Articles on South Carolina Law

Top 16 Questions Answered About Juvenile Charges in SC

by | Mar 21, 2015 | Criminal Defense, Juvenile Defense

1. My juvenile has been arrested. Why do I need an attorney to represent him/her?

SC law requires juveniles facing criminal adjudication to have an attorney represent the minor.

2. Do I qualify for a public defender to represent my juvenile?

Contact the public defender’s office to find out. The application will be an inquiry of the parent or guardian’s income, not the juvenile’s. If a parent/ guardian does not qualify for a public defender, the Court may require the parent/guardian to hire a private attorney to represent the juvenile.

3. What age is considered a “juvenile” in SC?

Anyone who is age 16 or younger when they committed the alleged crime is considered a juvenile in SC. If someone is 17 years old or older when they committed the alleged crime, they will not be charged as a juvenile; they will be charged as an adult. There are some situations that someone age 16 or younger can be tried as an adult and this decision is largely dependent on whether the prosecutor wants to do.

4. What can I expect after my juvenile is arrested? (timeline)

  1. Juvenile taken into custody (the equivalent of arrest)
  2. Parent/ guardian notified and depending on the offense,
    • Juvenile is allowed to be picked up by parent/guardian; or
    • Juvenile is not allowed to be picked up by parent/ guardian
  3. If detained, Juvenile will have a Detention Hearing in front of a judge to determine if he/she can be released from detention. This is similar to a bond hearing. The Judge will determine if there was probable cause for the arrest. The Detention Hearing must be held within 48 hours of the time the child was taken into custody, excluding weekends and holidays.
  4. If the juvenile is detained, the Judge may determine where to secure juvenile detention, such as a juvenile detention facility, an approved home, or program. The juvenile will remained detained until the Adjudication Hearing. The juvenile cannot be detained for more than 90 days between the Detention Hearing and Adjudication Hearing, absent exceptional circumstances.
  5. School Expulsion hearing – Principle of the juvenile’s school is notified if the juvenile committed an offense that, if committed by an adult, would be classified as a misdemeanor or a felony. (Note: the Law Office of Susan Williams does not handle school expulsion hearings; however can handle criminal charges)
  6. Juvenile obtains a public defender or a private attorney prior to the first court appearance
  7. Intake Interview- Juvenile will meet with someone from the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) for an interview
  8. Discovery- Juvenile’s lawyer obtains all evidence against the juvenile and reviews this with the juvenile
  9. Juvenile’s attorney discusses case with law enforcement, prosecutor, etc. and will likely enter into plea negotiations. If there are any plea offers, attorney will convey to juvenile
  10. Adjudication Hearing- juvenile will plead guilty, not guilty, enter into a diversion program, a conditional discharge, or any other options available. If the juvenile pleads not guilty, there will be a bench trial at a later date.
  11. Disposition Hearing- The judge will make a final ruling and/or sentence the juvenile.

5. What kind of things does a Judge consider when sentencing a Juvenile?

School records, seriousness of the charge, evaluation reports from DJJ, behavior at home, and prior court history

6. What are the possible sentences at a Disposition Hearing for a juvenile?

  1. Probation –the juvenile will be released to the parent/guardian and have some conditions to abide by. If the juvenile does not abide by the probation conditions, they may be facing going to juvenile jail.
  2. Put the juvenile in a juvenile detention center/ jail for a determinate sentence of up to 90 days
  3. Put the juvenile in a juvenile detention center/jail for an indeterminate sentence not to exceed his 21st birthday

7. Do Juveniles have jury trials?

No. If there is a trial, it will be a bench trial. This means the presiding judge will hear the case and decide whether the juvenile is guilty or not guilty. If the juvenile is found not guilty, the juvenile will be eligible to have the records associated with the case destroyed. If the juvenile is found guilty, the judge will sentence the juvenile.

8. My juvenile was searched at school without his/her parent being present. Were his rights violated?

An illegal search and seizure could be a possible defense to the juvenile’s case. An experienced juvenile defense attorney can tell you the pros and cons of the search. Public school students have a lesser expectation of privacy than the average citizen because they are considered “wards of the state” during the hours they attend public school. Public school students do not have the same expectation of privacy as the average citizen or adult. Generally, parents do not need to be present while the juvenile is being searched.

9. Do I need representation at a school expulsion hearing?

This is up to the parent/ guardian of the juvenile. An attorney that has represented other clients in expulsion hearings may be beneficial. Attorney Susan Williams does not represent juveniles in expulsion hearings; she does, however, represent juveniles in family court with criminal charges.

10. Can a juvenile’s information be released?

No, unless in certain situations, including but not limited to a Court Order, the juvenile is being tried as an adult, or if the child has been adjudicated delinquent for certain offenses.

11. My juvenile has been adjudicated delinquent in court (plead guilty or found guilty by the Judge). Will my juvenile’s charge stay on his record the rest of his life?

Depends on what the juvenile was found guilty of. If the crime is a nonviolent offense, the child will be eligible to have records of the charge destroyed.

After the child turns 18, an attorney can help you determine if the juvenile is eligible for an expungement. The charge is not automatically expunged upon the child turning 18; you must apply for the expungement. The judge has discretion on whether the record will be destroyed.

12. Is my juvenile going to an adult jail if found guilty?

No. Juveniles are housed separately from adults and will go to a facility with other juveniles.

13. How much jail time is my juvenile facing?

The answer depends on what the crime the juvenile is charged with, prior criminal record, school attendance, school behavior, and other factors.

14. I cannot control my juvenile. He/she won’t go to school or listen to our house rules. What can I do?

Contact the Department of Juvenile Justice and report the juvenile as incorrigible. The juvenile will go through the court system and hopefully get the situation under control.

15. My juvenile got arrested for a drug charge while hanging out with the wrong crowd. What are his options?

A conditional discharge may be an option. The juvenile will plead guilty to the charge. The court will impose certain restrictions on the juvenile such as community service, counseling, supervision and random drug screens. If the juvenile successfully completes all the requirements imposed by the Court, the charge will be dismissed. A conditional discharge is a privilege and not a right. An attorney can help you determine if the juvenile is eligible.

16. Will a juvenile that has been adjudicated delinquent be allowed to vote?

Yes. A Delinquency Adjudication is not a conviction. As long as the juvenile completes the terms of his/her treatment, rehab, and supervision, the juvenile can still vote upon turning 18 years old.

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