line National Estimates of Delinquency Cases (Continued)

Intake Decision
More than half (55%) of the delinquency cases disposed by juvenile courts in 1995 were processed formally (figure 1). Formal processing involves the filing of a petition requesting an adjudicatory or waiver hearing. Informal cases, on the other hand, are handled without a petition. Among informally handled (nonpetitioned) delinquency cases, nearly half were dismissed by the court. Most of the remainder resulted in voluntary probation or other dispositions, but a small proportion involved voluntary out-of-home placements.

Table 8: Offense Profile of Delinquency Cases, by Manner of Handline, 1995Among person offense, drug law violation, and public order cases, approximately 6 in 10 cases were handled formally by juvenile courts in 1995 (figure 2). Among property offense cases, the proportion of cases processed formally was just over half. As a result of this differential handling, formally processed cases in 1995 involved a higher proportion of person, drug, and public order offenses and a lower proportion of property offense cases compared with the informally handled delinquency caseload (table 8).

Intake decisions varied among each of the four major offense categories. A detailed analysis of referral offenses showed that the likelihood of formal handling was greater for more serious offenses within the same general offense category. In 1995, for example, 60% of aggravated assault cases were handled formally compared with 50% of simple assault cases. Similarly, more than 70% of burglary and motor vehicle theft cases were handled formally by juvenile courts, compared with 40% of larceny-theft cases and 48% of cases in which vandalism was the most serious charge (table 9).

Table 9: Petitioned Delinquency Cases, 1986-1995

The likelihood o formal processing for delinquency referrals increased between 1986 and 1995, rising from 47% to 55%. The change in the proportion of cases formally processed varied across offenses. For example, the proportion of cases handled formally rose from 49% to 61% for drug law violation cases and from 28% to 54% for delinquency liquor law violations, while among aggravated assault cases the proportion dropped from 64% to 60%. Among forcible rape, other violent and nonviolent sex offenses, and arson, the proportion of cases formally processed remained essentially the same in 1995 as in 1986.

As a result of the increase in the number of cases referred to juvenile court intake and the greater likelihood of petitioning, the number of formally processed delinquency cases increased 69% between 1986 and 1995, from 554,000 cases to 938,400. The single largest increase was for weapons law violation cases, with juvenile courts formally processing 222% more weapons cases in 1995 than in 1986. Other large increases were seen in formally handled drug law violation cases (176%), simple assault cases (136%), aggravated assault cases (122%), and cases involving criminal homicide (107%).

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line Juvenile Court Statistics 1995, May 1998