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Delinquency Cases Waived to Criminal Court, 1990-1999

NCJ Number
Date Published
September 2003
2 pages

This document discusses the number of cases transferred from juvenile court to criminal court through the judicial waiver mechanism between 1990 and 1999.


All States have set an upper age of original jurisdiction for juvenile courts as age 15, 16, or 17. All States have legal mechanisms that enable them, under certain circumstances, to try youth in criminal court as if they were adults. The estimates presented here are based on data from nearly 2,000 jurisdictions, representing 70 percent of the United States juvenile population (youth age 10 through the upper age of original juvenile court jurisdiction in each State). In 1999, courts with juvenile jurisdiction handled nearly 1.7 million delinquency cases. More than half of these cases were handled formally. The number of delinquency cases judicially waived to criminal court peaked in 1994 with 12,100 cases. This represented a 45 percent increase over the number of cases waived in 1990. Since 1994, the number of cases waived to criminal court declined 38 percent to 7,500 cases, representing less than 1 percent of the formally processed delinquency caseload. The proportion of formally processed cases waived to criminal court varied by offense. From 1993 to 1997, formally processed person offense cases were more likely to be judicially waived than cases involving other offenses. From 1990 to 1992, property offense cases comprised the largest share of the waived caseload. This trend reversed in 1993, as person offense cases accounted for a greater proportion of the waived caseload than property offense cases. Between 1994 and 1999, the decline in waived person offense cases outpaced the decline in waived property offense cases. As a result, by 1999, property offenses comprised a greater share of the waived caseload than person offense. From 1990 to 1999, the number of judicially waived cases involving Black youth decreased 24 percent compared with a 9 percent increase for white youth. From 1990 to 1999, person offense cases made up the largest share of the waived caseload for Black youth. In comparison, property offense cases constituted the largest share of judicially waived cases for white youth each year from 1990 through 1999.

Date Published: September 1, 2003