Can a Juvenile be Charged in Adult Court in Wisconsin

As a general rule, a juvenile alleged to have violated a crime in Wisconsin is not prosecuted in adult court. Rather, a minor is adjudicated in juvenile court to ascertain whether or not he or she is to be deemed a juvenile offender. Technically, there is no conviction of a minor in juvenile court.


With the general rule noted, you may wonder can a juvenile be charged in an adult court in WI. There are some limited instances in which a juvenile in Wisconsin can be prosecuted in adult court.

Waiver of Jurisdiction

Technically speaking, a minor is prosecuted in adult court when the juvenile waives its jurisdiction over a case and offender. A juvenile court can waive its jurisdiction over certain types of cases, depending on the age of the offender, when a determination is made that a case has prosecutive merit. In addition, a finding must be made by clear and convincing evidence that the best interests of the child and the state will not be served by an adjudication in juvenile court.

When Waiver is Possible

Once a child reaches the age of 15, any crime can be waived to adult court. If the crime involves gang activity, that waiver can occur when a child is 14.


Certain homicide cases can be waived to adult court when an offender is 14. However, a charge of first degree murder begins in adult court in Wisconsin if a child is over the age of 10. A reverse waiver can occur if that is deemed appropriate, which sends the case to juvenile court.


A waiver from juvenile court can occur for 14-year old charged with certain sex crimes, kidnapping, and armed robbery. The same holds true for certain types of burglary cases as well as a case involving controlled substances.


A minor previously adjudicated as a juvenile offender that is charged with assaulting an employee of juvenile detention facility, another offender in such a center, a probation officer, and other similarly situated individuals initially will be charged in adult court. A reverse waiver is possible. The age of the offender is irrelevant. 

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