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COA upholds waiver of juvenile into adult court

State v. D.J.L., 2021AP436, 5/10/22, District 3 (1-judge opinion ineligible for publication); case activity

The State charged 17-year-old “David” with exposing himself to two girls (5 and 9) and sexually assaulting the older one. On appeal, he challenged the circuit court’s decision to waive him into adult court. The court of appeals held that the circuit court (1) appropriately applied §938.18(5)’s waiver criteria, (2) had the discretion to reject an expert opinion opposing waiver, and (3) did not base its decision on the fact that D.J.L. would get a lighter sentence if he stayed in juvenile court.

The court of appeals held that the circuit court appropriately considered that under §938.18(5)(a), David suffered from PTSD and had other issues requiring treatment. Plus he appeared to be resistant to treatment. Opinion, ¶20.

Under §938.18(5)(b), his crimes were serious–sexual offenses against minors. Opinion, ¶21.

Under §938.18(5)(c), he could receive adequate treatment in the juvenile justice system but only until he turned 21. Insufficient time remained to address his treatment needs. Opinion, ¶¶22-23.

The court of appeals acknowledged that the sole testifying psychologist opined that David should remain in the juvenile justice system. However, information in the psychologist’s report supported waiver. The circuit court was free to rely on that information and simultaneously reject the psychologist’s ultimate conclusion. Opinion, ¶26.

The court of appeals rejected David’s argument the circuit court waived him into adult court so he could receive a stiffer sentence in violation of State v. C.W., 142 Wis. 2d 763, 419 N.W.2d 327 (Ct. App. 1987). David noted that the circuit court repeatedly referenced the maximum penalty him would face in adult court, which was 20 times greater than the penalty he could receive in juvenile court. According to the court of appeals, the circuit court wasn’t violating C.W. It was merely highlighting the seriousness of the offense. Opinion, ¶¶27-28.


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