In Wisconsin, a person is considered an “adult” for criminal law purposes at age 17. If a person under the age of 17 years commits a criminal act, it is considered a “juvenile offense.” Adult crimes and juvenile crimes are essentially the same. The elements are the same and the burden of proof for the prosecution is still beyond a reasonable doubt. The essential differences between juvenile court and adult court are the punishments and the procedures. Many times, a juvenile accused of crime will be “waived” into adult court. Please call or email us immediately for a free consultation and a superb juvenile criminal defense.
Dispositions in juvenile court, unlike sentences in adult court, presume that the juvenile should always be sent home on supervision and only confined if all other avenues have been considered and deemed inadequate. For the most serious juvenile offenses where supervision is inappropriate, there are two forms of juvenile lock-up. One is the county juvenile detention center, and the other is the State Department of Corrections. Both facilities are exclusively for juveniles, and offer programming and treatment unique to young people.
The procedures in juvenile court are also different than those in adult court. Primarily, there are no jury trials in juvenile court. The judge is the finder of fact and finder of law in all juvenile cases. On a positive note, any juvenile conviction is kept under seal and not a public record. Unfortunately, if you end up in adult court at some point in your life, your juvenile convictions are relevant both during sentencing for an adult conviction, and for setting bail.
When a juvenile is charged with a crime in Wisconsin, the juvenile court has original jurisdiction, but the prosecuting attorney can try to have the case waived into adult court. Usually this process is reserved for only the most serious crimes where the prosecutor might feel that the juvenile punishment system is insufficient to address the case. In almost all circumstances, it is better to keep the case in juvenile court and the defense must argue strongly to keep it there.
Reverse waiver is the opposite of waiver into adult court. On occasion, a case that has been charged in adult court may be more appropriate for juvenile court. It is the responsibility of the defense attorney to file this motion in a timely fashion. Otherwise, the right to be heard on the issue will be forfeited.
Underage drinking is not a crime. It is a civil forfeiture that is handled in municipal court. Many municipalities have diversionary programs that allow defendants to take an alcohol awareness class in exchange for having the ticket dismissed. If this is not available in your jurisdiction, you will need to fight these tickets on the merits.
This crime is identical to the adult charge. Please see Drug Crimes for further information.