Juvenile Criminal Defense

When a minor is charged with a crime in South Carolina, his or her case is usually heard in the Family Court, also called the Juvenile Court, instead of General Sessions.

What happens after a minor is charged in SC’s juvenile court? What rights do they have, and what are the possible outcomes?

What Rights Do Children Have in SC’s Juvenile Courts?

A juvenile defendant has most of the same rights that an adult has, including:

  • The right to a trial;
  • The right to call witnesses;
  • The right to cross-examine the state's witnesses;
  • The right to subpoena witnesses and evidence;
  • The right to remain silent;
  • The right to testify in their own defense; and
  • The right to proof beyond any reasonable doubt.

A juvenile defendant does not have what may be the most important right – the right to a jury trial. Instead, minors must have a bench trial in front of a family court judge.

Can My Child Be Charged as an Adult?

There are some situations where a minor will be charged as an adult in SC courts. Under SC Code § 63-19-1210, the general rule is that a minor under the age of 18 must be tried in the family court.

When a child is 17 years of age or older, they can be tried as an adult if they are charged with a misdemeanor or a Class E or F felony that is punishable by ten years or less.

If a child is 14, 15, or 16 years old and they are charged with a Class A, B, C, or D felony, or any felony that carries 15 years or more as a potential sentence, they can also be tried as an adult in General Sessions Court.

This includes most burglaries and most violent crimes such as armed robbery, attempted murder, or murder. Under certain circumstances, a child as young as fourteen can be tried as an adult in General Sessions Court.

In some cases, we may be able to get their case sent back to the Family Court. In other cases – for example, if we have a solid defense and want a jury trial – we might prefer to have the case in General Sessions…

How Long Can They Hold My Child After Arrest?

If a minor has been charged with a crime in SC juvenile court, they may be released to their parents' custody or detained. They should be released, unless the officer believes that they are a danger to themselves or the community.

If they are detained, 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.

What Happens if My Child Is Found Guilty in SC Juvenile Court?

If a child pleads guilty or is found guilty in the Juvenile Court, they have been "adjudicated delinquent."

The penalties in juvenile court can range from pre-trial diversion programs, arbitration, or probation, to incarceration at a juvenile facility for an indeterminate period not to exceed the juvenile's 21st birthday.

Often, the Court will order an evaluation after accepting the plea or after the verdict. The evaluation could be ordered to be done at home or at an evaluation center, and then another hearing will be scheduled where the Court will sentence the child after receiving further recommendations based on the evaluation.

SC Juvenile Criminal Defense Lawyer in Myrtle Beach, Columbia, and Lexington

Every child accused of a crime in the Juvenile Court needs to have an attorney present to protect them, advise them, and help them to get the best possible outcome – when a juvenile case goes wrong, the consequences can be long-lasting and heartbreaking.

If your child has been accused of a crime and charged in SC’s Juvenile Court, call the Thompson & Hiller Defense Firm now at (843) 444-6122 or contact us online to find out how we can help.

Client Reviews
Mindi and Laura were an amazing team team in helping my son with a traffic violation. There responsiveness from answering my phone call, to being able to pay the invoice online, showing up to court and representing my son for a ticket in less than 24 hours. Not to mention successfully having the ticket dismissed. The process was explained to us clearly each step of the way. This allowed us to prepare for any possible ramifications as well being patient with any questions we may have had. Even if the ticket did not get dismissed the care and attention they showed towards my son's situation made us feel very safe in their good hands for this legal matter. N. Jones
I retained Lacey Thompson & Hiller, defense firm for a difficult domestic violence case. She provided a strategy that won my case. Her legal skills are great, but just as important she's a supportive attorney who truly cares and her advice was spot on. I'll always be thankful. Besides Lacey, all the staff that I worked with at Thompson & Hiller firm were terrific: competent, professional, and personable. I recommend Lacey Thompson to everybody who needs a defense attorney. Anonymous
Attorney Laura Hiller, assisted me in 2013 by representing my daughter who at the time was only (14) years old in a juvenile criminal case being tried as an adult. The State charged her with murder. The claims at the time were completely shocking to myself and my daughter at the time and I wasn't sure what to do or who I needed to assist me with this. That's when I met Laura, who in all honesty kept me sane and hopeful through the entire process. She was so thorough when it came to gathering all information from all parties involved, aggressive when stepping into the courtroom, and behind the scenes. Most importantly though she was invested in proving my daughters innocence and I will forever be grateful for her and her work. My daughter's case was dismissed! Definitely who you want in your corner, whether the case is big or small. L.P.M.