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Juveniled Justice System Structure & Process
Jurisdictional Boundaries
Q: What are the upper and lower ages of delinquency and status offense jurisdiction?
A: In the majority of states, the upper age is 17 and the lower age is not specified for delinquency and status jurisdiction.

Upper and lower age of juvenile court delinquency and status offense jurisdiction, 2013

State Delinquency Jurisdiction Status Jurisdiction
Lower age Upper age Lower age Upper age

Alabama NS 17 NS 17
Alaska NS 17 NS 17
Arizona 8 17 NS 17

Arkansas 10 17 Birth 17
California NS 17 NS 17
Colorado 10 17 NS 17

Connecticut NS 17 7 17
Delaware NS 17 NS 17
District of Columbia NS 17 NS 17

Florida NS 17 NS 17
Georgia NS 16 NS 17
Hawaii NS 17 NS 17

Idaho NS 17 NS 17
Illinois NS 16 NS 17
Indiana NS 17 NS 17

Iowa NS 17 NS 17
Kansas 10 17 NS 17
Kentucky NS 17 NS 17

Louisiana 10 16 NS 17
Maine NS 17 NS 17
Maryland 7 17 NS 17

Massachusetts* 7 17 6 17
Michigan NS 16 NS 17
Minnesota 10 17 NS 17

Mississippi 10 17 7 17
Missouri NS 16 NS 17
Montana NS 17 NS 17

Nebraska NS 17 NS 17
Nevada NS 17 NS 17
New Hampshire NS 16 NS 17

New Jersey NS 17 NS 17
New Mexico NS 17 NS 17
New York 7 15 NS 17

North Carolina 6 15 6 17
North Dakota NS 17 NS 17
Ohio NS 17 NS 20

Oklahoma NS 17 NS 17
Oregon NS 17 NS 17
Pennsylvania 10 17 NS 17

Rhode Island NS 17 NS 17
South Carolina NS 16 NS 16
South Dakota 10 17 NS 17

Tennessee NS 17 NS 17
Texas 10 16 10 16
Utah NS 17 NS 17

Vermont 10 17 NS 17
Virginia NS 17 NS 17
Washington** 8 17 NS 17

West Virginia NS 17 NS 17
Wisconsin 10 16 NS 17
Wyoming NS 17 NS 16

Note: Table information is as of the end of the 2013 legislative session. NS: lower age not specified.
*Massachusetts raised its upper age from 16 to 17 on September 18, 2013.
**In Washington the lower age of delinquency jurisdiction is applied through a state juvenile court rule, which references a criminal code provision establishing the age youth are presumed to be incapable of committing crime.

  • The upper age of jurisdiction is the oldest age at which a juvenile court has original jurisdiction over an individual for law violating behavior. An upper age of 15 means that the juvenile court loses jurisdiction over a child when they turn 16; an upper age of 16 means that a juvenile court loses jurisdiction when a child turns 17; and a upper age of 17 means that a juvenile court loses jurisdiction over a child when they turn 18.
  • 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. Some 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 again from 16 to 17 for felons (effective in 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/qa04102.asp?qaDate=2013. Released on April 24, 2014.

Developed for the State Training and Technical Assistance Center by the National Center for Juvenile Justice (NCJJ), with funding from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The following NCJJ staff contributed to this state profile: Kathy Firestine and Teri Deal.

 

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