U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Delinquency Cases Waived to Criminal Court, 1989-1998

NCJ Number
Date Published
September 2001
2 pages

This document provides statistics on delinquency cases waived to criminal court from 1989 to 1998 in the United States.


All States have set an upper age of original jurisdiction for juvenile courts (age 15, 16, or 17). However, all States have legal mechanisms that enable them, under certain circumstances, to try youth in criminal court as if they were adults. Some States automatically exclude cases from juvenile court that meet specific age and offense criteria, while others allow prosecutors to file certain juvenile cases directly in criminal court. In all but four States, a juvenile court judge is authorized to waive the juvenile court’s original jurisdiction over cases that meet certain criteria and refer them to criminal court for prosecution. In 1998, courts with juvenile jurisdiction handled nearly 1.8 million delinquency cases. More than half of these cases were handled formally (a petition was filed requesting an adjudication or waiver hearing). The number of delinquency cases judicially waived to criminal court peaked in 1994 with 12,100 cases. This represented a 51 percent increase over the number of cases waived in 1989. Since 1994, however, the number of cases waived to criminal court has declined 33 percent, representing less than one percent of the formally processed delinquency caseload. The proportion of formally processed cases waived to criminal court varied by category of offense, with drug offense cases more likely to be waived from 1989 through 1992. From 1993 to 1997, formally processed person offense cases were more likely to be judicially waived than cases involving other offenses. Prior to 1992, waived cases involving property offenses outnumbered those involving person offenses. This trend reversed in 1993, as person offense cases accounted for a greater proportion of the waived caseload than property offense cases. From 1989 through 1998, the number of judicially waived cases involving Black youth decreased 13 percent compared with a 12 percent increase for white youth. Person offense cases made up the largest share of the waived caseload for Black youth from 1990 through 1998. Property offense cases constituted the largest share for white youth each year from 1989 through 1998.

Date Published: September 1, 2001