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You saw your baby taken away in handcuffs. Well, not your baby. But they’ll always be a baby to you, right? Now, your child is in trouble with the law, and you don’t know what to do.

Somehow your child’s mischief and misbehavior are now much more serious than they have ever been. You never expected it to get to this point. Now, you and your child have legal issues to face, and the stakes are high.

You need a tough and and experienced lawyer like Kent Collins who will fight for your child’s rights and give you sound advice on how to deal with the choices and issues coming to your family.

First understand who is considered juvenile…

Under South Carolina law, a juvenile is someone who is age 15 or younger and alleged to have committed a crime. Someone 16 years or older is charged as an adult. A person’s age under SC law is determined based on how old they were when the crime was committed.

In some cases, someone 15 or younger may be tried as an adult. In such situations, a prosecutor makes this recommendation, and a judge decides what to do. The judge takes into account various factors such as the defendant’s school records, behavior at home, prior offenses and the seriousness of the current charge.

Any time you or someone you love is charged with a crime, you are bound to have questions. When the person being charged is a juvenile, that adds a layer of complexity to the issue. Here are answers to some of the most common questions parents have when their child is charged with a crime.

Can my child be arrested?

Practically speaking, yes. Technically speaking, no. Juveniles are not served arrest warrants. Instead, law enforcement officers take children into custody. For juvenile justice, a child is age 17 or younger. The purpose of an adult’s arrest and a child’s being taking into custody is the same.

Some of the most common reasons juveniles find themselves in custody include:

  • Bringing a weapon to school
  • Possessing marijuana or other drugs
  • Assaulting someone at school or at home, or
  • Intentionally damaging property

What happens after my child is taken into custody?

Once a child is taken into custody by law enforcement, the child retains the same rights an arrested adult has–to remain silent, to have an attorney, etc. The arresting officer determines whether to return the child to a parent or guardian or to have the child placed outside the home pending a detention hearing. In many cases, the child can be returned to his or her family while awaiting trial.

The child’s school is notified if the arrest is for an act that would be classified as a misdemeanor or felony if it were committed by an adult. The school then takes action as it sees fit.

The child is interviewed by an official with the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). Then, the child’s attorney receives all the evidence the prosecution has collected through a legal process called discovery. If either the prosecution or child want to negotiate a plea deal, it usually happens after discovery. If no plea deal is reached, the case goes to trial before a judge.

If the case goes to trial, it will not be a jury trial. Rather, it will be a bench trial meaning the judge decides whether the child is guilty or not guilty. If the judge finds the child not guilty, the records associated with the case can be destroyed through appropriate legal processes. If the judge finds the child guilty, the judge also determines the punishment.

Why do I need an attorney to represent my child after being taken into custody?

Under South Carolina law, juveniles are required to have an attorney represent them in criminal matters. The services of a public defender may be available. The parent or guardian’s income is the primary factor in determining whether the public defender’s office must supply an attorney.

Can a juvenile be charged with a drug offense, assault or domestic violence?

Yes, and that’s not all. Other charges that can be brought against juveniles include but are not limited to:

  • Purchase, consumption or possession of alcoholic beverages
  • Purchase, consumption or possession of drugs or other controlled substances
  • Distribution or trafficking in unlawful drugs
  • Truancy
  • Acting out beyond parents’ control (called incorrigibility in SC law)
  • Weapons crimes

Can a juvenile be charged with a felony?

Yes, a juvenile can be charged with a felony. The juvenile must be age 16 or older to be charged with a felony. Consequently, the juvenile is then tried as an adult.

Do juvenile charges show background check?

Yes, unless the juvenile’s criminal records is sealed in a process called expungement. Upon turning 18 years old, a person can petition to have his or her juvenile criminal record sealed. One important thing this does is clean up the person’s history on a background check. In rare cases, some entities can peek into sealed juvenile records, but in the vast majority of instances, it looks like you never had any trouble with the law.

Can juvenile charges be expunged? What about felony charges?

A person can request (or petition) for expungement upon turning 18. As conditions of expungement, the petitioning person must have completed all requirements of sentencing and must have not been arrested again. An offense classified as a violent crime is not eligible for expungement.

Do juvenile charges automatically disappear from a child’s record upon adulthood?

No, an adult must petition for expungement of juvenile records.

Is my juvenile going to an adult jail if found guilty?

No, juveniles are not housed with adults. Juvenile jails are separate from adult jails.

Next steps for a concerned parent …

As a concerned parent, you need to help your child find an attorney who will dig into your child’s case to find out exactly what happened and how to proceed. Prosecutors are already working toward a conviction, so you need someone on your side working in your child’s best interest. Contact Kent Collins by phone at 803-808-0905 or through his online form.

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