Who is a “child” in South Carolina?
Age restrictions that affect the definition of a “child” may vary from issue to issue. Here is a list of the common areas of the law that affect children.

General
South Carolina law states that a child is a person under the age of 18. However, when used in the context of delinquency and criminal acts, “child” refers to a person who is under 17 (under 16 for some serious crimes). Children involved in delinquency proceedings are often referred to as “juveniles.” A child is considered to be an adult when they reach the age of majority. “Age of majority” is the age, defined by law, at which a person gains all the rights and responsibilities that come with being an adult.

SECTION 63-1-40. Definitions

Juvenile justice
If you are accused of violating a criminal law and you are at least 17 years old (16 for certain serious crimes), you will be treated as an adult. In South Carolina, if you break the law while you are under the age of 17 (or under 16 for some serious crimes), you are treated as a juvenile. Juveniles who are charged with a criminal offense go to the family court. In family court, a juvenile has the right to have an attorney and the right to a hearing before a family court judge, but a juvenile does not have the right to a jury trial.

SECTION 63-19-20. Definitions

Emancipation
When a person reaches the age of majority, they are said to be “emancipated.” Generally, emancipation is that point in time when parents are no longer legally responsible for their children,and children are no longer legally required to answer to their parents. It is when parents no longer have to provide a person with food, clothing, medical care and education. The age of majority in SC is 18.

There are times when a person under the age of majority is treated as an adult and thus, emancipated. A child may be emancipated earlier when there is an agreement between the parent and child that the child is able to provide for herself/himself and therefore, may leave the home and take control of her/his own life. You may also be emancipated when you get married.

Contracts
In general, a child cannot enter into a contract or other legally binding agreement. However, if a child enters into a contract while they are under age 18, they can make it legally binding by agreeing to the contract in writing (called ratification) when they turn 18 years old. One exception is that ability to sign a contract to borrow money to attend an institution of higher education. A child can own and transfer title to property and may also have a bank account but most banks require that you be 15 years old to have an account by yourself.

SECTION 63-5-500. "South Carolina Uniform Gifts to Minors Act"

SECTION 63-5-310. Ratification of minor's contracts

SECTION 63-5-320. Minor's capacity to borrow for higher education

Alcohol
A person must be 21 years of age to purchase or possess beer, wine or alcoholic beverages. It is also against the law for a person under age 21 to present a false identification (fake I.D.) of his or her age in order to purchase beer or alcohol.

SECTION 61-4-50. Sales to underage persons

Tobacco
It is a crime for anyone to sell or give tobacco or tobacco products to a person under the age of 18. It is also a noncriminal, civil offense for anyone under 18 to purchase or possess tobacco products. Anyone under 18 who violates this law may be fined; may be ordered to complete a smoking cessation class or community service; or may have his or her driving privileges delayed, suspended or restricted.

SECTION 16-17-500. Sale or purchase of tobacco products...

Marriage
In order to get married, both parties must be at least 16 years old. In South Carolina, a couple must have a license to get married. The Probate Court or Clerk of Court, depending on the county in which you live, usually issues these licenses. In order to get a license, both the parties must be at least 16. If you are under 18, you must have the written consent of your parent or guardian. If the female is pregnant or has had a child and she and the father of her child are agreeing to marry with the written consent of her parent or guardian, then a marriage license will be issued regardless of the age of the male or female.

SECTION 20-1-100. Minimum age for valid marriage

Section 20-1-300. Issuance of license to unmarried female and male under eighteen years of age when female is pregnant or has borne a child.

For more information, check out the following:
Kids Law
Kids Law Companion (A teaching Guide)

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.