Fact Sheet #53 February 1997
Drug Offense Cases in Juvenile Court, 1985–1994
Drug offense cases up 82% from 1991
In 1994 juvenile courts in the United States handled an estimated
120,200 delinquency cases involving drug law violations. Drug
offenses accounted for 8% of all delinquency cases in 1994,
compared with 5% in 1991. Drug offenses include possession or
sale of marijuana, cocaine, and other illegal drugs. The analysis
in this Fact Sheet includes only cases in which a drug offense
was the most serious charge, not cases involving juveniles
charged with drug offenses in addition to more serious offenses.
The number of drug offense cases processed during 1994 was
35% greater than in 1993 and 82% more than in 1991. Juvenile
courts experienced a decline in their drug offense caseloads from
1988 to 1991 but then saw a sharp increase from 1991 to 1994.
The number of juvenile arrests followed the same pattern.
Sharp increase in drug cases of white youth
Between 1991 and 1994, the number of drug cases involving
white juveniles increased sharply (118%). In each year between
1985 and 1994, at least half of all drug offense cases involved
white youth. The proportion that involved black youth grew from
18% in 1985 to 44% in 1990 and then declined to 37% in 1994.
Males were involved in 86% of drug offense cases in 1994,
compared with 82% in 1985. In 1994, 58% of drug offense cases
involved juveniles age 16 or older, the same percentage that was
found in 1985.
Use of detention down compared with 1990
More than a quarter (28%) of the drug offense cases that juvenile
courts disposed in 1994 involved the use of secure detention at
some point between referral and disposition. The use of detention
was down compared with 1990 (37%) but was greater than in
U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Justice Programs
Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention
Shay Bilchik, Administrator
Office of Juvenile Justice and
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