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Some Juvenile Crimes in Wisconsin Are Sent to Adult Court

Many people believe that any alleged crimes committed by someone under the age of 18 are adjudicated through the juvenile justice system. In Wisconsin, that is not true. The adult criminal justice system has jurisdiction over any criminal charges filed against anyone at least 17 years old. The civil age of majority is 18.

For those younger than 17, many offenses are under the exclusive jurisdiction of the juvenile court. Some offenses can be waived by the juvenile court and sent to adult court. In the case of murder in Wisconsin, the charge is automatically taken to adult court – even if the accused is as young as 10 years old.

Charges Automatically Heard by Adult Court

A 2022 case is an example of charges against a juvenile being heard in adult court. A 14-year-old boy is accused of luring a 10-year-old girl into the woods off a trail as she was riding her bike home. The boy allegedly killed and sexually assaulted her. He has reportedly been charged with first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree sexual assault, and first-degree sexual assault of a child under age 13 resulting in great bodily harm.

The adult court has exclusive jurisdiction over these crimes allegedly committed by minors at least 10 years old:

  • First-degree intentional homicide
  • Attempted first-degree intentional homicide
  • First-degree reckless homicide
  • Second-degree intentional homicide

Children younger than 10 cannot be tried in adult court.

Juvenile Crimes Can Be Waived to Adult Court

In the case of the murder charge above, the charges are automatically sent through the adult court system. Other alleged crimes may be sent to adult court.

Alleged crimes where the accused is at least 14 years old can be transferred to adult court:

Any criminal violation can be heard in adult court if the accused is at least 15 years old.

Discretionary Waiver Process

The juvenile court will consider waiving its jurisdiction on the motion of any party. If the child meets the minimum age requirements, the court will determine whether the case has prosecutorial merit. The court must also be convinced that the bests interests of the juvenile and the public are best served by the case being moved to adult court.

Additional criteria for the waiver include the following:

  • The juvenile’s physical and mental maturity, prior treatment history, any developmental or mental disability
  • The juvenile’s prior record
  • The seriousness of the offense
  • Whether the juvenile allegedly committed the crime with older individuals having their case heard in adult court

There is no bail in the juvenile system. Juveniles transferred to adult court are eligible for bail in accordance with the law. Once transferred, the juvenile is treated like any adult charged for the same crime. There are no restrictions on the prosecution, judge, or jury. Juveniles under the age of 15 are not held in custody at an adult facility. Younger juveniles are held in a juvenile detention facility or in the juvenile portion of a county jail.

Reverse Waiver Is Possible

In the example of the 14-year-old boy mentioned earlier, his attorney is requesting that the case be moved from adult to juvenile court. The boy is currently being held in a juvenile detention facility on a $1 million cash bond.

A criminal defense attorney can argue the following to have the case moved to juvenile court:

  • The child will not receive adequate treatment in the criminal justice system
  • Transferring the case to juvenile court will not depreciate the seriousness of the offense
  • Retaining jurisdiction is unnecessary to deter other children from committing the same offense.

Anyone 15 or older cannot have their case sent to juvenile court if the charges are first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide, or second-degree intentional homicide.

Once an Adult, Always an Adult

Any juvenile who is convicted in an adult court will be considered an adult for any future offense, no matter the nature of the alleged crime. If the youth has a case pending in adult court and is accused of another crime, that subsequent crime will also be heard in adult court.

Juveniles in Adult Court Have the Right to an Attorney

Teens receive no special treatment if they are tried in an adult court. They need an aggressive attorney who understands the inner workings of the system and the nuances of the law. They need Attorney Christopher Cherella. He has more than two decades of experience and personally handles each case.

Contact the Law Offices of Christopher J. Cherella to schedule a consultation. Call (414) 882-8382 or reach us by completing our online form.