Proposal Would Stop Some 17-year-olds from Being Tried as Adults

Sep 5, 2013

A new bill would reverse a 1996 law, that required the courts to treat all 17-year-olds as adults.

The bipartisan bill would exempt non-violent 17-year-olds from the requirement.

Wisconsin is among 11 states where 17-year-olds are automatically treated as adults in the justice system, regardless of the offense.

Supporters include the State Bar of Wisconsin, State Public Defender, Wisconsin Catholic Conference and the state chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.

They say most arrests of 17-year-olds are for “relatively minor, non-violent offenses.” Yet, the groups say when the teens are charged and sentenced as adults, their time in the justice system “often haunts them for life” in a variety of ways, including by making it less likely that they’ll graduate from high school.

State Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen says he opposes the bill. He says judges already have discretion in how they handle young offenders.