TABLE 5-1 Disposition of Police Encounters with Juveniles and Adults


Juveniles (%)

Adults (%)
















restrictive (release) to most restrictive (arrest). Over half (56 percent) of the encounters involve interrogation and/or searching of the suspects. As the table shows, dispositions were similarly distributed in police encounters with adults.

Worden and Myers (1999) analyzed factors that affected the likelihood of arrest in juvenile encounters with police. Arrests were significantly more likely when there was strong evidence against a suspect and when the offense was a serious one. The likelihood of arrest more than doubled when a juvenile showed disrespect for the police officer. Possession of a weapon also increased the likelihood of arrest. Female juveniles were significantly less likely to be arrested, independent of other factors, including seriousness of offense.4 Worden and Myers concluded that “the situational factors on which research on police behavior has dwelt do not suffice to account for arrest decisions, however, and they are of even less value in explaining officers' choices among nonarrest alternatives” (1999:31).

Once a juvenile is taken into custody, it appears as if police are less likely now to deal informally with him or her than in the past. About 22 percent of juveniles taken into custody by police were handled informally within the department and released in 1998, compared with 45 percent in 1970 (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1999); 69 percent of juveniles taken into police custody in 1998 ended up in juvenile court and 7 percent in criminal (adult) court.

Although there are many differences among juvenile courts in case processing, there are stages that they all must go through: intake, petitioning, adjudication, and disposition. Figure 5-1 provides a simplified view of case flow through the juvenile justice system. Cases that are referred to the court are screened through an intake process, in which charges are delineated. In some systems, this process is done within the


Information on the Worden and Myers analysis of differences by race appears in Chapter 6.

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