Juvenile Defense

Detention Hearing

Juvenile DefenseIf your child has been detained there is a very limited time to prepare for the Detention Hearing. Attorneys Peter Brown and Donald Sorenson are experienced Juvenile Defense Attorneys, who can quickly gather police reports, petitions, and communicate with the juvenile’s prosecutor. Let us professionally prepare for the hearing and give your child an opportunity for release. Attorney Peter Brown and Attorney Donald Sorenson have over sixty (60) years of courtroom experience and as a result have formed strong relationships and reputations with Family Court Judges and staff.

In South Carolina there is a separate court system for juveniles within the Family Court. Effective July 1, 2019, the South Carolina Legislature implemented the “Raise the Age” legislation which now includes most 17-year-olds in the juvenile justice system rather than the adult criminal justice system.

Who is Considered a Juvenile?

A juvenile is one who is alleged to have committed a criminal or status offense prior to their 18th birthday. “Status offenses” are those which would not be a crime if committed by an adult (i.e. incorrigibility, truancy or running away from home). An exception to when a juvenile is handled in Family Court is if a 17-year-old is alleged to have committed a criminal offense that carries a potential penalty of fifteen (15) years or more then they will be treated as an adult and not be in the Family Court system. Additionally, a juvenile who is 14 years of age or older can still be considered for waiver out of the Family Court into the adult (General Sessions) court system.

Why is the Family Court’s Jurisdiction?

The Family Court’s Jurisdiction over a juvenile offender ends upon their 22nd birthday. A juvenile can be committed to the Department of Juvenile Justice and can be on Juvenile Parole until their 22nd birthday. Probation through the Family Court for a juvenile can last until their 20th birthday.

Initiation of Family Court Proceedings:

Any person, including law enforcement, may initiate proceedings against a juvenile in Family Court upon belief that the juvenile has committed a criminal or status offense. Typically, the Solicitor will prepare a Petition and file it with the Family Court. This Petition is similar to an arrest warrant in adult court. The juvenile and his/her parents or guardian are then notified, and the Court will set a date for an adjudicatory hearing.

A juvenile can also be taken into custody by a law enforcement officer. The juvenile, while in custody, has the same rights as an adult. This includes the right against self-incrimination. Juveniles who are in custody must be advised of their Miranda warnings prior to being questioned about any alleged delinquent act. The law, however, does not require a juvenile’s parent or guardian to be present in order for law enforcement to question the juvenile.

a. When a juvenile is taken into custody, they can either be released to a parent, guardian or other responsible adult, or the juvenile can be detained. In order to detain a juvenile certain criteria must be met:
i. Charged with a violent crime,
ii. Had possession of a deadly weapon,
iii. Has no suitable alternative placement and it is determined it is in the best interest of the juvenile or is necessary to protect the juvenile or the public.
b. A Detention Hearing must be held within 48 hours from the time the juvenile was taken into custody (excluding weekends and holidays). If taken into custody for a status offense it must be held within 24 hours.
i. The juvenile must be represented by an attorney at this hearing.
ii. The Family Court Judge will make a determination whether probable cause exists to justify the detention AND whether it is appropriate and necessary to detain the juvenile further.
iii. A juvenile who is ordered detained is entitled to another hearing within 10 days of the initial hearing, within 30 days of the 10-day hearing and at any other time with a showing of good cause.
Diversionary Programs – If the juvenile meets certain criteria, the Solicitor may allow then to be diverted from the juvenile justice system. Programs such as Juvenile Pretrial Intervention, Drug Court, Juvenile Arbitration or a Behavioral Contract all will allow the juvenile to ultimately have the charge(s) dismissed upon successful completion of the program. Criteria that go into the decision to divert a juvenile include: being a first-time offender, a non-violent offense, or being drug or alcohol dependent.
Should the Solicitor choose to prosecute the juvenile, an Adjudicatory Hearing will be held before the Family Court. Here the juvenile can plead guilty and admit the allegations or can have a trial before the Family Court Judge. There is no right to a jury trial in the Family Court.

The final phase of the juvenile court process if the juvenile pleads guilty or is found guilty (adjudicated delinquent) by the Judge is the Dispositional Hearing. The Judge may move immediately into this sentencing phase or may order the juvenile to be evaluated by the Department of Juvenile Justice prior to sentencing. This pre-dispositional evaluation can be done either in the juvenile’s home (community evaluation) or at a DJJ evaluation center and will include psychological, social, and educational assessments.

a. At the Dispositional Hearing the Court can sentence the juvenile to probation for any length of time not to exceed their 20th birthday.

b. The Court may also determine it is necessary to Commit the juvenile to the Department of Juvenile Justice. This can be either for a determinate period up to 90 days for each charge, or for an indeterminate period of time not to exceed the juvenile’s 22nd birthday.

Can my Juvenile Record be Expunged?

Pursuant to S.C. Code Section 63-19-2050 anyone who has been taken into custody for, charged with, or adjudicated delinquent for having committed a status offense or a nonviolent crime may petition the court for an expungement Order. The juvenile must now be 18 years or older, have fully completed their sentence, have no prior convictions that carry more than a five (5) year sentence, and not been convicted of any other delinquent or criminal offense or have any charges pending.

If you have had a juvenile detained and need an experienced Law Firm with a team of seasoned litigators working to get your child the best result possible,call The Law Office of Peter David Brown, P.A.