In South Carolina there is a separate court system for juveniles. One is considered a juvenile defendant if he or she is under the age of seventeen (17). Our juvenile court system is very different from the adult system.
Juveniles do not have a constitutional right to a bond hearing. Once a child is taken into the custody of the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), a Detention Hearing must be held within forty-eight (48) hours. The Detention Hearing is a combination of a Bond Hearing and a Preliminary Hearing regarding the facts of the case. There is a very limited time to prepare for these Hearings. We gather the Petition, police reports, interview the client at DJJ, speak with parents and guardians and discuss with the Juvenile Prosecutor their intentions regarding detention. When appropriate, we will explore the alternatives to detention, such as home confinement or a treatment facility. We will also discuss with DJJ staff their recommendations for the child. Please contact our office immediately so that we may begin investigating your child’s matter. Often times with the input of the parents, we can craft a specific plan that will guide the juvenile into a treatment plan they may have previously resisted.
Trials in the juvenile court system are called adjudications and are non-jury. The overriding purpose of the juvenile system is to rehabilitate youthful offenders and give them the structure needed to be successful. A juvenile’s record may be sealed or destroyed depending on the type of charge. Once sealed, the minor’s records may not be opened for inspection unless ordered by the court. If a juvenile is interested in the military, it is important to note that upon application to the service, the service branch will request a Form Five (5) which allows them to view a juvenile’s criminal record before deciding whether or not to accept that individual into that branch of the armed forces. There are several ways to defend the case, and if appropriate, can include diversionary programs offering a second chance. Programs such as Pre-Trial Diversion (PTD), community service, paying restitution, and counseling, once successfully completed, will result in the charges being dismissed.