Kids are going to make mistakes. If they’re lucky, nothing is damaged, no one gets hurt, and they learn a valuable lesson. Unfortunately, some kids may get up to mischief that entails illegal activity, and it could land them in juvenile or even adult court.

It’s not that unusual for teens to experiment with drinking and drug use or try to impress their friends by driving without a license, stealing, or vandalizing property. They could be involved in much more serious offenses, as well, from selling drugs to assault, armed robbery, or even murder.

When your child is charged with a crime, it can be overwhelming. As a parent, you want to do all you can to protect your kids from harm. Before your child makes an initial juvenile court appearance at the Middleton Municipal Court, you should consult with a qualified juvenile crime attorney who has experience defending such cases.

Maciolek Law Group proudly serves residents of Middleton, WI, who are facing juvenile charges. Every child deserves the chance to get help or treatment without the stain of a criminal conviction on their record. 

Our experienced attorneys are here to guide you through the process, help you avoid adjudication if possible, and fight to minimize the impact on your child’s life.

Who Can Be Charged With a Juvenile Crime?

Juvenile courts are intended to handle cases for minors aged 10 or older who have violated criminal laws. In everyday language, “juvenile” refers to minors aged 17 or younger, while persons 18 years or older are considered adults.

However, this isn’t the legal definition. Wisconsin is one of three states in the U.S. where 17-year-olds are legally treated as adults in cases of criminal prosecution. This means that anyone age 16 or younger will face adjudication in juvenile court unless there are extenuating circumstances.

The court where a minor is tried depends on the age when charges are issued, not necessarily when the criminal offense is alleged to have occurred. If, for example, a minor commits theft at 16 but isn’t charged until age 17, the case would go to adult court.

The trial venue could also depend on the type of crime committed, as well as the minor’s criminal history. What situations would cause a minor to be tried in adult court instead of facing adjudication in juvenile court?

When Can a Juvenile Be Charged as an Adult?

There are two primary reasons why a juvenile might be charged as an adult: because the adult court has original jurisdiction or because the juvenile court waives its jurisdiction and transfers the case to adult court. 

When does an adult court claim original jurisdiction in a juvenile criminal case? This could occur because of the nature of the offense, especially in cases of homicide. 

Minors aged 10 and older may be tried in adult court if they have been charged with attempted first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide, or second-degree intentional homicide.

The adult court could also be given original jurisdiction for minors charged with a crime who have previous criminal convictions in adult court. This is also true for minors with prior adjudication who are placed in a corrections facility and commit subsequent crimes, such as assault or battery.

A juvenile court judge may waive original jurisdiction based on factors like the age of the defendant, the severity of the crime, the defendant’s criminal history, or some combination of these factors.

What Is a Reverse Waiver?

While it’s much more likely that a juvenile case will be bumped up to adult court, the opposite can occur. A reverse waiver occurs when a juvenile criminal offense is assigned to adult court but then transferred to the juvenile court system by a judge waiving the original jurisdiction.

Although many juveniles assigned to adult court apply for such waivers, they are rarely granted and require specific circumstances. First, the defendant must prove that the criminal justice system can’t provide adequate treatment.

Second, the defendant must provide evidence that the seriousness of the offense would not be depreciated by the transfer. Finally, the defendant must prove that transferring the case to juvenile court wouldn’t impact the potential deterrence of other juveniles from committing similar crimes.

Types of Juvenile Crimes

Juveniles can be charged with any crime adults can be charged with, including:

  • Arson
  • Assault
  • Battery
  • Burglary, robbery, or theft
  • Drug crimes (possession, distribution, etc.)
  • Homicide
  • Sexual assault
  • Vandalism

Criminal charges for juveniles could also include habitual truancy, driving without a license, or DUI/OWI. The difference when a minor is tried in juvenile court is that there won’t be a jury, only a judge, and the penalties are more likely to lean toward rehabilitation than punishment.

What to Expect if Your Child Is Charged With a Crime

When a juvenile is charged with a crime and the juvenile court has original jurisdiction, the hearing process involves several steps. First, there is a plea hearing where the juvenile can deny or admit to the facts of the petition (like pleading innocent or guilty in adult court).

At this hearing, an attorney may request a different judge or a waiver on time limits for the next hearing. The judge can also order evaluations (psychological, drug/alcohol, etc.) at this time.

This initial hearing is followed by a pre-trial conference with the judge, attorneys, the juvenile’s parents, and a social worker. If the parties involved can work out an agreement, the case won’t go to trial.

If no agreement is reached, the next step is a fact-finding hearing for the judge to determine whether the juvenile is delinquent or requires protection services. Finally, there is a disposition hearing where the judge reviews all evidence, hears recommendations, and makes a ruling.

The Importance of a Strong Legal Defense

The goal of the juvenile court system is a little different than adult courts. The primary motivation is to rehabilitate young offenders rather than punish them. Because of this, there’s more latitude in sentencing, but crimes tried in juvenile courts are not without penalties.

Sentences will vary by the type and severity of the crime, as well as the offender’s criminal history. However, they could include:

  • Fines
  • Reparations
  • Restrictions on privileges (like driving)
  • Community service
  • Vocational training
  • Probation
  • Treatment
  • Electronic monitoring
  • House arrest
  • Placement in a relative’s home
  • Placement in the Dane County Juvenile Detention Center

Juvenile records are sealed, which means no one should have access to the information within. However, even a juvenile conviction could be discovered later by a college or university, a prospective employer, or other law enforcement agencies. In other words, a conviction could come back to haunt your child as an adult.

If your child’s case is tried in adult court, a conviction will be a matter of public record. Regardless, it’s best to avoid a conviction that could follow your child for life, impacting admission to college or the ability to secure gainful employment.

The Experienced Juvenile Crime Attorney You Need

When your child is charged with a juvenile crime, you need an experienced attorney to guide you through the process and help you avoid adjudication or fight for the best outcomes at hearings.

The qualified and caring juvenile crime attorneys at Maciolek Law Group proudly serve Middleton, WI, families, helping them get through the difficulties of juvenile criminal charges. Contact us now to learn more.

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