Change in SC law has 17-year-olds considered juveniles

South Carolina News
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AIKEN COUNTY, SC (WJBF) – A change coming to the age at which South Carolina considers you an adult. Right now, when someone turns 17 they are considered an adult in South Carolina.

Last summer, state lawmakers voted to raise the age, starting July 2019, the adult cut-off will be anyone 18 or older.

Officials at the Aiken Department of Public Safety believe the change will be a smart move for the state.

“Just because they’ve turned 17, does not make them an adult,” said Captain Mary Ann Burgess.

She explains most systems in our society recognize an adult as 18 and up, with South Carolina now added to the list, it makes 43 states that consider 17 a juvenile.

“If you’re one day away you’re taken care of by family court and you’re given an opportunity to rehabilitate yourself,” Cpt. Burgess said. “If you commit the crime the next day when you turn 17, you’re going to go straight to jail. That system is not designed so much for rehabilitation as the juvenile system. I think it is a good move, it’s giving our young folks a little more time to mature and understand what it is to be an adult.”

She says her division could already use more help, in the next year and a half, they will need more money and personnel before the law takes effect.

The Department of Juvenile Justice depends on our elected officials to give them more money when voting on the state budget.

“It’s going to make our work load much bigger. It’s going to make the Family Court’s much bigger, the Department of Juvenile Justice and all the programs that support that function of caring for juveniles. When I say caring for, I’m talking about any services that the court deems are appropriate to get that child back on the right path.”

Captain Burgess says the increase in work load from adding 17 year-olds to the juvenile list is worth it.

Georgia is one of five states that still considers age 17 as an adult. It is the same for Texas, Wisconsin, Missouri, and Michigan. 16 and up are treated as adults in North Carolina and New York.

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