What factors determine if a youth is tried as a minor?

On Behalf of | Sep 28, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

The legal system meticulously considers several pivotal factors when deciding whether a child will face charges as a minor or an adult.

These determinants, hinging on various aspects of the case and the child’s background, substantially influence the legal path that a young individual may follow.

1. Nature of the offense

The gravity of the offense carries immense weight in the decision-making process. Crimes with higher severity, such as violent offenses or those involving weapons, often lean toward adult charges. Approximately 8% of youth arrests involve violent crime. The nature of the crime significantly impacts potential consequences and the likelihood of facing adult court proceedings.

2. Age of the child

Wisconsin law designates a specific age threshold, typically 17, that may automatically result in adult charges. Younger individuals, however, are generally inclined toward juvenile proceedings, emphasizing rehabilitation over punishment. This recognizes the evolving cognitive and emotional development of adolescents.

3. Criminal history

The child’s criminal history is another pivotal consideration. Prior delinquent acts or criminal convictions, especially those displaying an escalating pattern of severity, can sway the decision toward adult charges. Conversely, a clean record can bolster arguments for a juvenile approach, emphasizing the potential for rehabilitation.

4. Circumstances of the case

The presence of aggravating or mitigating circumstances plays a role in the decision-making process. Factors like the child’s level of involvement, whether they acted alone and the harm caused to others can tip the scales either way. Cooperation with authorities, expressions of remorse and willingness to engage in rehabilitative programs can also influence the court’s decision.

This intricate decision-making process aims to strike a delicate balance between accountability and rehabilitation, with the overarching goal of providing young individuals with the best opportunity for reintegration into society while ensuring public safety.


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