line Glossary of Terms

Adjudication: Judicial determination (judgment) that a juvenile is responsible for the delinquency or status offense that is charged in a petition.

Age: Age at the time of referral to juvenile court.

Case rate: Number of cases disposed per 1,000 juveniles in the population. The population base used to calculate the case rate varies. For example, the population base for the male case rate is the total number of male youth age 10 or older who are under the jurisdiction of the juvenile courts. (See “juvenile population.”)

Delinquency: Acts or conduct in violation of criminal law. (See “reason for referral.”)

Delinquent act: An act committed by a juvenile which, if committed by an adult, would be a criminal act. The juvenile court has jurisdiction over delinquent acts. Delinquent acts include crimes against persons, crimes against property, drug offenses, and crimes against public order.

Dependency case: Those cases covering neglect or inadequate care on the part of parents or guardians, such as abandonment or desertion; abuse or cruel treatment; improper or inadequate conditions in the home; and insufficient care or support resulting from death, absence, or physical or mental incapacity of parents.

Detention: The placement of a youth in a secure facility under court authority at some point between the time of referral to court intake and case disposition. This Report does not include detention decisions made by law enforcement officials prior to court referral or those occurring after the disposition of a case.

Disposition: Sanction ordered or treatment plan decided upon or initiated in a particular case. Case dispositions are coded into the following categories:

  • Waived to criminal court—Cases that were transferred to criminal court as the result of a judicial waiver hearing in juvenile court.

  • Placement—Cases in which youth were placed in a residential facility for delinquents or status offenders, or cases in which youth were otherwise removed from their homes and placed elsewhere.

  • Probation—Cases in which youth were placed on informal/voluntary or formal/court- ordered supervision.

  • Dismissed/released—Cases dismissed or otherwise released (including those warned and counseled) with no further sanction or consequence anticipated. Among cases handled informally (see “manner of handling”), some cases may be dismissed by the juvenile court because the matter is being handled in another court or agency.

  • Other—Miscellaneous dispositions not included above. These dispositions include fines, restitution, community service, referrals outside the court for services with minimal or no further court involvement anticipated, and dispositions coded as “other” in a jurisdiction’s original data.

Formal handling: See “manner of handling.”

Informal handling: See “manner of handling.”

Intake decision: The decision made by juvenile court intake that results in the case either being handled informally at the intake level or being petitioned and scheduled for an adjudicatory or transfer hearing.

Judicial decision: The decision made in response to a petition that asks the court to adjudicate or transfer the youth. This decision is generally made by a juvenile court judge or referee.

Judicial disposition: The disposition rendered in a case after the judicial decision has been made.

Juvenile: Youth at or below the upper age of original juvenile court jurisdiction. (See “juvenile population” and “upper age of jurisdiction.”)

Juvenile court: Any court that has jurisdiction over matters involving juveniles.

"Juvenile population: For delinquency and status offense matters, the juvenile population is defined as the number of children between the age of 10 and the upper age of jurisdiction. For dependency matters, it is defined as the number of children at or below the upper age of jurisdiction. In all States, the upper age of jurisdiction is defined by statute. Thus, when the upper age of jurisdiction is 17, the delinquency and status offense juvenile population is equal to the number of children ages 10 through 17 living within the geographical area serviced by the court. (See “upper age of jurisdiction.”)

Manner of handling: A general classification of case processing within the court system. Petitioned (formally handled) cases are those that appear on the official court calendar in response to the filing of a petition, complaint, or other legal instrument requesting the court to adjudicate a youth as a delinquent, status offender, or dependent child or to waive jurisdiction and transfer a youth to criminal court for processing as a criminal offender. In non-petitioned (informally handled) cases, duly authorized court personnel, having screened the case, decide not to file a formal petition. Such personnel include judges, referees, probation officers, other officers of the court, and/or agencies statutorily designated to conduct petition screening for the juvenile court.

Nonpetitioned case: See “manner of handling.”

Petition: A document filed in juvenile court alleging that a juvenile is a delinquent or a status offender and asking that the court assume jurisdiction over the juvenile or that an alleged delinquent be transferred to criminal court for prosecution as an adult.

Petitioned case: See “manner of handling.”

Race: The race of the youth referred, as determined by the youth or by court personnel.

  • White—A person having origins in any of the indigenous peoples of Europe, North Africa, or the Middle East. (In both the population and court data, nearly all youth of Hispanic ethnicity were included in the white racial category.)

  • Black—A person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa.

  • Other—A person having origins in any of the indigenous peoples of North America, the Far East, Southeast Asia, the Indian Subcontinent, or the Pacific Islands.

Reason for referral: The most serious offense for which the youth was referred to court intake. Attempts to commit an offense were included under that offense, except attempted murder, which was included in the aggravated assault category.

  • Crimes against persons—Includes criminal homicide, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, simple assault, and other person offenses as defined below.

    • Criminal homicide—Causing the death of another person without legal justification or excuse. Criminal homicide is a summary category, not a single codified offense. In law, the term embraces all homicides in which the perpetrator intentionally kills someone without legal justification or accidentally kills someone as a consequence of reckless or grossly negligent conduct. It includes all conduct encompassed by the terms murder, nonnegligent (voluntary) manslaughter, negligent (involuntary) manslaughter, and vehicular manslaughter. The term is broader than the Index Crime category used in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI’s) Uniform Crime Reports (UCR), in which murder/nonnegligent manslaughter does not include negligent manslaughter or vehicular manslaughter.

    • Forcible rape—Sexual intercourse or attempted sexual intercourse with a female against her will by force or threat of force. The term is used in the same sense as in the UCR Crime Index. Some States have enacted gender-neutral rape or sexual assault statutes that prohibit forced sexual penetration of either sex. Data reported by such States do not distinguish between forcible rape of females as defined above and other sexual assaults. (Other violent sex offenses are classified as “other offenses against persons.”)

    • Robbery—Unlawful taking or attempted taking of property that is in the immediate possession of another by force or threat of force. The term is used in the same sense as in the UCR Crime Index and includes forcible purse snatching.

    • Assault—Unlawful intentional infliction, or attempted or threatened infliction, of injury upon the person of another.

      • Aggravated assault—Unlawful intentional infliction of serious bodily injury or unlawful threat or attempt to inflict bodily injury or death by means of a deadly or dangerous weapon with or without actual infliction of any injury. The term is used in the same sense as in the UCR Crime Index. It includes conduct encompassed under the statutory names aggravated assault and battery, aggravated battery, assault with intent to kill, assault with intent to commit murder or manslaughter, atrocious assault, attempted murder, felonious assault, and assault with a deadly weapon.

      • Simple assault—Unlawful intentional infliction or attempted or threatened infliction of less than serious bodily injury without a deadly or dangerous weapon. The term is used in the same sense as in UCR reporting. Simple assault is not often distinctly named in statutes because it encompasses all assaults not explicitly named and defined as serious. Unspecified assaults are classified as “other offenses against persons.”

    • Other offenses against persons—Includes kidnaping, violent sex acts other than forcible rape (e.g., incest, sodomy), custody interference, unlawful restraint, false imprisonment, reckless endangerment, harassment, and attempts to commit any such acts.

  • Crimes against property—Includes burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft, arson, vandalism, stolen property offenses, trespassing, and other property offenses as defined below.

    • Burglary—Unlawful entry or attempted entry of any fixed structure, vehicle, or vessel used for regular residence, industry, or business, with or without force, with intent to commit a felony or larceny. The term is used in the same sense as in the UCR Crime Index.

    • Larceny—Unlawful taking or attempted taking of property (other than a motor vehicle) from the possession of another by stealth, without force and without deceit, with intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property. This term is used in the same sense as in the UCR Crime Index. It includes shoplifting and purse snatching without force.

    • Motor vehicle theft—Unlawful taking or attempted taking of a self-propelled road vehicle owned by another with the intent to deprive the owner of it permanently or temporarily. The term is used in the same sense as in the UCR Crime Index. It includes joyriding or unauthorized use of a motor vehicle as well as grand theft auto.

    • Arson—Intentional damage or destruction by means of fire or explosion of the property of another without the owner’s consent or of any property with intent to defraud, or attempting the above acts. The term is used in the same sense as in the UCR Crime Index.

    • Vandalism—Destroying, damaging, or attempting to destroy or damage public property or the property of another without the owner’s consent, except by burning.

    • Stolen property offenses—Unlawfully and knowingly receiving, buying, or possessing stolen property or attempting any of the above. The term is used in the same sense as the UCR category “stolen property: buying, receiving, possessing.”

    • Trespassing—Unlawful entry or attempted entry of the property of another with the intent to commit a misdemeanor other than larceny or without intent to commit a crime.

    • Other property offenses—Includes extortion and all fraud offenses, such as forgery, counterfeiting, embezzlement, check or credit card fraud, and attempts to commit any such offenses.

  • Drug law violations—Includes unlawful sale, purchase, distribution, manufacture, cultivation, transport, possession, or use of a controlled or prohibited substance or drug or drug paraphernalia, or attempt to commit these acts. Sniffing of glue, paint, gasoline, and other inhalants is also included. Hence, the term is broader than the UCR category “drug abuse violations.”

  • Offenses against public order—Includes weapons offenses; nonviolent sex offenses; liquor law violations, not status; disorderly conduct; obstruction of justice; and other offenses against public order as defined below.

    • Weapons offenses—Unlawful sale, distribution, manufacture, alteration, transportation, possession, or use of a deadly or dangerous weapon or accessory, or attempt to commit any of these acts. The term is used in the same sense as the UCR category “weapons: carrying, possessing, etc.”

    • Sex offenses—All offenses having a sexual element not involving violence. The term combines the meaning of the UCR categories “prostitution and commercialized vice” and “sex offenses.” It includes offenses such as statutory rape, indecent exposure, prostitution, solicitation, pimping, lewdness, fornication, and adultery.

    • Liquor law violations, not status—Being in a public place while intoxicated through consumption of alcohol or intake of a controlled substance or drug. It includes public intoxication, drunkenness, and other liquor law violations. It does not include driving under the influence. The term is used in the same sense as the UCR category of the same name. Some States treat public drunkenness of juveniles as a status offense rather than delinquency. Hence, some of these offenses may appear under the status offense code “status liquor law violations.” (When a person who is publicly intoxicated performs acts that cause a disturbance, he or she may be charged with disorderly conduct.)

    • Disorderly conduct—Unlawful interruption of the peace, quiet, or order of a community, including offenses called disturbing the peace, vagrancy, loitering, unlawful assembly, and riot.

    • Obstruction of justice—Intentionally obstructing court or law enforcement efforts in the administration of justice, acting in a way calculated to lessen the authority or dignity of the court, failing to obey the lawful order of a court, escape from confinement, and violating probation or parole. This term includes contempt, perjury, obstruction of justice, bribery of witnesses, failure to report a crime, and nonviolent resistance of arrest.

    • Other offenses against public order—Other offenses against government administration or regulation, such as bribery; violations of laws pertaining to fish and game, gambling, health, hitchhiking, and immigration; and false fire alarms.

  • Status offenses—Includes acts or types of conduct that are offenses only when committed or engaged in by a juvenile and that can be adjudicated only by a juvenile court. Although State statutes defining status offenses vary and some States may classify cases involving these offenses as dependency cases, for the purposes of this Report the following types of offenses were classified as status offenses:

    • Runaway—Leaving the custody and home of parents, guardians, or custodians without permission and failing to return within a reasonable length of time, in violation of a statute regulating the conduct of youth.

    • Truancy—Violation of a compulsory school attendance law.

    • Ungovernability—Being beyond the control of parents, guardians, or custodians or being disobedient of parental authority. This classification is referred to in various juvenile codes as unruly, unmanageable, and incorrigible.

    • Status liquor law violations—Violation of laws regulating the possession, purchase, or consumption of liquor by minors. Some States treat consumption of alcohol and public drunkenness of juveniles as status offenses rather than delinquency. Hence, some of these offenses may appear under this status offense code.

    • Miscellaneous status offenses—Numerous status offenses not included above (e.g., tobacco violation, curfew violation, and violation of a court order in a status offense proceeding) and those offenses coded as “other” in a jurisdiction’s original data.

  • Dependency offenses—Includes actions that come to the attention of a juvenile court involving neglect or inadequate care of minors on the part of the parents or guardians, such as abandonment or desertion; abuse or cruel treatment; improper or inadequate conditions in the home; and insufficient care or support resulting from death, absence, or physical or mental incapacity of the parents.

Offenses may also be grouped into categories commonly used in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports. These groupings are:

  • Crime Index—Includes all offenses contained within the violent crime and property crime categories defined below.

    • Violent Crime Index—Includes the offenses of murder/nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault.

    • Property Crime Index—Includes the offenses of burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson.

Source of referral: The agency or individual filing a complaint with intake that initiates court processing.

  • Law enforcement agency—Includes metropolitan police, State police, park police, sheriffs, constables, police assigned to the juvenile court for special duty, and all others performing a police function, with the exception of probation officers and officers of the court.

  • Other—Includes the youth’s own parents, foster parents, adoptive parents, stepparents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, other legal guardians, counselors, teachers, principals, attendance officers, social agencies, district attorneys, probation officers, victims, other private citizens, and miscellaneous sources of referral that are often only defined by the code other in the original data.

Status offense: Behavior that is considered an offense only when committed by a juvenile (e.g., running away from home). (See “reason for referral.”)

Unit of count: A case disposed by a court with juvenile jurisdiction during the calendar year. Each case represents a youth referred to the juvenile court for a new referral for one or more offenses. (See “reason for referral.”) The term disposed means that during the year some definite action was taken or some treatment plan was decided on or initiated. (See “disposition.”) Under this definition, a youth could be involved in more than one case during a calendar year.

Upper age of jurisdiction: The oldest age at which a juvenile court has original jurisdiction over an individual for law-violating behavior. For the time period covered by this Report, the upper age of jurisdiction was 15 in 3 States (Connecticut, New York, and North Carolina), and 16 in 10 States (Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin). In the remaining 37 States and the District of Columbia, the upper age of jurisdiction was 17. It must be noted that within most States, there are exceptions in which youth at or below the State’s upper age of jurisdiction can be placed under the original jurisdiction of the adult criminal court. For example, in most States, if a youth of a certain age is charged with an offense from a defined list of “excluded offenses,” the case must originate in the adult criminal court. In addition, in a number of States, the district attorney is given the discretion of filing certain cases in either the juvenile court or the criminal court. Therefore, while the upper age of jurisdiction is commonly recognized in all States, there are numerous exceptions to this age criterion.


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Juvenile Court Statistics 1996   July 1999

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