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Delinquency Cases in Juvenile Court, 2009

NCJ Number
Date Published
October 2012
4 pages
Publication Series

These data on juvenile delinquency cases for 1985-2009 address trends in offense types; the demographic profiles of juvenile offenders (gender, race, and age); detention of juveniles; the intake decision; adjudication and disposition; and waiver to criminal court.


In 2009, juvenile courts in the United States handled an estimated 1.5 million delinquency cases that involved juveniles charged with criminal law violations. From 1985 through 1997, the number of delinquency cases increased steadily (63 percent), and from 1997 through 2009, the delinquency caseload declined 20 percent. Juvenile courts handled 30-percent more cases in 2009 than in 1985. This overall pattern of increase followed by decline resulted from trends in offense categories combined. Public-order offenses, person offenses, and drug law offenses either increased or remained stable; in contrast, property offenses had an overall decline from 1985 through 2009 (down 19 percent). Regarding gender, females remained a relatively small proportion of the delinquency caseload nationwide. Sixty-four percent of delinquency cases in 2009 involved white youth, 34 percent Black youth, 1 percent Asian youth, and 1 percent American-Indian youth. In 2009, juveniles younger than age 16 at the time of referral to court accounted for 52 percent of all delinquency cases processed. The likelihood of detention varied by general offense category. In 2009, person offense cases were the most likely to involve detention (27 percent), followed by public order offense cases (24 percent). In 2009, 19 percent of all delinquency cases were dismissed at intake, generally for lack of legal sufficiency. In 2009, juvenile court judges waived jurisdiction over an estimated 7,800 delinquency cases, sending then to criminal court (1 percent of all delinquency cases processed). In 2009, 27 percent of juveniles were ordered to residential placement as the most severe disposition. 5 tables and 2 figures

Date Published: October 1, 2012