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    January
    25
    2012

    Truant teens win appeals challenge to sanctions under municipal truancy law

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    Jan. 25, 2012 – A state appeals court recently clarified the proper procedure for sanctioning juveniles who violate conditions imposed for skipping school, reversing the sanctions imposed against two teenagers who played hooky repeatedly in Appleton.

    Truant teens win appeals challenge to sanctions under municipal truancy law

    Circuit courts must issue written dispositional orders that list conditions imposed for violations of municipal truancy ordinances. Imposing sanctions orally is not enough.

    By org jforward wisbar Joe Forward, Legal Writer, State Bar of Wisconsin

    Truant teens win appeals challenge to 
sanctions under municipal truancy law Jan. 25, 2012 – A state appeals court recently clarified the proper procedure for sanctioning juveniles who violate conditions imposed for skipping school, reversing the sanctions imposed against two teenagers who played hooky repeatedly in Appleton.

    In 2010, the Appleton juveniles were cited for first-offense truancy under a city ordinance that prohibits students from missing all or any part of a school day without an acceptable excuse. The ordinance subjects students to a $50 fine and probationary status.

    Wisconsin’s Juvenile Justice Code, Wis. Stat. ch. 938, governs municipal truancy law and procedure. Under Wis. Stat. section 938.355, the court must issue a written dispositional order stating the conditions with which the juvenile must comply for violating the ordinance.

    In this case, the Outagamie County Circuit Court did not issue final dispositional orders stating the conditions imposed. Instead, the court made oral rulings memorialized through “minutes.”

    Both teens failed to comply with the conditions imposed by the court through its oral rulings, including an order to maintain perfect attendance and pay the fine or do community service.

    Under Wis. Stat. section 938.355(6m)(ag), a court may impose numerous sanctions for violating a final dispositional order relating to truancy citations, including fines up to $500, home detention, and loss of vehicle operating privileges, among others.

    At sanctions hearings, the court imposed thirty-day home detention with electronic monitoring for noncompliance. Both teens served the sanction imposed but appealed, noting the appeal is not moot because the same issue is “capable of repetition and yet evades review.”

    In the consolidated cases of State v. Dylan S. & State v. Renee B., 2011AP1338-39 (Jan. 24, 2012), the District III Wisconsin Court of Appeals ruled that the circuit court improperly sanctioned the teens and reversed the sanction orders.

    Dylan and Renee “contend that the court lacked statutory authority to sanction them because the court never entered written dispositional orders that could serve as a basis for sanctions. We agree,” wrote Deputy Chief Judge Gregory Peterson.

    The appeals court rejected the state’s argument that “minutes sheets” can serve as dispositional orders. “A minutes sheet is not a court order,” Judge Peterson explained, noting that the circuit court judge did not sign the minute sheet and court orders must be signed.

    The appeals court also rejected the argument that the teenagers could not appeal because they did not object to the minute sheets as proper court orders.

    “[T]he forfeiture rule is one of judicial administration, and appellate courts have the authority to ignore a forfeiture when a case presents an important recurring issue. This case presents an important recurring issue and therefore merits a decision,” wrote Judge Peterson.

    Other issues of significant public interest

    Attempting to further clarify law and procedure under the Juvenile Justice Code, the court ruled that it was error for the circuit court to order electronic monitoring.

    Dylan and Renee “correctly note that the statutes contain a list of permitted sanctions, and electronic monitoring is not one of them,” the court explained.

    The appeals court also concluded that the circuit court was required to disqualify itself from the sanctions hearing in Renee B’s case, because the circuit court requested the hearing.

    Wis. Stat. section 938.355(6m)(b) allows district attorneys, corporation counsel, or the court that entered the dispositional order to file a motion for sanctions in truancy cases. But “[i]f the court initiates the motion, that court is disqualified from holding a hearing on the motion.”




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