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Drug Offense Cases in Juvenile Courts, 1985-2004

NCJ Number
Date Published
February 2008
2 pages

This Fact Sheet compares statistics on juvenile drug offense cases.


In 2004, juvenile courts in the United States handled an estimated 193,700 delinquency cases in which a drug offense was the most serious charge. Between 1991 and 2000 the number of cases involving drug offenses the juvenile courts handled more than doubled. Drug offense cases accounted for 12 percent of the delinquency caseload in 2004, compared with 7 percent in 1985. Males have historically accounted for the majority of drug offense cases processed to juvenile courts and accounted for 80 to 88 percent of the drug violation cases between 1991 and 2000. Males accounted for 77 percent to 83 percent of the drug offense caseload for white juveniles, 91 percent to 94 percent of the caseload for Black juveniles, 71 percent to 79 percent for American Indian/Alaska Native youth, and 79 percent to 86 percent for Asian, Native Hawaiian, and other Pacific Islander youth. Between 1991 and 2004, the female proportion of the juvenile drug offense caseload increased steadily from 12 percent to 20 percent. From 1985 to 1991, the proportion of the drug offense caseload involving white youth decreased from 79 percent to 50 percent; this proportion increased to 75 percent by 2000. During the same period, the proportion of cases involving Black juveniles increased from 19 percent to 40 percent, and then decreased to 22 percent in 2004. In 2004, drug offense cases made up 10 percent of delinquency cases in which youth were detained; detention was more likely in drug cases involving youth age 16 and older than youth age 15 and younger, more males than females, and more Black youth than youth of any other race. In 2004, juvenile courts formally processed 58 percent of drug offense cases. The majority (68 percent) of formally processed drug cases in 2004 resulted in the juvenile being adjudicated delinquent.

Date Published: February 1, 2008