When Can A Child Be Charged As An Adult?

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“Boys will be boys” has fallen out of fashion and for good reason, but kids will always act like kids. The law expects our youth to behave like responsible adults and act like productive members of society even when we know that most children lack the maturity to do so. The juvenile justice system is nothing more than a shortcut to adult criminal court. The line between child and adult in Wisconsin law is blurred and can have serious consequences on your son or daughter.

What Is Wisconsin’s Criminal Definition of An “Adult”?

A person who is 17 years old is an adult if there is an allegation that a crime was committed. Juvenile court jurisdiction ends once a child turns 17. At age 17 juvenile court is no longer an option. Even when a person is still prohibited from purchasing cigarettes, lottery tickets and other adult items they are defined as an adult if charged with a crime.

What Age Can you be charged as an adult?

Juvenile court charges children with crimes starting at age 10. Defendants between 15 and 16 years old at the time of the alleged crime can waived into adult court under certain circumstances and face adult probation, jail and even prison. Even children can go to juvenile prison and sentences can last five years. For homicide charges, even a 10-year-old will face adult prosecution.

The only way to regain juvenile jurisdiction in a case where a child is tried as an adult is via a “reverse-waiver” – a complicated procedure where the attorney representing the child has to prove the following:

  1. That the child could not receive adequate treatment in the adult system;
  2. That transferring the case to juvenile court would not depreciate the seriousness of the offense; and
  3. That keeping the case in adult court is not necessary to deter other juveniles from committing a similar crime.

If your child is arrested or accused of committing a crime, seek the advice of an experienced juvenile crimes defense attorney as soon as possible. Early intervention is the key to making sure that the courts treat your child like a child, not a criminal.

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