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Publication Juvenile Felony Defendants in Criminal Courts: Survey of 40 Counties, 1998

Gerard A. Rainville, Steven K. Smith, Ph.D., Bureau of Justice Statistics

May 1, 2003    NCJ 197961

Discusses the increase in violent juvenile crime experienced during the early and mid-1990s, which prompted States to modify the way their justice systems handle juvenile offenders. Many States expanded the procedures by which juveniles could be prosecuted in adult court. This report, using a unique dataset from 40 urban counties, describes the characteristics of more than 7,000 juveniles charged with felonies in State courts. The findings indicated that prosecution of juveniles in criminal court is generally reserved for those charged with the quite serious crimes of murder, robbery, and aggravated assault. These juveniles were much more likely than their adult counterparts in criminal court to have been charged with a violent crime.


  • In 1998 in 40 of the largest urban counties, approximately 7,100 juvenile felony defendants were adjudicated in adult criminal court.
  • Of the 7,135 juvenile felony defendants, 62% were black, 20% were white, 96% were male, and at the time of arrest 55% were within 1 year of adulthood as defined by their State.
  • In criminal court juveniles (64%) were more likely than adults (24%) to be charged with a violent felony.

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