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Helping parents understand juvenile justice

When a minor commits a crime in Wisconsin, his or her parents may wonder what is going to happen next. Juvenile law is not the same as adult law, so it is important for parents to understand the process.

When their teenager commits a crime, many parents may wonder if a court will try their son or daughter as an adult. The National Juvenile Defender Center says that courts may try teenagers as adults if the situation meets certain criteria. If a teenager is facing charges of reckless or intentional homicide, for example, then a court may try him or her as an adult. Additionally, adolescents are usually charged as adults if they are over the age of 17. If a child commits a crime, courts usually take age into consideration. Wisconsin courts typically do not charge children under the age of 10 but may instead assign a social worker to monitor the child.

Many parents may not be familiar with some of the language used at juvenile courts. According to the Dane County Government, juvenile courts typically use different language because the focus is on rehabilitating the minor. Instead of getting arrested, minors are usually taken into custody. While adult charges generally include categories like felony and misdemeanor, law enforcement may charge a minor with a delinquent act. Additionally, minors usually do not serve probation. Instead, a court might order supervision.

After a minor commits a crime, the court system typically assigns a social worker for the child. This social worker usually meets with the family several times so he or she can give the court a recommendation on the situation. Some parents may think that because the court appointed a social worker, they do not have to do anything. However, it is important for parents to get involved. A court may ask a minor to abide by certain rules, and it is important for parents to enforce these rules at home. Some people may also want to take parenting classes to help them prevent further incidents. 

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