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In re Stephen W.

Supreme Court of South Carolina

July 16, 2014

In the Interest of Stephen W., a Juvenile Under the Age of Seventeen, Appellant

Heard April 2, 2014

Appeal from Richland County. Appellate Case No. 2012-213481. Angela R. Taylor, Family Court Judge.

Appellate Defender Robert M. Pachak, of Columbia, for Appellant.

Attorney General Alan M. Wilson and Assistant Attorney General Mark R. Farthing, both of Columbia, for Respondent.

JUSTICE KITTREDGE. TOAL, C.J., PLEICONES, BEATTY and HEARN, JJ., concur.

OPINION

Page 232

[409 S.C. 75] KITTREDGE JUSTICE 

In this direct appeal from an adjudication of delinquency in family court, Appellant assigns error to the denial of his motion for a jury trial in a family court juvenile proceeding. Because there is no constitutional right to a jury trial in a family court juvenile proceeding, we affirm.

I.

In August 2012, Appellant, then sixteen years of age, was charged with possession of marijuana. The matter was referred to the family court, where by way of petition, the case was presented to the court. At the adjudicatory hearing, Appellant moved for a jury trial, claiming that he was entitled to a jury trial under the United States and South Carolina Constitutions. The family court denied Appellant's motion.

The hearing consisted of the officer's testimony, explaining his foot pursuit of Appellant. During the pursuit, Appellant removed items from his pocket and discarded them. After Appellant was detained, three plastic baggies containing marijuana were retrieved from the area where Appellant had placed the items. Appellant testified, denying any knowledge of the drugs. The family court adjudicated Appellant delinquent and ordered that Appellant spend six consecutive weekends at the Department of Juvenile Justice, complete an alternative educational program, and continue with his prior probation [1] for a period of time not to exceed his eighteenth birthday or until he obtained a G.E.D. Appellant filed an appeal, which we certified pursuant to Rule 204(b), SCACR.

II.

The South Carolina Children's Code provides that " [a]ll cases of children must be dealt with as separate hearings by the court and without a jury." S.C. Code Ann. § 63-3-590 (2010). The family court rules are in accord. See Rule 9(a), SCRFC (" All hearings in the family courts shall be conducted by the court without a jury." ). Appellant contends this statute and family court rule violate his right to a jury trial pursuant to the federal and state constitutions.

[409 S.C. 76] " This Court has a very limited scope of review in cases involving a constitutional challenge to a statute." State v. Harrison,402 S.C. 288, 292, 741 S.E.2d 727, 729 (2013) (citing Joytime Distribs. & Amusement Co. v. State, 338 S.C. 634, 640, 528 S.E.2d 647, 651 (1999)). " All statutes are presumed constitutional and will, if possible, be construed so as to render them valid." Id. at 292-93, 741 S.E.2d at 729 (citing Davis v. Cnty. of Greenville, 322 S.C. 73, 77, 470 S.E.2d 94, 96 (1996)). " A legislative act will not be declared unconstitutional unless its repugnance to the constitution is clear beyond a reasonable doubt." Id. at 293, 741 S.E.2d at 729 (citing Westvaco Corp. v. S.C. Dep't of Revenue, 321 S.C. 59, 62, 467 S.E.2d 739, 741 (1995)). The party challenging the constitutionality of the statute has " the burden ...


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