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New Wisconsin law would help teens charged with nonviolent crimes

Most of the teens in Waukesha are good kids who most would classify as having their heads on straight. But even goods kids get caught up in bad things every now and then. The hope is that if and when this happens, those involved don't make things so bad on themselves as to endanger the bright futures that they have ahead of them. Yet often, authorities are legally bound to treat teens that’ve made a few dumb choices as though they were hardened adults with criminal histories.

Currently, Wisconsin tries teens down to the age of 17 in adult courts. This happens even in those cases involving nonviolent crimes such as drug possession. Critics of this policy argue that saddling 17-year olds, many of whom are still in high school, with adult criminal records is not only unnecessary, but wrong. They claim that such a stigma could haunt them later in their lives, leaving them to live with long-term consequences that don't fit the crimes they were originally accused of.

Those critics voices have been heard by state lawmakers, as new legislation has been introduced that would send 17-year old nonviolent offenders back to juvenile court. Dubbed the "second chance bill," this measure would apply only to those teens involved in nonviolent crimes, leaving those facing violent crime charges as well as those with past criminal records to continue to be tried as adults. Proponents of the new bill believe that this will help nonviolent teen offenders to receive needed rehabilitation rather than punishment.

It's currently unknown whether this proposed legislation will be addressed in the current legislative session. Until then, parents are left with having to hope that their teens accused of nonviolent crimes may still earn an acceptable outcome to their cases. A criminal defense attorney may prove to be of great assistance in securing such an outcome.

Source: Superior Telegram "Wisconsin bill shifts some youth cases from adult court" Nov. 14, 2013

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