Juvenile Courts in the United States

By Herbert H. Lou | Go to book overview

Chapter IV
EXTENT OF JURISDICTION

THE extent of the jurisdiction of the juvenile court, as distinguished from its system of jurisdiction, relates to persons and cases instead of to the place of the juvenile court in the judicial branch of government or the types of geographical units served. Obviously, the law dealing with children must specify the age limit under which the court has jurisdiction and the conditions which call for the interference of the court. In other words, it must specify what is a child and in what cases or over what classes of children and, in some instances, over what adults the juvenile court has jurisdiction.


1. AGE LIMITATION

a. Variations between States

A juvenile-court law invariably defines the legal meaning of "a child." The age limit under which the court may obtain jurisdiction in children's cases varies from sixteen to twenty- one years in different states. The age limit for all classes of children of both sexes is eighteen in fourteen states, seventeen in four states, sixteen in thirteen states, and nineteen in one state. Twenty years as the age limit is adopted for boys in Maryland except in the city of Baltimore. Twenty-one years, the highest age limit, is adopted in Arkansas (jurisdiction is concurrent with criminal courts) and California (jurisdiction is exclusive to eighteen only). In all other states, a disctinction in age limit, ranging from sixteen to eighteen, is made according to sexes, classes of children, and, in a few instances, localities.1 Whenever a distinction is made, the age limit for girls is usually higher than that for boys and the age limit for dependent and neglected children is usually lower than that for delinquent children. True to the purpose of the juvenile court, there is generally no minimum age limit under which the court cannot take cognizance, but in a few places, such as Newark, Buffalo, and New York City, a minimum age limit, usually seven years, is fixed

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1
See notes, prepared by F. H. Hiller, on "Standard Juvenile Court Law," Proc. Natl. Probation Assoc., 1925, p. 199. In 1924, Iowa raised the age limit for delinquent and dependent children to 18 years.

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