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Trying Juveniles as Adults: An Analysis of State Transfer Laws and Reporting

NCJ Number
Patrick Griffin; Sean Addie; Benjamin Adams; Kathy Firestine
Date Published
September 2011
28 pages
This bulletin from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention presents an analysis of State laws governing the transfer of juveniles to adult criminal courts.
This bulletin from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) presents an overview of the laws used by States to cover the transfer of juveniles to adult criminal courts. The report notes that there are three basic categories of transfer laws: judicial waiver laws that allow juvenile courts to waive jurisdiction on a case-by-case basis; prosecutorial discretion or concurrent jurisdiction laws define a class of cases that may be brought in either juvenile or criminal court; and statutory exclusion laws that grant criminal courts exclusive jurisdiction over certain classes of cases involving juvenile offenders. The information in this report indicates that 45 States have some form of judicial waiver laws in which certain categories of cases may be considered for waiver, generally at the discretion of the prosecutor. In addition, most States have established a minimum set of standards for waiver eligibility that include a minimum age for the juvenile and a specified type or level of offense, and sometimes a serious record of previous delinquency. A review of cases submitted for waiver indicates that at the national level, less than 1 percent of cases eligible for waiver are actually granted one. Other findings from this analysis include: in 34 States, once a juvenile has been deemed an 'adult', they are always considered an adult for additional offenses; the number of judicially waived cases has declined significantly since 1994; no national dataset exists to track the number of juvenile cases waived to adult criminal courts; only 13 States publicly report all juvenile transfers; and wide variations exists in the ways that States document juvenile transfers. Tables, figures, and a list of State sources