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Juveniled Justice System Structure & Process
Jurisdictional Boundaries
Q: What is a "juvenile"?
A: A juvenile is a youth at or below the upper age of original jurisdiction in a State.

Upper age of original juvenile court jurisdiction, 2014

State Age 15 Age 16 Age 17

Number of states 2 8 41

Alabama X
Alaska X
Arizona X

Arkansas X
California X
Colorado X

Connecticut X
Delaware X
District of Columbia X

Florida X
Georgia X
Hawaii X

Idaho X
Illinois X
Indiana X

Iowa X
Kansas X
Kentucky X

Louisiana X
Maine X
Maryland X

Massachusetts X
Michigan X
Minnesota X

Mississippi X
Missouri X
Montana X

Nebraska X
Nevada X
New Hampshire X

New Jersey X
New Mexico X
New York X

North Carolina X
North Dakota X
Ohio X

Oklahoma X
Oregon X
Pennsylvania X

Rhode Island X
South Carolina X
South Dakota X

Tennessee X
Texas X
Utah X

Vermont X
Virginia X
Washington X

West Virginia X
Wisconsin X
Wyoming X

Note: Table information is as of the end of the 2014 legislative session.

  • The upper age of jurisdiction is the oldest age at which a juvenile court has original jurisdiction over an individual for law violating behavior.
  • State statutes define which youth are under the original jurisdiction of the juvenile court. These definitions are based primarily on age criteria. In most States, the juvenile court has original jurisdiction over all youth charged with a criminal law violation who were below the age of 18 at the time of the offense, arrest, or referral to court. Many States have higher upper ages of juvenile court jurisdiction in status offense, abuse, neglect, or dependency matters - often through age 20.
  • Many States have statutory exceptions to basic age criteria. The exceptions, related to the youth's age, alleged offense, and/or prior court history, place certain youth under the original jurisdiction of the criminal court. This is known as statutory exclusion.
  • In some States, a combination of the youth's age, offense, and prior record places the youth under the original jurisdiction of both the juvenile and criminal courts. In these situations where the courts have concurrent jurisdiction, the prosecutor is given the authority to decide which court will initially handle the case. This is known as concurrent jurisdiction, prosecutor discretion, or direct filing.
  • Since 1975 eight states have changed their age criteria. Alabama raised its upper age from 15 to 16 in 1976 and from 16 to 17 in 1977; Wyoming lowered its upper age from 18 to 17 in 1993; New Hampshire and Wisconsin lowered their upper age from 17 to 16 in 1996; Rhode Island lowered its upper age from 17 to 16 and then raised it back to 17 again 4 months later in 2007; Connecticut passed a law in 2007 to raise its upper age from 15 to 17 gradually from 2010 to 2012; Illinois raised its upper age for misdemeanors from 16 to 17 in 2010; Massachusetts raised its upper age from 16 to 17 in 2013; Illinois raised its upper age for most felonies from 16 to 17 in 2014; and New Hampshire raised its upper age from 16 back to 17 in 2015.

Internet citation: OJJDP Statistical Briefing Book. Online. Available: http://www.ojjdp.gov/ojstatbb/structure_process/qa04101.asp?qaDate=2014. Released on October 01, 2015.


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