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Delinquency Cases in Juvenile Court, 2016

NCJ Number
Sarah Hockenberry
Date Published
March 2019
4 pages

This report on delinquency cases in U.S. juvenile courts for 2016 covers counts and trends; the gender, race, and age of those processed; the number placed in secure detention at various times during case processing; intake decisions; adjudication and disposition; and waiver to criminal court.


In 2016, juvenile courts in the United States processed 850,500 delinquency cases that involved juveniles charged with criminal law violations; this was 4-percent less than the number of cases processed in 2015. From 2005 through 2016, the number of delinquency cases declined 49 percent, with decreases occurring in all four offense categories (property offenses, public order offenses, person offenses, and drug law violations). Just over a quarter of the cases involved females; 44 percent involved white youth, 36 percent Black youth, 18 percent Hispanic youth, 2 percent American Indian and Alaska Native, and 1 percent Asian. Juveniles younger than age 16 at the time of referral to court composed 52 percent of all delinquency cases. In 2016, juveniles processed for person offenses were the most likely to involve secure detention (33 percent), followed by those processed for public-order offenses (29 percent). In 2016, 17 percent of all delinquency cases were dismissed at intake, generally for lack of legal sufficiency. An additional 26 percent were handled informally. Regarding adjudication and disposition in 2016, 52 percent of juveniles were adjudicated delinquent. Regarding case dispositions, formal probation was the most severe disposition in 62 percent of the cases. Residential placement was the most severe disposition in 27 percent of cases. In most states, juvenile court judges may waiver juvenile court jurisdiction in certain cases, transferring jurisdiction to criminal court for processing as an adult. In 2016, 1 percent of all formally processed delinquency cases were waivered to criminal court. 5 tables and 2 figures