COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) – Seventeen year olds charged with a crime in South Carolina will no longer be tried as adults starting July 1st.
Three years ago, South Carolina lawmakers unanimously approved a bill that raised the age in the state’s definition of a child.
“So that 17-year-olds are no longer treated as adults in our court system,” explained Tracey Tucker with Campaign for Youth Justice.
The law raises the age from 17 to 18. Currently, 17-year-olds who commit a crime in the state are tried as adults.
Representative Seth Rose, a criminal defense lawyer, supports the change.
“There may be kids that get a citation for minor possession of alcohol or some other offense that shouldn’t be treated as adults,” Rose said.
By raising the age youth offenders are able to stay in the family court system and get help longer.
“Access to counseling services, what services may be available in local counties that already serve our 12-16-year-olds, as well as increased accessibility to education,” Tucker said. “There is some in adult services, but under the family court system that would have access there.”
The law doesn’t include juvenile offenders who commit crimes that carry sentences of 15 years or more and it extends the age a person can be in DJJ’s custody from 21 to 22.
Right now, there are about 5000 juvenile offenders in the state’s system charged as adults.