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Petitioned Status Offense Cases in Juvenile Courts, 2004

NCJ Number
Date Published
February 2008
2 pages
This Fact Sheet discusses petitioned status offense cases and five major categories: running away, truancy, curfew law violations, ungovernability, and underage liquor law violations.
In 2004, juvenile courts of the United States formally processed an estimated 159,400 status offense cases. Only a Justice Court can adjudicate status offenses (acts that are considered illegal only when juveniles commit them). Once the status offense case has been referred for court intake, the court must decide whether to process the case by filing a petition, or refer the youth away from the juvenile justice system to other juvenile delinquency service agencies. Between 1995 and 2004, the number of petitioned status offense cases that the juvenile courts handled increased by 39 percent; the petitioned status offense caseload for girls increased 42 percent, compared with a 37-percent increase in caseload for boys. In 2004, 60 percent of petitioned status offense cases involved juveniles younger than age 16 at the time of referral. In 2004, truancy cases made up the largest proportion of the petitioned status offense caseload for juveniles of all races, with the exception of American Indian/Alaska native youth for whom liquor law violation cases constituted the greatest proportion of petitioned cases. In 2004, the sources of referral varied substantially with the nature of the offense: law enforcement agencies referred 50 percent of all petitioned status offense cases, schools referred 72 percent of truancy cases, and relatives referred 42 percent of ungovernability cases. Law enforcement referred the largest proportion of runaway, curfew, and liquor law violation cases. In 2004, juveniles were securely detained in 7 percent of petitioned status offense cases, about the same proportion as in 1995. The likelihood of adjudication for petitioned status offense cases was 63 percent in 2004, compared with 50 percent in 1995. This Fact Sheet is based on the report Juvenile Court Statistics 2003-2004.

Date Published: February 1, 2008