In re Stephen W. (Lawyers Weekly No. 010-072-14, 6 pp.) (John Kittredge, J.) Appealed from Richland County Family Court (Angela Taylor, J.) S.C. S. Ct.
Holding: Even though, when our state constitution was adopted, juveniles had the right to a jury trial in criminal prosecutions, the current Children’s Code is an inherently different process from a criminal prosecution. Therefore, the South Carolina Constitution does not entitle juveniles to a jury trial in family court adjudication proceedings.
We affirm the adjudication of delinquency.
In McKeiver v. Pennsylvania, 403 U.S. 528 (1971), in a plurality opinion, six members of the United States Supreme Court agreed that, pursuant to the federal constitution, juveniles are not constitutionally entitled to a jury trial in adjudication proceedings. We reject appellant’s argument that the federal constitution guarantees him a right to a jury trial in a South Carolina family court juvenile delinquency proceeding.
”The right of trial by jury shall be preserved inviolate. Any person charged with an offense shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury….” S.C. Const. art. I, § 14.
Appellant claims that the phrase “[a]ny person charged with an offense” supports his claim that he is entitled to a jury trial since juveniles are “persons” under South Carolina law and the Children’s Code refers to juvenile charges as “offenses.” Appellant acknowledges, however, that the right to a jury trial under Article I, § 14 turns on whether a right to a jury trial was in existence at the time the Constitution was enacted.
Under the common law in existence at the time of the adoption of the South Carolina Constitution, juveniles were criminally prosecuted in a manner similar to adults and were entitled to the right to a jury trial.
However, the family court juvenile adjudication is an inherently different process than a typical criminal prosecution. Indeed, the primary purpose of the juvenile process is to exempt an infant from the stigma of a criminal conviction and its attendant detrimental consequences. The important distinctions between the family court juvenile adjudication process and the traditional criminal justice process demonstrate that the juvenile adjudication process in family court is not similar to the manner in which juveniles were criminally charged at the time the Constitution was enacted. As a result, the South Carolina Constitution does not entitle juveniles to a jury trial in family court adjudication proceedings.