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Charging Children as Adults: Understanding Wisconsin’s Laws and Policies

 Posted on April 06, 2016 in Criminal Defense

Wisconsin juvenile attorney, Wisconsin defense lawyerIt is difficult to imagine a child being charged with an adult crime and then being imprisoned with adults. Yet it does happen. In fact, last year, the state of Wisconsin decided to charge two 13-year-old girls as adults in an attempted murder case. If convicted, they could spend up to 65 years in a state penitentiary.

Their story, along with countless others before them, forces the public to ask some difficult and uncomfortable questions about how the state of Wisconsin tries and convicts juvenile criminals. The answers are both horrifying and unbelievable, but they are also the harsh reality of a broken justice system.

Violent Crimes Are Not Child’s Play

For the majority of juvenile offenders, crimes are charged and tried in juvenile court. Here, the offender is adjudicated and then pushed through the juvenile justice system. This usually includes up to three years of incarceration, but they are detained in a juvenile center. They also receive rehabilitation services, such as counseling, and educational services. But these services are usually only available until the minor’s 17th birthday, and only if they are not being charged with a violent crime. All others, including children as young as 10 who are facing homicide or attempted homicide, are tried as adults. 

When a child is pushed into adult court, the stakes are much higher. They are given an adult trial and, if they are convicted, they are given an adult sentence. Many are even imprisoned with adults. This puts young people who may or may not have considered the true weight of their crime at an extremely high risk for suicide and sexual abuse. And, for those that do eventually get released, their risk of recidivism is much higher than those that are tried and charged in juvenile courts.

Lawmakers Pushing for Change

There are lawmakers who are pushing for change, working to increase the minimum adult age to at least 18. States like Connecticut have seen great success with such laws, but getting everyone on board is not easy. As such, parents should never let their child face criminal charges alone, especially if the crime is considered of a violent nature. Instead, guardians should seek the skilled and experienced help of a qualified defense attorney.

At Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin & Brown, LLP we know what it takes to build a solid legal defense. Comprised of a former police officer, a former special agent with the justice department, and a former head of the public defender’s office, and many other highly-skilled criminal litigators, our team has more than 250 years of combined experience and the skills needed to help you or your child reach the most favorable outcome in a criminal case. To learn more, schedule your consultation with our Milwaukee criminal defense attorneys. Call 414-271-1440 today.






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