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Wisconsin Juvenile Law and the Number 18

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“At what age does a person become an adult?”

If you ask this question to the person you are nearest to at the moment, chances are they will confidently answer with “18”. After all, 18 years old is when you can buy cigarettes, apply for credit cards, play the lottery, and legally engage in various adult behaviors.

Unfortunately, Wisconsin juvenile law does not agree with that answer. 17-year-olds in Wisconsin are subjected to adult criminal penalties despite being below 18. Moreover, being convicted as an “adult” carries life-altering consequences that will last long after a 17-year-old has paid their debt to society in the form of incarceration, fines, or probation.

How Does Wisconsin Define “Juvenile”?

Wisconsin law defines a “juvenile” as not legally old enough to face criminal liability for breaking the law. 17-year-olds are considered to be adults for the purposes of criminal law.

Parents of 17-year-olds need to be aware of this and prepared to provide their children with a strong defense. Their criminal record – even if sealed – can often be discovered by employers, educational institutions, landlords, and law enforcement agencies.

The best way to avoid these lifelong consequences is to seek the advice of an experienced juvenile defense lawyer as soon as possible after an arrest or accusation is made.

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