Charleston Juvenile Criminal Defense Lawyer
Are Juvenile Cases different?
Juveniles who are charged with a criminal or status offense (runaway, truancy) in Charleston, SC are treated differently than adults. In South Carolina, the Family Court has jurisdiction over the case. However, certain crimes may be remanded to adult court where the case will be heard in general sessions. Because Juveniles are treated differently it’s important to have an experienced Charleston Juvenile CriminalDefense Lawyer to help with your child’s case.
What Age is a Juvenile
In South Carolina for the purposes of the juvenile system a child means less than seventeen (17) years of age.
What Happens When a Child is Arrested?
Any person who believes that a child has committed a criminal or status offense, typically law enforcement, will prepare a petition which is a formal document that lists:
- The facts;
- The Child’s name, age, and address;
- Name and addresses of the child’s parents.
After the petition is filed, the child and the child’s parents are notified of the charge(s) and a court date is set for the adjudicatory hearing. Juvenile cases move very fast compared to criminal charges in the criminal adult system (general sessions).
What Happens When a Child is Taken into Custody?
A child may be taken into custody, similar to the adult system, but they will be held in a juvenile facility not with adults. The decision to take a child into custody is solely in the discretion of law enforcement.
Do Juveniles Have Miranda Rights?
Yes, when taken into custody, a child has the same rights as an adult when it comes to police questioning. That includes Miranda warnings and the 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination.
There is no law requiring the child’s parents to be present during questioning. So somehow a child being subjected to questioning from adults who are trained law enforcement officers is suppose to be able to know their rights and then have the ability to exercise them in the face of that pressure.
What is Detention?
When a child is taken into custody by law enforcement, the arresting officer decides whether to release the child to a parent or guardian or detain the child in a juvenile facility. A child can only be detained if they are accused of a violent offense (defined by statute), had possession of a deadly weapon, or has no suitable placement options.
What is a Detention Hearing?
A child that is detained must have a detention hearing in family court within 48 hours from the time they were taken into custody (excluding weekends and holidays).
A lawyer will be appointed if one is not already retained. A representative from the DJJ (Department of Juvenile Justice) will be present and make a recommendation to the court, however the court is not required to follow that recommendation. At the conclusion of the detention hearing the judge will determine:
- whether probable cause exists to justify the detention of the child;
- Is it appropriate to detain the child further.
A child that is ordered detained is entitled to another hearing within ten (10) days following the initial 48 hour hearing, and within thirty (30) days following the ten day hearing.
A child must not be detained greater than 90 days absent exceptional circumstances.
When referred for prosecution, a child will go through a screening process that independently assesses the needs of the child. A caseworker will provide information to the parents about the system and will also attempt to identify appropriate services that may be available.
If the child meets certain criteria, the solicitor may allow the child’s case to be diverted from the juvenile justice system and instead of being formally prosecuted the child will enter a diversion program such as arbitration, pre-trial intervention, or a mentor program.
Can a Juvenile be Charged as an Adult?
Yes, under certain conditions. A juvenile case can be waived and prosecuted as an adult. This is determined by the age of the child and the type of crime the child is accused of committing.
What is an Adjudication?
At the adjudication hearing, the child is determined to be guilty or innocent of the charged offense. At this stage the child will either admit or deny the allegations in the petition.
Entering a plea in the juvenile system is very similar to the adult system. A child’s attorney may enter into negotiations with the prosecutor that could include a reduction in the charge, dismissal of one or more charges, or an agreement to probation. When a child enters a guilty plea the judge must be satisfied that it is entered into voluntarily.
What is an Adjudicatory Hearing?
If the child denies the allegations in the petition an adjudicatory hearing is held in front of the family court judge similar to a trial. The standard is proof beyond a reasonable doubt, the same as an adult court. There is no jury and after the trial the judge will either make a finding of guilt and adjudicate them or find them innocent based on the facts. An adjudicated delinquent finding will not result in a criminal conviction. The hearings are closed to the general public.
The majority of children adjudicated are placed on probation but that is not a guarantee. If probation is ordered then the terms of that probation will be set and the child will be required to follow the term for that period.
Can You Expunge a Juvenile’s Record
Upon reaching 18 years of age a child that was adjudicated delinquent may petition the court for an order destroying all official records, commonly called an Expungement. The granting of this is at the court’s discretion and will only do so if the child has successfully completed any sentenced imposed, has not be rearrested for a criminal offense.