|CERTIFYING A JUVENILE |
AS AN ADULT
Charging a Juvenile as an adult, Juvenile law, Juvenile Justice, Juvenile Court, Juvenile Delinquency
The Wisconsin and Minnesota criminal codes pertain to juveniles as well as adults. However, when a juvenile is charged with a crime, a different set of court procedures will apply, namely the Wisconsin or Minnesota Rules of Juvenile Procedure (Juvenile Court). In part, these Rules mirror those that guide adult court, but they differ in language, pretrial procedure, and disposition of cases. For example, when a juvenile is charged with a crime, the State may attempt to have the minor "adjudicated delinquent" of the crime, versus seeking a finding of guilt. The State may also attempt to keep a child on probation for a greater amount of time, and may even attempt to try the minor as an adult. Although the laws in Wisconsin and Minnesota vary slightly, many of the same rules apply.
In order to try a child as an adult, the court has a separate trial to determine if it is proper. This is called a Certification hearing. Parents are often scared and confused when they learn that their child may face adult penalties for their actions. The following is information regarding the processes and definitions which bind the parties in certifying a minor.
The State must notify the juvenile, his/her attorney and the court of its intention to move the case to adult court. This is done through a formal motion at the minorís first court appearance. Upon receipt of this request, either party and the court may order a "certification study". A study may ask that the minor meet with professionals in the fields of social work and psychiatry to make recommendations to the court with regard to the childís emotional health, maturity, support network, education, and any other information relevant to assist the court in determining what course of action would be appropriate for the minor.
A minor has a right to a certification hearing to determine whether he/she ought to be tried as an adult. This is separate from the criminal trial, which would commence after the court makes its determination as to venue.
For purposes of a certification trial, the minor is presumed to have committed the crime he/she is charged with. Of course, this presumption does not exist in the criminal proceeding. The certification trial is closed from the general public, and only those with a direct interest in the case will be allowed into the courtroom, including the victims. The minor has the right to an attorney at every stage of the process, including the certification hearing. He/she also has the right to present evidence and witnesses, cross-examine the Stateís witnesses, and present arguments.
Depending on the childís age, the law has created a presumption of whether the child will be tried as an adult or as a juvenile. It is presumed that a child will be tried as an adult if the following conditions are met:
- The child was 16 or 17 years old at the time of the offense;
- The delinquency petition (the charging document) alleges that the child committed an offense that would result in a presumptive commitment to prison under the Minnesota sentencing guidelines and statutes, or a felony in which the child allegedly used a firearm; and
- Probable cause has been determined that the juvenile committed the crime.
The juvenile may overcome this presumption if he/she can show by clear and convincing evidence that maintaining the proceeding in juvenile court would serve public safety. However, if the minor has been previously tried in adult court, a court will order certification on any new offense committed by the minor.
If the three criteria above are not satisfied, then it is presumed that the minor will be tried in juvenile court. In order to overcome this presumption, a prosecutor must demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that retaining the proceeding in juvenile court does not serve public safety.
The juvenile statutes have defined the term "public safety". The court must consider the following six factors in determining whether public safety would be served:
- The seriousness of the alleged offense in terms of community protection, including whether a firearm was used and the impact on any victim.
- The culpability of the child in committing the alleged offense, including the level of the childís participation in planning and carrying out the offense.
- The childís prior criminal record.
- The childís programming history, including the childís past willingness to participate in available programming.
- The adequacy of the punishment or programming available in the juvenile justice system, either in the exercise by the court of its delinquency jurisdiction or in its jurisdiction over extended jurisdiction juvenile cases.
- The dispositional options available for the child in the courtís exercise of delinquency jurisdiction or in its jurisdiction over extended jurisdiction juvenile cases.
The court must give more weight to the seriousness of the offense and the childís prior criminal record that to the other factors.
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