Two teens rescued from the rocks at High Falls State Park on May 29 have been charged with criminal trespassing.
The misdemeanor citations to appear before a Probate Court judge carry a maximum sentence of up to a year in a county jail and a $1,000 fine, said Capt. Chris Hodge of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
Probation and community service are also options for the judge.
"It's completely up to the court," Hodge said Tuesday.
The teens could have been formally arrested, fingerprinted and taken to jail, but they were not, Hodge said.
They were scolded on social media and their actions prompted a stern warning about the dangers of the river from Monroe County's Emergency Management Agency director, Matt Perry.
"If you don't obey the safety signs, you're going to end up having to get rescued by us, or worse, put in a body bag," Perry told reporters after the teens' rescue.
Not only did the teens put themselves at risk, they placed rescuers' lives in danger, Hodge said.
When state officials interviewed the teens, they acknowledged that they saw signs warning them not to be on the rocks and that they knew they were not supposed to be there, Hodge said.
Additionally, their mothers had warned them not to go there, Hodge said.
Faced with increasing rescues and a second death last year, state officials decided to start charging people who disobey park rules and put themselves and others in harm's way, Hodge said.
"We want to get the message across that they've got to stay off the rocks," Hodge said. "They've got to say out of the river out there because there are so many bad things that could happen."
Last fall, 12-year-old Christian Burdette died when he and his brother, James, slipped and fell while walking along the peak of the park's highest waterfall. James Burdette had to be rescued by helicopter.
At the start of the 2017 Memorial Day weekend, a 38-year-old Savannah woman fell down the falls and died. Danielle Flanagan slipped while having her picture taken at the top of the falls while she was visiting the park with her husband and 4-year-old child.
Staff writer Liz Fabian contributed to this article.