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Juvenile Criminal Defense   6.06.2024

How is Juvenile Court Different from Adult Court in Wisconsin?

The American justice system treats juveniles differently than adults. This is because the focus in juvenile court is on rehabilitation and protecting the well-being of young people, rather than solely on punishment. If you or someone you care about is facing juvenile court proceedings in Wisconsin, understanding the key differences between juvenile and adult court is crucial in managing the consequences of juvenile charges.

Arrested as a Minor vs. Arrested as an Adult 

The arrest process for a minor is different from that of an adult. Juveniles are still considered under the care of their parents or guardians, and their rights are protected accordingly. When a minor is arrested, the police must notify their parents or guardians as soon as possible. This, obviously, does not apply to adults. 

Questioning and Miranda Rights for Juveniles

Juveniles have Miranda rights, just like adults. However, due to their age and maturity level, they may not fully understand them. Police are required to take additional steps to ensure a juvenile understands their rights before questioning. In some situations, a parent or guardian may also need to be present during questioning. An attorney can advise you on whether these rights were properly explained.

Detention and Bail for Juveniles

Following an arrest, a juvenile may be released to a parent or guardian, placed in a secure juvenile detention center, or placed in a shelter program. Juveniles may be detained after an arrest, but the conditions of detention are less restrictive than in adult jails. Unlike adults, juveniles typically do not have the right to bail in Wisconsin. However, there may be exceptions depending on the circumstances of the case. Release decisions in juvenile court typically focus on ensuring the child's safety and the safety of the community.

Juvenile Court vs. Adult Criminal Court

Juvenile court operates differently from adult criminal court in several ways. Juvenile court avoids labels like "criminal" to focus on rehabilitation. Terms like "delinquent act" are used instead of "crime." The primary goal of juvenile court is to rehabilitate the juvenile and prevent future offenses. This might involve counseling, educational programs, or community service.

Potential Outcomes in Juvenile Court

In juvenile court, sentences are typically determinate, meaning they have a fixed length set by the judge. This differs from adult court, where indeterminate sentences with parole boards are more common. Here are some potential consequences the judge may impose:

  • Dismissal of Charges: The judge may dismiss the charges against the juvenile if there is insufficient evidence or if the interests of justice are best served by dismissal.
  • Probation: The juvenile may be placed on probation, requiring them to follow specific rules and complete court-ordered programs.
  • Adjudication as Delinquent: If the court finds the juvenile committed the offense, they may be adjudicated delinquent. This is not a criminal conviction, but it can still have serious consequences.
  • Fines and Restitution: The court may order the juvenile to pay fines or restitution to the victim(s).
  • Educational Programs: The juvenile may be required to complete educational programs on topics like substance abuse or anger management.
  • Community Service: The juvenile may be ordered to complete community service hours.
  • Treatment Program: The court may order the juvenile to participate in a treatment program, such as drug or alcohol counseling.
  • Juvenile Detention: In serious cases, the juvenile may be placed in a secure juvenile detention facility.
  • Transfer to Adult Court (WYO): In certain circumstances, a juvenile case may be transferred to adult court, where they will face the same penalties as an adult.

When Can a Juvenile Be Tried as an Adult in Wisconsin? 

Juveniles who are 17 years old or older at the time of the offense are automatically tried as adults. Wisconsin allows transferring a juvenile case to adult court under specific circumstances, known as Waiver of Jurisdiction (WYO).

Types of Crimes Leading to WYO in Wisconsin

  • Serious Violent Crimes: Crimes like homicide, attempted homicide, or certain types of assault may automatically qualify for transfer to adult court.
  • Repeat Offenders: Juveniles with a history of serious offenses may be at risk of transfer to adult court.
  • Crimes with Adult-like Behavior: If the juvenile committed the crime in a sophisticated or calculated manner, it might increase the chance of transfer.
  • Public Safety Concerns: If the court believes the juvenile poses a significant threat to public safety, they may consider transfer to adult court.

Important Note: A judge has discretion in deciding whether to transfer a juvenile case to adult court. An experienced juvenile defense attorney can advocate against transfer and argue for keeping the case in juvenile court.

Ensuring the Best Outcome for You or Your Juvenile Loved One

Facing juvenile court proceedings can be stressful and confusing. Here are some steps you can take to ensure the juvenile justice for yourself or your loved one in court:

  • Hire an experienced juvenile defense attorney. An attorney can advocate for your child's rights and fight for the best possible outcome.
  • Understand your rights and the charges against you. The attorney will explain your rights and the details of the case.
  • Cooperate with the court and complete any court-ordered programs.
  • Gather evidence and witnesses that can support your case.

Importance of Legal Representation in Juvenile Court

Having a qualified juvenile criminal defense attorney by your side is crucial in navigating the complexities of juvenile court. An attorney can:

  • Advise you of your rights and the juvenile's rights.
  • Fight to keep the case in juvenile court and avoid transfer to adult court.
  • Negotiate with prosecutors for a more favorable outcome.

Rights of Parents and Guardians in Juvenile Court Proceedings

Parents and guardians have specific rights in juvenile court, including the right to be informed of the charges, attend hearings, and consult with an attorney. An attorney can advise you on your specific rights in the case.

Contacting Olmr Law Office for Juvenile Defense

If you or your child are facing juvenile court proceedings in Wisconsin, contact Olmr Law Office today. Our experienced attorneys understand the intricacies of juvenile law and will fight for the best possible outcome in your case.

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The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute client relationship.
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