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Juveniled Justice System Structure & Process
Jurisdictional Boundaries
Q: What is a "juvenile"?
A: A juvenile is a youth at or below the upper age of original jurisdiction in a State.

Upper age of original juvenile court jurisdiction, 2013

State Age 15 Age 16 Age 17

Number of states 2 9 40

Alabama X
Alaska X
Arizona X

Arkansas X
California X
Colorado X

Connecticut X
Delaware X
District of Columbia X

Florida X
Georgia X
Hawaii X

Idaho X
Illinois X
Indiana X

Iowa X
Kansas X
Kentucky X

Louisiana X
Maine X
Maryland X

Massachusetts* X
Michigan X
Minnesota X

Mississippi X
Missouri X
Montana X

Nebraska X
Nevada X
New Hampshire X

New Jersey X
New Mexico X
New York X

North Carolina X
North Dakota X
Ohio X

Oklahoma X
Oregon X
Pennsylvania X

Rhode Island X
South Carolina X
South Dakota X

Tennessee X
Texas X
Utah X

Vermont X
Virginia X
Washington X

West Virginia X
Wisconsin X
Wyoming X

Note: Table information is as of the end of the 2013 legislative session.
*Massachusetts raised its upper age from 16 to 17 on September 18, 2013.

  • The upper age of jurisdiction is the oldest age at which a juvenile court has original jurisdiction over an individual for law violating behavior.
  • State statutes define which youth are under the original jurisdiction of the juvenile court. These definitions are based primarily on age criteria. In most States, the juvenile court has original jurisdiction over all youth charged with a criminal law violation who were below the age of 18 at the time of the offense, arrest, or referral to court. Many States have higher upper ages of juvenile court jurisdiction in status offense, abuse, neglect, or dependency matters - often through age 20.
  • Since 1975 seven States have changed their age criteria. Alabama increased its upper age from 15 to 16 in 1976, and to 17 in 1977. In 1993, Wyoming reduced its upper age from 18 to 17. In 1996, New Hampshire and Wisconsin both lowered their upper age from 17 to 16. Connecticut increased its upper age to 16 in 2010, then to 17 in July 2012. Illinois raised its upper age in 2010 from 16 to 17 for misdemeanants and raised it from 16 to 17 for felons (effective January 1, 2014). Massachusetts raised its upper age from 16 to 17 in 2013.
  • Many States have statutory exceptions to basic age criteria. The exceptions, related to the youth's age, alleged offense, and/or prior court history, place certain youth under the original jurisdiction of the criminal court. This is known as statutory exclusion.
  • In some States, a combination of the youth's age, offense, and prior record places the youth under the original jurisdiction of both the juvenile and criminal courts. In these situations where the courts have concurrent jurisdiction, the prosecutor is given the authority to decide which court will initially handle the case. This is known as concurrent jurisdiction, prosecutor discretion, or direct filing.

Internet citation: OJJDP Statistical Briefing Book. Online. Available: http://www.ojjdp.gov/ojstatbb/structure_process/qa04101.asp?qaDate=2013. Released on April 24, 2014.

 

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