HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - The state of South Carolina will soon raise the age a suspect is considered an adult to 18 years old.
As the law sits now, a 17-year-old is considered an adult. But starting July 1 they will be considered juveniles.
“We know how to handle juveniles and it’s just basically that they’re one year older now,” said Assistant Solicitor Lauren Vinson with the 15th District.
Last year, Vinson dealt with nearly 1,700 cases, a number that is expected to double once 17-year-olds are considered juveniles.
“We are definitely expecting a major influx in juvenile cases at this point with 17-year-olds, as would be expected the older they get the bolder they get,” said Vinson.
Horry County Sheriff Chief Deputy Tom Fox is also anticipating an increase in transports to the Department of Juvenile Justice in Columbia.
“Roughly we transfer between 25 and 30 a month and we’ll probably increase that by 10, so that’s 10 more trips to Columbia and 10 more trips back,” said Fox.
By treating 17-year-olds as juveniles, it is expected to decrease the amount of prisoners with minor offenses at J. Ruben Long Detention Center.
“Really you don’t need 17-year-olds housed in an adult facility,” said Fox.
A juvenile can still be charged as an adult if the crime carries a sentence of 10 years or more, however most 17-year-olds will now go through family court.
“There probably will be a lot more charges coming through family court than what we've seen in the past only dealing with 16 years and younger,” said Vinson.
This new change in law is not retroactive, so anyone 17-years-old and currently in the system will not be considered.
The change will officially go into place July 1, 2019.