|State statutes define who is under the jurisdiction of juvenile court|
State statutes define age limits for the original jurisdiction of the juvenile court |
In most States, the juvenile court has original jurisdiction over all youth charged with a law violation who were below the age of 18 at the time of the offense, arrest, or referral to court. Since 1975, four States have changed their age criteria: Alabama increased its upper age from 15 to 16 in 1976 and to 17 in 1977; Wyoming reduced its upper age from 18 to 17 in 1993; and New Hampshire and Wisconsin lowered their upper age from 17 to 16 in 1996.
Many States have higher upper ages of juvenile court jurisdiction in status offense, abuse, neglect, or dependency matterstypically through age 20.
In many States, the juvenile court has original jurisdiction over young adults who committed offenses while juveniles. Many States exclude married or otherwise emancipated juveniles from juvenile court jurisdiction.
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. 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 juvenile and criminal courts have concurrent jurisdiction, the prosecutor has the authority to decide which court will initially handle the case.
Statutes in 16 States determine the lowest age of juvenile court delinquency jurisdiction
In most States, juvenile court authority over a youth may extend beyond the upper age of original jurisdiction
Through extended jurisdiction mechanisms, legislatures enable the court to provide sanctions and services for a duration of time that is in the best interests of the juvenile and the public, even for older juveniles who have reached the age at which original juvenile court jurisdiction ends.
In some States, the juvenile court may impose adult correctional sanctions on certain adjudicated delinquents that extend the term of confinement well beyond the upper age of juvenile jurisdiction. Such sentencing options are included in the set of dispositional options known as "blended sentencing."