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Juveniles in Court
Manner of Handling
Q: Has the juvenile courts' formal delinquency caseload grown?
A: Since reaching a peak in 1997, the number of formally processed delinquency cases declined 30% through 2010.
Delinquency cases by manner of handling, 1985-2010

[ Text only ]  [ Excel file ]

  • A juvenile court intake officer or prosecutor determines whether to handle a delinquency case formally or informally. They may decide to dismiss the case for lack of legal sufficiency or to resolve the matter informally. Informal dispositions are voluntary and include referral to a social agency for services, informal probation, or some form of restitution.
  • Formal processing involves the filing of a petition requesting that the court hold an adjudicatory or waiver hearing. A waiver hearing could result in the juvenile court waiving its jurisdiction in the case, transferring the matter to criminal court. At an adjudicatory hearing the youth may be adjudicated (judged) delinquent and the case would proceed to a disposition hearing. If the youth is not adjudicated, the case is generally dismissed but the youth may be asked to take some actions, such as making restitution or voluntarily attending drug counseling, prior to the final adjudication decision.
  • The number of formally processed delinquency cases declined 30% between 1997 and 2010. In comparison, during that period the total delinquency caseload fell 27% and the number of informally handled cases declined 23%.
  • Since 1989, formal cases have comprised a larger share of the delinquency caseload than informal cases. In 2010, there were 15% more formal than informal delinquency cases.

Internet citation: OJJDP Statistical Briefing Book. Online. Available: http://www.ojjdp.gov/ojstatbb/court/qa06401.asp?qaDate=2010. Released on April 17, 2013.

Adapted from Juvenile Court Statistics 2010 (forthcoming). Pittsburgh, PA: National Center for Juvenile Justice.


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