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One Year Can Make a World of Difference

  • Birdsall Obear

Turning 18 is a rite of passage for teens. Legally recognized as adults, they have obligations such as registering for the selective service system and new rights such as the ability to legally purchase lottery tickets, cigarettes and other items of the adult persuasion.

Many Wisconsin teens fail to realize that their 17th birthday has the potential to be far more consequential than their 18th if accused of committing a criminal act.

“Why is that?”

In Wisconsin, a person is considered an “adult” for criminal law purposes at the age of 17. That means they will essentially be charged as adults despite only being 17 years old. 17-year-olds accused of crimes are typically waived into adult courts. The elements are the same, and the burden of proof is the same for 17-year-olds as any case involving an adult.

A 17-year-old child’s mistake can have severe consequences for the rest of their life. Instead of being able to seal a juvenile record, they will have to apply for college, jobs, and housing with a criminal offense on their record. In addition, if the conviction is for a sex crime, they will have to register as a sex offender for life.

A Note on Underage Drinking

Teens can still be kids when it comes to alcohol. Underage drinking is not a criminal offense; it is a civil issue handled in municipal court.

The Bottom Line on Turning 17

A 17-year-old’s actions can have lifelong consequences. If your child faces criminal accusations it is crucial to have a proven criminal defense lawyer looking out for their rights and protecting their future.

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