What’s the Procedure for Juvenile Offenders in SC?

What’s the procedure for juvenile offenders in SC?

Juvenile cases are heard in the family court, and juvenile offenders in SC do not have the same constitutional protections that adults have. How does that affect the defense of juvenile cases, and what should you expect if your child has been arrested and charged with a crime in SC?

If your child has been accused of fighting in school, shoplifting, or another crime, what is the process for charging them and will they be kept in jail? Do you have to pay bond for a juvenile that has been arrested? What court will their case be heard in?

Will your child get a jury trial, and what rights do children have in SC courtrooms?

What’s the Procedure for Juvenile Offenders in SC?

What is a “juvenile offender?”

It’s a child – although I use “juvenile offender” as a matter of course, it is a euphemism that has the effect of desensitizing us to the fact that these are children we are talking about – they are not fully grown or fully matured, for the most part, they need guidance, not punishment, and they should not be treated the same as adults.

How are Juveniles Charged with a Crime in SC?

Children in SC are not charged with an arrest warrant or an indictment like adults. The charging document is a petition that is usually completed by the solicitor’s office that identifies what the child is being charged with.

When a child is arrested by police, the parent should be allowed to come to the station, pick up their child, and take them home except in the most serious cases where there is a risk to the child or to others.

The petition provides notice of the charges and when the child will need to appear in court with his or her attorney.

Can Juvenile Offenders Be Kept in Jail?

Children can be taken to the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), but they cannot be placed in the “adult” jail.

If a child is detained, there is no bond hearing like an adult would have. Instead, there must be a “probable cause hearing” within 48 hours of the arrest, where the government must explain why the child was detained and show probable cause as to why the child should continue to be detained.

If the child is not released after the probable cause hearing, another hearing must be scheduled within ten days, again to determine whether the child should be kept at DJJ and why.

Unless the child is a danger to themselves or others, they must be released to the custody of their parent or guardian.

Which Court Handles Juvenile Criminal Cases in SC?

Juvenile criminal cases are heard by the family court in SC.

In theory, this should result in the child receiving more services and support, in a court that is more understanding than the average criminal court.

In practice, this might mean that the child ends up in front of a judge who does not have criminal law experience, who does not often use the “beyond any reasonable doubt” standard, and who may be more interested in a child “fessing up” and taking responsibility than in protecting the child’s rights…

What Rights Do Children Have in SC?

Children should have all the rights that adults have in the criminal courts in SC, except the right to a jury trial.

They have the right to call witnesses, cross-examine the state’s witnesses, issue subpoenas, the right to remain silent, the right to testify, and the right to proof beyond any reasonable doubt.

These rights are all just about meaningless, however, because children do not have the right to a jury trial. If a child is wrongfully accused or if a child’s rights have been violated during the course of an arrest and prosecution, their only means of fighting the charges is to have a bench trial with a family court judge.

Should My Child Go to Trial in Their Juvenile Case?

It’s impossible to answer this question without reviewing the unique circumstances and law that applies to each child’s case.

But – without the benefit of an impartial jury, they are more likely to be convicted. The judge who decides guilt or innocence is the same judge who decides what evidence is inadmissible (which means they have seen the evidence that the fact-finder should not see because it is not admissible).

The judge who decides their case probably does not see many juvenile trials and is most likely used to the “preponderance of the evidence” or “clear and convincing evidence” standards that are used in the family court in divorce, custody, and child support cases.

What’s the Procedure for Juvenile Offenders in SC at Sentencing?

The potential sentence for any crime in juvenile court can range from a fine to incarceration until their 21st birthday, although a probationary period is more common.

After conviction (the appropriate euphemism is “adjudication of delinquency”), but before sentencing, many children are given an evaluation, which could be a “local evaluation” where the child stays with their parents or guardian, or the child could be sent to an “evaluation center,” which is basically a jail.

In either case, they will return to court with recommendations for sentencing based on the evaluation results. The Court will decide what sentence to impose based on the evaluation’s recommendations as well as input from the child’s defense attorney, prosecutor, and the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ).

Are There Diversion Programs for Juveniles in Charleston, SC?


In appropriate cases, your child may be allowed to complete “juvenile arbitration” instead of going to court on their charges. Arbitration is similar to adult diversion programs in that, when the child completes the requirements of the program, their charges are dismissed.

Does My Child Need a Lawyer for Juvenile Court?


No child should go to juvenile court without a competent defense attorney who is familiar with the juvenile courts, DJJ, and juvenile prosecutors. If you do not retain a Charleston juvenile defense lawyer, the court will appoint a public defender to represent your child…

Juvenile Criminal Defense Lawyer in Charleston, SC

If your child has been charged with a crime in the Charleston area, you want an experienced criminal defense attorney who understands how the juvenile criminal system works and who can protect your child at every step of the proceedings.

Call Charleston, SC juvenile defense lawyer Grant B. Smaldone now at (843) 808-2100 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.