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Youth Younger than 18 Prosecuted in Criminal Court: National Estimate, 2019 Cases

NCJ Number
Date Published
2 pages

This report presents the methodology and findings of a project that produced a national estimate of the number of youth younger than 18 prosecuted in criminal court in 2019


This data-collection project is portrayed as a three-part puzzle. The first piece to the puzzle is the number of youth prosecuted as adults following waiver from juvenile court to criminal court. In 2019, an estimated 3,300 delinquency cases were handled in criminal court due to judicial waiver, assuming no youth had multiple criminal court appearances. The second piece of the puzzle is youth who face adult court sanctions due to statutory provisions that allow their cases to be directly filed in criminal court. Few states publish counts of youth transferred by these mechanisms. Based on data reported by 11 states (these are listed), it is known that 4,900 youth were prosecuted in these states in criminal court under these transfer laws. An estimate based on the reporting of these 11 states is projected as an additional 4,000 transfers. The third piece of the puzzle is to develop an estimate of the number of criminal court cases that involve 17-year-olds or 16- and 17-year-olds in the eight states that have not yet passed laws that prevent the prosecution in adult court of persons under 18 years old. The current project developed national age/sex/race petition rates for delinquency cases based on estimates developed by the National Juvenile Court Data Archive. These rates are applied to corresponding age/sex/race population estimates for each of the 8 states that set the upper age of juvenile court jurisdiction at either 15 or 16. This report estimates that 40,800 cases involving youth younger than 18 were subject to criminal court processing in 2019.

Date Published: January 1, 2021