Juvenile justice is the area of criminal law applicable to persons not old enough to be held responsible for criminal acts. In most states, the age for criminal culpability is set at 18 years. Juvenile law is mainly governed by state law and most states have enacted a juvenile code.
State statutes creating juvenile courts and providing methods for dealing with juvenile delinquency have generally been upheld by courts as an acceptable extension of state police power to ensure the safety and welfare of children. The doctrine of parens patriae authorizes the state to legislate for the protection, care, custody, and maintenance of children within its jurisdiction.
Juveniles can be transferred into adult court if the juvenile court waives or relinquishes its jurisdiction.
At the federal level, the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDP) is the main federal statute relating to juvenile justice. JJDP assists states and local communities in providing community-based services to juveniles in danger of becoming delinquent, helps to train individuals in occupations providing such services, and provides technical assistance in the field.
For more on juvenile justice, see this American Bar Association article, this Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Law, Brain, & Behavior article, and this issue of the Journal of Juvenile Justice.
menu of sources
U.S. Constitution and Federal Statutes
- Uniform Laws
- Model Juvenile Court Act (adopted in Georgia, North Dakota, and Pennsylvania)
- State Statutes
- N.Y. Court of Appeals:
- Appellate Decisions from Other States
Key Internet Sources
- National Criminal Justice Reference Service - Juvenile Justice
- Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention
- Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention
- National Youth Gang Center
- Juveniles and the Law (Nolo)
Useful Offnet (or Subscription - $) Sources
- Good Starting Point in Print: Martin R. Gardner, Understanding Juvenile Law, Matthew Bender (2003)