Minimum Age for Delinquency Adjudication—Multi-Jurisdiction Survey

While every state (and territory) sets a maximum age of juvenile court jurisdiction (in most states it is 18), in about two thirds of the states (and territories), there is no statute that specifies a minimum age Minimum Age of Jurisdiction Map - 3.10.15under which a child cannot be adjudicated delinquent. In those states without a statutory minimum, there is nothing legally preventing the state from prosecuting even the youngest of children.  This runs contrary to all of the scientific research and emerging case law that recognizes children are inherently less culpable than adults and that the younger a person, the less competent he or she may be.

In Minnesota, the state Court of Appeals (an intermediate appellate court) has set a minimum age of 10 for delinquency adjudications. Matter of Welfare of S.A.C., 529 N.W.2d 517 (Min. Ct. App. 1995).

The statutes of 20 states specify a minimum age for delinquency adjudication.

Eleven states / territories set a minimum age of ten by statute:
American Samoa
: Am. Samoa Code Ann. § 45.0103.
Arkansas: Ark. Code Ann. § 9-27-303(14)
Colorado: Colo. Rev. Stat. § 19-2-104(1)(a)
Kansas: Kan. Stat. Ann. § 38-1602(a)
Louisiana: La. Child. Code Ann. art. 804(3)
Mississippi: Miss. Code Ann. § 43-21-61(i)
Pennsylvania: 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6302
South Dakota: S.D. Codified Laws § 26-8C-2
Texas: Tex. Fam. Code § 51.02(2)(A)
Vermont: except for murder, for which there is no age limit. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 33, § 5102(C)(iii).
Wisconsin: Wis. Stat. § 938.12(1)

Three state set a minimum age of eight:
Arizona
: Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 8-201(13)(iv)
Nevada: Nev. Rev. Stat. § 194.010(a)
Washington: Wash. Rev. Stat § 9A.04.050 (with some exceptions)

Five states set a minimum age of seven:
Connecticut:
Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46b-120(1)(A)(i)
Maryland
: Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc., § 3-8A-05(d)
Massachusetts: Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 119, § 52
New York: N.Y. Fam. Ct. Act § 301.2
North Dakota: NDCC, 12.1-04-01

One state sets a minimum age of six:
North Carolina
: N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 7B-1501(7)

 

Last updated, September 2016