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Circuit court properly exercised discretion in waiver juvenile to adult court

State v. Mariah E., 2014AP1788, District 2, 1/14/15 (1-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity

The decision to waive a juvenile into adult court is reviewed for erroneous exercise of discretion, State v. Tyler T., 2012 WI 52, ¶24, 341 Wis. 2d 1, 814 N.W.2d 192, and in this case the circuit court did not erroneously exercise its discretion in waiving sixteen-year-old Mariah to adult court on charges of battery of a police officer, battery to an emergency worker, and resisting and obstructing.

Mariah argued the circuit court erred by: “predetermin[ing]” the length of supervision she would receive if she remained in the juvenile system and comparing it to a speculative maximum probation term that could be imposed in the adult court; giving significant weight in its waiver decision to the amount of time available to supervise Mariah in the adult system as opposed to the juvenile system; and not considering Mariah’s personality and the seriousness of the offenses as factors that support retaining juvenile jurisdiction. (¶13). The court of appeals disagrees.

Regarding the comparison of the amount of time during which Mariah might have on supervision if she remained in the juvenile system with the amount of time she might have supervision if she was waived into the adult system, the court of appeals concludes:

¶15     …. [T]he [circuit] court was considering the undisputed reality that waiver into the adult system would provide the opportunity for a much longer period of supervision than if Mariah remained in the juvenile system. This was a correct observation and an appropriate consideration. See G.B.K. [v. State], 126 Wis. 2d [253,] 260[, 376 N.W.2d 385 (Ct. App. 1985)] (it is appropriate for the court to give weight to “the short period of time left in the juvenile system”).

Nor did the circuit court put too much weight on Mariah’s age (16 years, eight months) and its impact on the amount of time she would have left in the juvenile system: “While the circuit court noted that it considered Mariah’s age as ‘one’ of the ‘heavier factors’ in its waiver determination, the record demonstrates it was by no means the only factor considered by the court.” (¶17).

Finally, the circuit court’s weighing of Mariah’s personality and the seriousness of the offenses was not erroneous. In particular, Mariah argues the lower class of felony for which she was charged (two Class H felonies) militates toward retaining juvenile jurisdiction, but the court of appeals rejects this argument:

¶24      To begin, Wis. Stat. § 938.18(5)(b) directs a circuit court to look not just at the seriousness of the offense, but also at the “type” of offense as well. Here, the circuit court observed that Mariah’s alleged batteries of the police officer and an emergency worker were “aggressive” and “quite violent” and elevated the severity of these offenses from other batteries. We agree. The battery charges did not arise from a fight between peers, but rather from Mariah’s alleged assaults on a police officer and an emergency worker, which demonstrated not only aggression but also a profound disrespect for authority and those charged with assisting others. This additional element makes her offenses more egregious. We further note as significant the fact that this incident resulted in multiple felony and misdemeanor charges.

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