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Juvenile Court Processing of Delinquency Cases, 1985-1994

NCJ Number
Date Published
March 1997
2 pages
This report presents data and information on the manner in which juvenile courts processed delinquency cases in the years 1985-1994.
In 1994, U.S. courts with juvenile jurisdiction handled an estimated 1,555,200 cases with delinquency charges. Fifty-five percent of these cases were processed formally, either by filing a delinquency petition in the juvenile court or transferring the case to criminal court. Between 1985 and 1994, the total delinquency caseload of U.S. juvenile courts increased 41 percent. The number of formally handled cases increased 69 percent, from 505,400 to 855,200 cases annually. The number of cases handled informally (i.e., without a petition or court hearing) increased just 17 percent since 1985. As recently as 1988, informal delinquency cases outnumbered formal cases. The likelihood of formal processing for delinquency cases in general increased from 46 percent to 55 percent between 1985 and 1994, with the largest relative changes being in drug offense cases (61 percent formal processing in 1994 compared with 43 percent in 1985), as well as weapon cases (62 percent formal processing in 1994 compared with 41 percent in 1985). The likelihood of formal processing did not change substantially in cases that involved charges of robbery, aggravated assault, and arson. The increased use of formal handling of juvenile cases between 1985 and 1994 did not, however, result in an equivalent increase in the proportion of delinquency cases adjudicated by or waived to criminal court. 2 figures and 2 tables

Date Published: March 1, 1997