Legal Rights of 17-Year-Olds in South Carolina

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A 17-year-old is almost, but not quite, an adult, and because of this, many people have a murky understanding of 17-year-olds’ rights. Certain rights are granted once an individual reaches the age of majority regardless of where he lives in the United States, like the right to vote. Other rights, such as the right to obtain an abortion without parental consent, vary from state to state.

Rights When Interacting With Law Enforcement

Just like adults, teens across the U.S. have certain rights when interacting with law enforcement, including:

  • The right to remain silent when questioned by law enforcement.
  • The right to refuse to consent to a vehicle search or a search of personal electronic devices without valid search warrants.
  • The right to have a lawyer present during police questioning.

Seventeen-year-olds have these same rights in similar scenarios, like the right to refuse to answer a teacher or school administrator’s questions regarding an incident that occurred at school.

Medical Consent Rights

In South Carolina, a 17-year-old may consent to, or refuse, medical procedures. These include medication, surgery, diagnostic procedures and various types of therapy. The 17-year-old’s parent may not override the teen’s decisions regarding her own medical care. These rights extend to the end of life: A 17-year-old may write a legally binding advance medical directive regarding resuscitation or donation of body parts.

Seventeen-year-olds’ medical rights largely extend to their reproductive rights in South Carolina. In South Carolina, a teenager may obtain birth control without parental consent, and 17-year-olds in the state may obtain abortions without parental consent, though younger teens do need parental consent for this procedure.

Similarly, a 17-year-old parent may make medical decisions for her child, regardless of her own parents’ wishes. This right extends to a teenage parent’s right to place her child for adoption, to object to placing her child for adoption, to custodial time with her child and to pursuing child support from the child’s father. A 17-year-old also has the right to consent or refuse to be adopted by an adult, as could be the case if the teen’s parent remarries.

The Right to Emancipation

Seventeen-year-olds in South Carolina have the right to petition the court for emancipation. Emancipation is the legal process of granting a teenager some of the rights and agency that usually come with reaching the age of majority, including:

  • The right to enter legally binding documents like leases and work contracts.
  • The right to enlist in the military without parental consent.
  • The right to marry without parental consent.

Emancipation does not grant all the rights that normally come with adulthood, though. When a 17-year-old is legally emancipated, he still does not have the right to vote until he turns 18.

To become emancipated, the petitioner must provide the court with sufficient evidence to demonstrate that he is capable of living independently of his parents. This means showing that he has a place to live and a way to support himself financially. He may also have to demonstrate that emancipation is in his best interest, which could be due to abuse in his parents’ home or the need to protect his financial assets.

Rights in the Workplace

Seventeen-year-olds in South Carolina, just like teenagers in every state, have the same workplace rights that adults have. These rights include:

  • The right to a discrimination-free and harassment-free workplace.
  • The right to earn at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.
  • The right to request reasonable accommodations.
  • The right to join a labor union.

Although teenage workers have the same legal rights as adult workers, they are subject to certain restrictions not imposed on adults. In South Carolina, teens as young as 14 may become legally employed, and unlike teens in other states, they do not need minor employment certificates to legally work.