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Police lenient with Wisconsin teen after potentially serious prank

It is common knowledge that kids and adolescents make mistakes (as do adults, for that matter). Making choices and discovering the consequences is part of the learning process of growing up.

But most adults realize that teenagers act impulsively and are not always able to consider the consequences of their behavior ahead of time. In recent years, advancements in our understanding of teenage brain development confirm this impulsivity. For this and other reasons, the appropriate response to most incidents of juvenile crime is one of correction and rehabilitation rather than mere punishment.

One recent case from Wisconsin highlights a good example of kids who may not realize the potential ramifications of their mischief. Last month, a 17-year-old high school student from Manitowoc posted a fake ad on Craigslist. The ad said:

"Four Year Old - $1000 (Manitowoc)

Hello, I have a four-year-old boy that I would like to sell. He has all of his immunizations and comes with a full wardrobe. I could throw in some stuff from his room for extra, but I would like to recover some of my money spent on it. Serious inquiries only please."

As it turned out, there was no 4-year-old in any danger of being sold online. And if taken in the correct satirical spirit, most people would think this was pretty funny. However, online human trafficking is a serious issue, and Manitowoc police had a duty to investigate.

It didn't take long to trace it back to the high school student, who had not realized the serious implications of the posting until police explained them to him. Thankfully, law enforcement officers decided to be lenient, saying that the teenager is "a good kid that made a mistake." Instead of pursuing criminal charges, police are recommending a $681 fine for disorderly conduct.

Other Wisconsin teenagers who act impulsively are not always shown leniency, even when it is clear that they acted without malice or criminal intent. Therefore, any adolescents charged with juvenile crime should speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help them understand their rights and options.

Source: HTRnews.com, "Our view: Craigslist posting far from a joke," Feb. 23, 2013

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