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Proposal would treat non-violent 17-year-olds as juveniles in state court

UNDATED (WSAU-Wheeler News)  Wisconsinites will have their say today on whether 17-year-old suspects for non-violent crimes should be treated as juveniles instead of adults.

The Assembly Criminal Justice Committee will hold public hearing at the Capitol late this morning on a bill to return non-violent 17-year-olds to the juvenile court system. Supporters say it would give them a better chance of getting treatment, instead of just being locked up with older criminals in prison. The bill reverses a 1996 law which charges all 17-year-olds in adult court. Advocacy groups have been trying to repeal the law in recent years without success.

The new measure is a compromise in which teens charged with the most serious crimes like homicide and rape could still face adult penalties. The same would be true for repeat offenders. Wisconsin is one of 11 states where defendants under 18 are automatically charged as adults.

Attorney General J-B Van Hollen says the system works just fine. Those supporting the change include the state Public Defender's office, the State Bar, and the Wisconsin Catholic Conference.