A juvenile is defined as a person less than 17 years of age. Though a child can be charged with the same crimes as an adult, the state of South Carolina has a separate legal system for most charges involving a juvenile. If your child has been arrested for a criminal charge, it is imperative that you seek legal counsel from a qualified criminal defense attorney so that your child has the best chance at justice. At TF Law, our knowledgable Columbia juvenile crime lawyers pride themselves on aggressive defense tactics while maintaining compassion for the unique needs of each client.
Common Juvenile Crimes and Their Penalties in Columbia
The most common juvenile crimes will be handled through family court. In these hearings, a family court judge will preside over a bench trial, meaning there is no jury. This protects the juvenile defendant's information, allows the opportunity for the crime to be viewed as a family issue, and distributes lesser sentences than the minimum requirements for adults charged in general sessions. Some of the most common juvenile arrests in South Carolina are:
- Minor in possession of alcohol
- Underage drinking
- Simple possession of marijuana
- Public disorderly conduct
- Assault and battery
The penalties for these criminal offenses can vary widely depending on the minor's criminal history, school attendance and behavior, home life, and the severity of the crime. The age and maturity of the child are also heavily considered when determining the consequences.
For the above regular crimes, possible penalties include:
- Community service hours
- Mandatory counseling
- Diversion programs - such as pre-trial intervention, drug, and alcohol education
- Incarceration at the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ)
Children younger than 11 cannot be detained in a juvenile detention center. Depending on the nature of the crime, a juvenile may be sentenced anywhere from a number of days in jail for minor offenses to a number of years for serious crimes. A criminal defense lawyer can help protect your child from having to spend any period of time in DJJ and will fight for lesser punishments or to have the charges dropped altogether.
Can a Juvenile Be Convicted of a Felony in South Carolina?
Yes. A juvenile can be charged with any crime that an adult can including drug crimes, federal crimes, property crimes, sex crimes, and violent crimes. The process looks quite different for each child depending on the age and the felony charge. If the juvenile is over the age of 14, the solicitor may submit a waiver to have the child tried in general sessions instead of in family court. This would give the minor the right to a jury trial, but also risks harsher punishments.
There are also regulations on what information can be released about a child charged with a felony and they may have the opportunity to have it removed from their criminal record at a later date.
Felony charges can have a damaging effect on your child's future and mental health. Seeking legal counsel is imperative in ensuring the best possible outcome for a juvenile's livelihood.
What to Do if Your Child is Arrested
The two most important things to do if your child is arrested are to remember their rights and seek criminal defense counsel. The state of South Carolina requires all minors to have criminal defense representation if charged with a juvenile crime. If you cannot afford a private criminal attorney, you will be assigned a public defender.
The legal process after the parent/guardian is notified can be long and complicated. There will be bond hearings, detention hearings, interviews, evidence, and negotiations. A Columbia criminal defense lawyer will support and guide you through the process, giving you more space to support and guide your child. An aggressive attorney will be dedicated to ensuring the best possible outcome. They will negotiate for lesser charges and penalties, consider a plea bargain, and do their best to get the case completely dismissed.
Should Your Child Speak to the Police Without a Lawyer?
No. Your child is not required to speak to the police. They have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. It is important to teach your child about these rights. Asking for a parent is not enough to halt questioning. They must clearly state they are choosing to remain silent and would like to speak with an attorney.
Contact a Juvenile Criminal Defense Lawyer Today
If you are a juvenile who has been charged with a crime or the parent of a minor, contact a lawyer to learn about your defense option. An experienced and dedicated attorney is your best chance of defense for protecting your child's record and thereby their future. Contact our Columbia defense team today for your free consultation.