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?

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 robberyattempted 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.