Juvenile Criminal Defense
When a minor is charged with a crime, his or her case is usually heard in the Family Court, or Juvenile Court, instead of General Sessions. A juvenile defendant has most of the same rights that an adult has, including the right to a trial, the right to call witnesses and to cross-examine the state's witnesses, the right to subpoena witnesses and evidence, the right to remain silent, and the right to proof beyond any reasonable doubt. A juvenile defendant does not have the right to a jury trial in South Carolin but instead must have a bench trial in front of a family court judge.
A minor sixteen years of age or older will automatically be charged in General Sessions rather than Family Court, if their charge is a Class A, B, C, or D felony or if the charge carries a maximum potential penalty of fifteen years or more. This includes most burglaries and most violent crimes such as armed robbery, assault with intent to kill, or homicide. Under certain circumstances, a child as young as fourteen can be tried as an adult in General Sessions Court.
If a minor has been charged with a crime in the juvenile court, they may be released to their parents' custody or detained. If they are arrested, they cannot be housed at the adult detention center; they must be held at a detention center for juveniles. The state must provide a detention hearing within 48 hours of the arrest, at which point the judge will determine if there was sufficient probable cause to justify the detention and whether the detention should be continued. If the child is not released at this time, another detention hearing must be held within 10 days from the first hearing.
If a child pleads guilty or is found guilty in the Juvenile Court, they are "adjudicated delinquent." The penalties in juvenile court can include pre-trial diversion programs or arbitration, probation, or incarceration at a juvenile facility for an indeterminate period not to exceed the juvenile's 21st birthday. Often, the Court will order an evaluation, either while at home or at an evaluation center, and then the Court will sentence the child after receiving further recommendations based on the evaluation.
Any child accused of a crime in the Juvenile Court needs to have an attorney present to advise them and help them through the process. If your child has been accused of a crime in the Juvenile Court, call our Myrtle Beach office at 843-444-6122 or contact us online to find out if we can help.