In re Darlene C.
South Carolina Supreme Court
301 S.E.2d 136 (1983)
Darlene C. (defendant) was a 16-year-old who repeatedly committed the status offenses of running away and truancy. A status offense was the type of conduct that would not be considered a crime if the conduct were performed by an adult. Darlene had appeared in family court 14 times in two and one-half years. When Darlene ran away, after only two days, from her last placement, a home in which she had requested to be placed, the family court found Darlene to be a delinquent child and placed her in the care of the Department of Youth Services for an undefined period not to go beyond her twenty-first birthday. Specifically, the family court held that Darlene was a runaway child and confined her to a girls’ home and ordered counseling. The family court’s order also explained that if Darlene violated the order, she would be held in contempt. Undeterred, Darlene ran away again two days later. Darlene was subsequently found in contempt of the court’s order. The sentencing judge acknowledged that Darlene had previously appeared before him as a status offender. South Carolina’s legislature had passed legislation, S.C. Code Ann. § 20-7-600, requiring that children guilty of status offenses could not be held in secure facilities. Despite this, the family court held that Darlene’s contempt of its order had converted her from a status offender to a delinquent, a juvenile whose conduct would be a crime if performed by an adult. Thus, the family court sentenced Darlene to detention for an undefined period up to age 21. Darlene appealed, alleging that both the ruling that she was a delinquent and her commitment to a detention center were in error.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Harwell, J.)
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