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Juvenile crimes in South Carolina

When juveniles have been suspected of the commission of a crime in South Carolina, law enforcement or someone else often refers them to the Department of Juvenile Justice. What happens next depends on the individual, the circumstances and the charge as cases work their way through the juvenile justice system.

Someone from the DJJ interviews a juvenile and makes recommendations to the Circuit Solicitor's Office that may result in prosecution, dismissal or diversion. Diversion might require a juvenile to attend a community program or make restitution for an offense. When prosecuting in family court, a judge must determine guilt or innocence while also deciding how to act in a child's best interests. Generally, a DJJ evaluation is requested, which may involve social, educational and psychological evaluations, to help a judge act in the child's best interests.

Those who are found to have committed juvenile crimes can face sentencing, which could include probation or a determinant or indeterminate commitment. A determinant commitment means a fixed amount of time while someone with an indeterminate commitment could be held up to age 21. Based on the current offense and previous offenses, a guideline for parole is assessed that may range between one and three months or as much as 36 to 54 months. Some offenders might not have requirements after their release while others might be sent to special programs or a group home. Release also includes parole supervised by the DJJ.

Many minors find themselves entering the juvenile court system after a drinking and driving charge. While this might be a child's first offense, underage drinking charges come with serious consequences if convicted in order to deter this behavior. The authorities must follow proper procedure when charging anyone, so an attorney could review a case and assist a client facing such charges.

Source: South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice, "The Juvenile Justice Process", accessed on feb. 15, 2015

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