A look at juvenile vs. adult criminal court

Published: Apr. 27, 2022 at 6:59 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - The boy accused of killing 10-year-old Lily Peters in Chippewa Falls this week is charged as an adult in Chippewa County.

The case may not stay in adult court. A judge can move the case to juvenile court.

Eau Claire attorney Jay Heit, who’s not affiliated with the case, said certain crimes, including first-degree intentional homicide, give adult court “original jurisdiction.”

“If you’re between the ages of 10 and 17 a charge for a juvenile would start in juvenile court where it’s confidential, the hearings are closed,” he said. “There are certain charges for juveniles, once you’re above the age of 10, that automatically start in adult court.”

Heit said if a judge rules there’s enough evidence to move forward in a preliminary hearing, the defendant’s lawyers can then petition to move the case to juvenile court.

“You’re probably going to have motions filed by both parties,” he said. “You’ll have the defendant’s attorney file motions to get it back to juvenile court. I would fully expect in this case, with the seriousness of it, that the prosecutor would want to keep the case in the criminal court.”

When determining whether to move the case, state law requires a judge look at these factors:

“If convicted, the juvenile could not receive adequate treatment in the criminal justice system.”

“That transferring jurisdiction to the court e exercise jurisdiction would not depreciate the seriousness of the offense.”

“That retaining jurisdiction is not necessary to deter the juvenile or other juveniles from committing the violation of which the juvenile is accused.”

“In juvenile court, they do a fact-finding hearing, at the end they would find you guilty. It would be the same type of finding that the court makes. Your criminal record would show it although it would not show up on like the computer, on CCAP. And also, you could be kept in a secure detention facility until you’re 25,” Heit said.

Juvenile court is closed the public. A judge, not a jury, makes the final determination.

Heit said if the defendant’s convicted in criminal court, he could go to adult prison right away despite being younger than 18.

He added it usually takes six to eight weeks after the preliminary hearing for the judge to decide whether to move the case to juvenile court.

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