Wisconsin Court Records
What are Wisconsin Juvenile Court Records?
Wisconsin juvenile code exists to deal with adolescent offenders, whom Wisconsin deems not fully responsible for behavior or actions, more leniently than adult offenders. Thus, while juveniles still incur criminal liabilities for the crimes committed, the offenders are not subject to the same strict punishments as adults. Still, criminal justice agencies, including the Wisconsin judiciary, are responsible for the indictment and prosecution of juveniles; these agencies work with other government agencies and institutions to reform juvenile offenders. Records created in the activities of these agencies are called juvenile records. The availability of these records to interested requesters is dependent on explicit statutory provisions.
What Information is Contained in a Wisconsin Juvenile Record?
A juvenile record is a collection of documents that record the criminal or antisocial activities of a juvenile within the state. A person’s juvenile record comprises:
- documents created by law enforcement during the investigation, arrest, and indictment;
- documents and materials created or submitted to the court in the prosecution and adjudication of the offender,
- records from other juvenile justice agencies.
A person who has access to one or more of these records can expect to see the following on a typical juvenile record:
- Personal information (name, age, sex, & address)
- Names and addresses of attorneys
- Educational history
- Case summaries
- Notices & Summons
- Court transcripts
- Reports of physical, psychological, or developmental examination
- Social history report
- Home placement report
- Correctional placement report
- Records of the disposition hearing
- Audio recordings
- Video recordings
- Dispositional orders
- Reports from supervision programs
- Records and materials submitted during discovery
What Cases are heard by Wisconsin Juvenile Courts?
The jurisdiction of Wisconsin juvenile courts is subject to statutory age brackets enumerated in Subchapter III of the Wisconsin Juvenile Code. Per Wis. Stat. 938.12, juvenile courts have exclusive jurisdiction over any case involving a juvenile who is ten (10) years of age or older and alleged to be delinquent. However, the law removes juvenile court jurisdiction in cases under Sections Wis. Stat. 938.17, Wis. Stat. 938.18, and Wis. Stat. 938.183.
Furthermore, the court retains jurisdiction in cases involving older offenders under certain circumstances. These include if a criminal justice agency files a petition that alleges delinquency before the juvenile is 17 years old, but the offender clocks seventeen (17) years of age before admitting the facts at a plea hearing. Likewise, the court’s jurisdiction applies when the juvenile, before clocking seventeen (17) years, denies the facts before a guilty adjudication.
Some of the cases heard in a Wisconsin juvenile court involve:
- running away from home
- Driving without a license
- Driving under influence
- Habitual truancy
- Municipal ordinance violations
- Uderage drinking
- Sex offenses
- Other violent crimes
- Other property crimes
The court may waive jurisdiction in a case if the judge finds prosecutive merit. The criteria considered before waiving jurisdiction include:
- The personality of the juvenile
- Mental illness or developmental disability
- Physical and mental maturity
- Pattern of living
- Prior treatment history
- Potential for responding to future treatment
- Prior juvenile records
- If the court had waived jurisdiction before
- Record of previous convictions
- Degree of aggression bodily injury in the crime
- Motives and attitude towards the crime
A complete process of how the presiding judge weighs the above criteria and the transfer of jurisdiction is available in Wis. Stat. 938.18(5).
Who is Eligible to View Juvenile Records in Wisconsin?
Generally, Wisconsin juvenile records are confidential; Wis. Stat. 938.78 restricts record custodians from disclosing the contents of juvenile records without statutory authorization or a court order enforcing the disclosure. Even at that, the record custodian must perform a balancing test: the test considers public interest in releasing the record against protecting the juvenile’s right, the privacy, and dignity of the victim or parties involved.
The balancing test also considers the sensitive information, the presence of economically valuable information, and details subject to misuse or identity theft upon disclosure. The results of the balancing test will cause the record custodian to deny a request or redact certain information before making it available to a requester. The following entities, per Wis. Stat. 938.396(2g), are eligible to view juvenile records in Wisconsin:
- Juvenile court judge and staff
- The juvenile and legal guardian
- The victim-witness coordinator
- The victim’s insurer
- Fire investigator
- Law enforcement agencies
- Prosecuting attorney and staff
- An authorized staff of the department of child services
- An authorized staff of the department of corrections
- Interested persons (with a court order or notarized permission from juvenile or legal custodian)
How to Find Juvenile Records in Wisconsin
Any requester who is not statutorily permitted, or one who has limited access, must possess a court order to obtain juvenile records in Wisconsin. Authorized entities do not need a court order to request juvenile records. All requesters must contact the court where the case was filed to obtain the juvenile court record. In-person requests are preferable, but courts often allow mail requests. Either way, the requester must provide enough details to facilitate a record search and pay the fees associated with finding and reproducing the record. Similarly, for law enforcement records, and records submitted by other government agencies involved in the juvenile case, submit a request to the Department of Justice.
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:
- The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
- The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that the person resides in or was accused in.
Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.
Can You Look up Wisconsin Juvenile Records Online?
It depends. If the juvenile case was one where the court waived jurisdiction, then the record will be available by performing a case search and a criminal records check. Contrary to this, electronic records of juvenile crimes are not available to unauthorized entities. However, certain third-party service providers allow access to publicly available juvenile records online.
Do Wisconsin Juvenile Records show up on Background Checks?
Yes, juvenile records in Wisconsin show up on criminal history information during background checks unless such juvenile records have been sealed or expunged by court order. The requirement for expungement varies from county to county and with the nature of the case. Thus, a person submitting a petition to seal or expunge must inquire about the requirements from the clerk of courts. Generally, the person must satisfy the conditions of his/her dispositional order and any court requirement (Wis. Stat. § 938.355(4m)).. The person will also need to submit a request to the Department of Justice (see systematic instructions)..
How Long are Juvenile Records Kept in Wisconsin?
Wisconsin is not an automatic expungement state. Thus, juvenile records remain in the public domain for life unless the juvenile or his/her legal representative submits a request for expungement.