek said, and those planning to attend should RSVP to or 770- 535-5835.

"If parents or organizations are still interested in participating, and they think they’ve missed the deadline date, we will still accept their RSVP by Tuesday," she said.