Chapter 3.4.5 Juvenile Delinquents

​​​​​​Juvenile Delinquents

The application of the ICJ is mandatory for transfer of supervision of a juvenile delinquent to another state.  Both the sending state and the receiving state are obligated to comply in all respects with the terms and conditions of the ICJ and its rules.  The transfer of a juvenile delinquent to a receiving state without complying with the ICJ or its rules violates the Compact and exposes the sending state to sanctions as provided in the Compact.  That a court, rather than a juvenile authority, is the origin of the interstate disposition is irrelevant.  Courts, like state executive authorities, are bound by the terms of the ICJ.  Thus, while a court may determine that an interstate dispositional transfer is in the best interests of the juvenile delinquent, it cannot effectuate that disposition outside the terms of the ICJ.  See Interstate Compact for Juveniles, art. VII, § A(2) (2008) (Member states, their courts and criminal justice agencies are required to take all necessary action “to effectuate the Compact’s purposes and intent.”).

The laws of each member state define who is a “juvenile.”.  ICJ Rule 4-101(2)(a) (Interstate Comm’n for Juveniles 2024).  As noted earlier, the status of “juvenile” can be triggered by the laws of one member state even if another member state would not recognize that designation under its juvenile code because of differences in the age of majority. Therefore, it is important for receiving state officials to understand that their state law is irrelevant for purposes of designating a juvenile as a delinquent when considering whether to accept or reject a proposed transfer; the delinquency designation of the sending state’s law is binding on the receiving state.  Consequently, a receiving state may be obligated to provide supervision and services to a juvenile even though the juvenile would not be considered delinquent under their laws.

It is noteworthy that delinquency is defined differently in other legal settings.  For example, the Uniform Juvenile Court Act defines a “delinquent child” is “a child who has committed a delinquent act and is in need of treatment or rehabilitation;” and defines “delinquent act” as “an act designated as a crime under state law or the laws of another state, or under federal law such that if committed by an adult it would constitute a criminal violation.”  See Uniform Juvenile Court Act § 2(3) (Unif. Law Comm’rs 1968).  “Ordinarily, a delinquent act does not include minor traffic offenses, but does include serious offenses such as drunken driving or negligent homicide.” See, e.g., id. at § 2(2).  Whether an act constitutes a delinquent act is defined by (a) the laws of the state in which the act occurred, and (b) the age of the juvenile at the time the act was committed, assuming the juvenile is not declared an adult for purposes of prosecution and trial.  State law establishes the age for purposes of delinquency.  See, e.g., In re B.T., 82 A.3d 431, 434 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2013).

Under the Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act of 1938, 18 U.S.C. § 5032-5042 et seq., “juvenile delinquency” is the violation of a law of the United States committed by a person prior to his or her 18th birthday which would have been a crime if committed by an adult, 18 U.S.C. § 922(x) (2010), or a violation by such a person of the statute relating to transferring a handgun or ammunition to a juvenile. 18 U.S.C. § 5031 (2010). It is a jurisdictional requirement that the crime with which the juvenile is charged constitute a crime under the laws of the United States.

The transfer of supervision of a juvenile delinquent is not solely affected by the juvenile’s age or the nature of the offense.  While a receiving state could consider these elements in assessing whether the juvenile’s proposed residence is suitable, the age and offense of the juvenile cannot be the sole grounds for denying transfer.  Thus, for example, a receiving state could deny a proposed transfer of supervision in a case involving an older sex offender whose proposed residence might put him or her in close proximity to other children or a school.  The receiving state could not deny the transfer of supervision simply because the juvenile is an older sex offender.  In the first instance, issues of public safety may work against a transfer of supervision.  A receiving state would be in violation of the Compact absent considerations such as public safety, the opportunity for rehabilitative services or questions regarding family stability, to name a few. ICJ Rule 4-104(3) (Interstate Comm’n for Juveniles 2024).

For a discussion concerning the procedures for returning a juvenile delinquent to the sending state, see discussion infra Sections 4.4 through 4.6.