In South Carolina, the terms “juvenile” or “child” refer to persons less than 17 years of age. However, the terms “child” and “juvenile” are not applicable when a person is 16-years-old or older and charged with a Class A, B, C, or D felony as defined in SC Code Section 16-1-20 or a felony that holds a maximum imprisonment term of 15 years or more. However, the Solicitor may use discretion to remand those felonies back to family court for disposition.
Children can enter the juvenile justice system in South Carolina by law enforcement or by a referral from SC DJJ (Department of Juvenile Justice) or a Circuit Solicitor. Depending on the nature of the charge, law enforcement may decide to send the child to a juvenile detention center, pending a hearing. After DJJ submits its recommendations, the Solicitor uses its discretion to do any of the following: divert a juvenile to a community program (e.g. drug court or juvenile arbitration), require restitution, proceed with prosecution in Juvenile Court, or dismiss the case.
During Juvenile Court, the family court judge has to determine the guilty or innocence of a juvenile and with sentencing juveniles “adjudicated delinquent” (found guilty). Often the family court judge will order a DJJ evaluation before making his final determination. The evaluation occurs over the course of a few weeks at one of the three regional evaluation centers and produces an evaluation report that is submitted to the family court judge, DJJ, the Solicitor, and defense attorney for review. A family court judge may find the juvenile “not delinquent” (not guilty) or “delinquent” (guilty). If found delinquent, a juvenile may be put on probation, given a “determinant” sentence (specific amount of time), or given an “indeterminate” commitment. Indeterminate commitment involves being held for indefinite period of time up to the age of 21. The indefinite period will vary depending on the type of charge, juvenile’s history, and the evaluation of juvenile’s behavior and progress. After a juvenile’s commitment, DJJ may grant a juvenile conditional or unconditional release. Conditional release could involve parole supervision and/or programs at a wilderness camp or group home.
Juvenile Resources & Links
South Carolina Juvenile Justice Code
South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice
DJJ Expungement Fact Sheet
SC Fathers and Families - Juvenile Expungement
South Carolina Children’s Law Center – Juvenile Justice Publications
National Juvenile Defender Center – Practice and Policy Resources
Southern Juvenile Defender Center
Southern Poverty Law Center – Children’s Rights
Youth Law Center Resource Library – Juvenile Justice
Juvenile Law Center Resources (PA)
ACLU School to Prison Pipeline
Ending the Schoolhouse to Jailhouse Track – Advancement Project
This information was prepared to give you some general information on the law. It is not intended as legal advice about any particular problem. If you have questions about the law you should consult a lawyer. If you do not know a lawyer, you can call the South Carolina Bar Lawyer Referral Service weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. The number is 799-7100 in Richland or Lexington Counties, and 1-800-868-2284 from other parts of the state.