South Carolina will no longer treat 17 year olds as adults when it comes to them being tried on criminal charges. According to a report by WPDE, the new law will come into effect from July 1. The initial bill was passed unanimously by the house three years ago and when it comes into effect, it would technically raise the state's definition of a child to anyone below 18 years.
Representative Seth Rose, a criminal defense lawyer, agrees to the change and believes it will be helpful. He said, "There may be kids that get a citation for minor possession of alcohol or some other offense that shouldn't be treated as adults." Along with this, the change in the law would provide for numerous services like counseling, better access to education, etc. for the 17-year-old accused who otherwise would have been treated as adult criminals. The change could be beneficial for their rehabilitation."
Chief Deputy of the Horry County Sheriff’s Office, Tom Fox, spoke about the law and said that it could prove to be beneficial logistically as well. He said: "If one 17-year-old comes in, we open a small housing unit, just to place the 17-year-old in there. That causes a lot of staffing problems because that has to be staffed 24/7." What it means is that for every 17-year-old, they have to create an additional space which also adds to the overall expense. Besides, the same effort is duplicated when the inmate is a 17-year-old woman. While these arguments justify the financial aspect, the human aspect of not treating 17-year-olds as adults are much more important."
Originally signed by Governor Nikki Haley in 2016, the law took some time to come into effect but would be in place by July 1. By raising the age to 18, youth offenders would now be able to stay in the family court system providing them with a much better chance at being rehabilitated. The law, however, would not include those minors who have been charged with serious offenses. On allegations of a serious crime, it would depend upon the law enforcement agencies to decide if the person would be treated as an adult or a juvenile. The law has also extended the parole age for the Department of Juvenile Justice from 21 to 22 years of age.