In Wisconsin juvenile delinquency is defined as crimes committed by those 17 years old and under .   Juveniles are treated differently than adults who engage in criminal behavior.   The juvenile justice system is designed to hold juveniles accountable for their actions, protect the community, and equip juvenile offenders with competencies to live responsibly and productively.    The juvenile justice system is responsive to the juvenile’s care and treatment needs by emphasizing treatment, accountability, family connections, and developing positive community supports.   


Juveniles, like adults, are entitled to fair procedures and fair laws.   To ensure the fairness of a juvenile delinquency proceeding a juvenile has certain rights including:

  • an attorney 
  • a fact-finding hearing (court trial)
  • remaining silent
  • testify and present evidence 
  • use subpoenas to require witnesses to come to court and testify
  • confront the people who testify for the State in court
  • make the State prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt
  • Make independent decisions about how the case will be resolved (court trial, admission, no contest plea)

Juvenile Delinquency Procedures

A juvenile delinquency petition summarizes the allegations against the juvenile.  A plea hearing is scheduled 30 days after the filing of the juvenile delinquency petition.  The juvenile, in consultation with his/her attorney, will decide whether: a) to enter a denial and schedule a fact-finding hearing (court trial); or b) enter an admission/no contest plea and schedule a dispositional hearing.  Upon a finding of juvenile delinquency the judge will schedule a dispositional hearing within 30 days to finalize the juvenile delinquency proceeding.  At the dispositional hearing the judge will order the juvenile be placed under court supervision and order where the juvenile will live, the services he or she must participate in, and warn the juvenile of the consequences for failing to comply with the judge’s orders. 



If the judge makes a juvenile delinquency finding, the judge will enter an order deciding one or more dispositions.  The Court will consider the social workers summary of the juvenile’s background, situation and treatment needs and any other evidence presented by the State and the juvenile.   The Court must consider the seriousness of the act for which the juvenile has been found delinquent and may consider any other dismissed and read-in juvenile delinquent acts.  Juveniles are typically placed under court supervision for 12 months. 

The Court may order some or all of the following dispositions to be completed during the period of time the juvenile is under court supervision.  

  • Counseling
  • Supervision, including up to 30 days of home detention
  • Participation in the intensive supervision program
  • Placement in home or outside the home including:
    • Foster home, treatment foster home, or group home
    • Youth Village
    • Type 1 or Type II Child Care Institutions
    • Independent living (if over 17)
  • Secure Detention (juvenile portion of the county jail) for up to 30 days
  • Electronic Monitoring
  • Serious Juvenile Offender Program
  • Correctional Placement
  • Restitution for the victim
  • Community Service
  • Alcohol and other drug treatment
  • Drug testing

How can I support my child through the juvenile delinquency process?

Parental support is crucial during the juvenile delinquency proceeding.  However, your child is entitled to communications with his/her attorney without the parents being present.  Allowing your child to speak freely with an attorney is very important.  The attorney is the one person who understands the process, your child’s rights, and options for resolution.  Interfering with the attorney-client relationship may impair your child’s right to fair procedures and a satisfactory resolution.  Meanwhile, you can support your child by being your child’s primary support, cooperating with the social worker, ensuring the juvenile is at all court hearings,  social worker meetings, and assessments, as well as trusting the juvenile’s attorney to use their expertise to ensure your child receives a fair hearing and resolution.