Youth Adjudications

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Annual number of adjudications in Massachusetts since fiscal year 2017. (Data collected by the OCA from the Trial Court's Public dashboard on January 11, 2022.)

The court's finding of "delinquent" or "not delinquent" in a given case is called an adjudication. Adjudications are made after a jury or bench trial, or after a plea. 

If the charges against a youth are proven beyond a reasonable doubt, the court will find the youth "delinquent." This is the equivalent in an adult court of being "convicted" or "found guilty." From here, the youth's case will move on to the disposition phase. If the charges against a youth are not proven beyond a reasonable doubt, the court will find the youth "not delinquent." This is the equivalent of being found "not guilty" in an adult court. In this situation, the youth's case is closed. 

Before an adjudication, a judge can decide to continue a case without entering a formal adjudication into the youth's record. This is called "continued without a finding" or "CWOF." In a CWOF case, the youth's case can be dismissed if the youth meets all their conditions of probation while they are supervised, including not committing additional delinquent offenses. The youth will not have a record of a delinquent adjudication if they successfully complete their probation, although the fact that they were arraigned and their case was continued without a finding will appear on their court record.

Total adjudication counts on this page include "delinquent," "not delinquent," and "CWOF" cases unless otherwise indicated.

Adjudications Data: Demographic and Geographic Breakdowns

"Demographics of adjudications, statewide and by court county," below, shows adjudications and demographics over time. From the drop down menus, you can select a demographic indicator (race/ethnicity, gender, or age) and either the entire state or an individual county to see the breakdown of that indicator in adjudications over time. You can also select to see the data for all adjudications (i.e., "delinquent," "not delinquent" and "CWOFs") or just those found "delinquent."

As a point of comparison, this page also includes a visualization showing the racial distribution for all Massachusetts youth (not just those in the juvenile justice system) based on U.S. Census data.

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Statewide adjudications are shown by race, gender, and age group for each fiscal year since 2017. Beginning in FY19, youth under 12 can no longer be arrested or prosecuted in the juvenile justice system as a result of An Act Relative to Criminal Justice Reform. Data submitted to the OCA for FY17 included just three race categories. (FY18- FY22 data collected by the OCA from the Trial Court's Public dashboard on January 11, 2022.)

Below, select a county to see how many adjudications occurred that year or use the drop down menu to see the change in number of adjudications from the previous year. Use the drop down menu to select to see this data for all adjudications or just delinquent adjudications. You can also use the drop down menu to view the number of adjudications in each court county per 10,000 youth (ages 12-17) in that county. To change the year, select the fiscal year from the drop down menu.

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A heat map shows annual adjudications by court county. The Massachusetts Juvenile Court consists of 11 divisions across the state: combining Franklin and Hampshire counties, and Barnstable, Dukes and Nantucket counties along with the town of Plymouth. (Data collected by the OCA from the Trial Court's Public dashboard on January 11, 2022.)

Adjudications: Offense Type

Court cases are grouped into categories for reporting purposes, based on their corresponding chapter and section of the Massachusetts General Laws. These offense types are the same as used by the adult court system with a few exceptions: public order offenses include “school disturbance” case types, and “alcohol” is a separate category of offense for youth. For youth, sex offenses are included in the “person” offense category.

On cases containing multiple charges, the offenses are categorized by the first charge listed; additional charges may be of a different category and/or severity.  Youth 14 years or older who are accused of homicide offenses are automatically prosecuted as adults in Superior Court, rather than in the Juvenile Court, and are therefore not captured in this data.

Examples of youth offenses and corresponding offense types

Offense type Examples of offenses
Person Assault and battery, home invasion, carjacking, robbery, statutory rape
Property Larceny, unarmed burglary, arson, breaking and entering, shoplifting
Motor Vehicle Leaving the scene of property damage, operating a motor vehicle with suspended license, reckless operation of motor vehicle
Weapons Carrying a dangerous weapon, possession of a firearm without license
Drug Possession of Class A or B drugs, distributing drugs or possession with intent to distribute (class A, B, C, D, E)
Alcohol Possession of alcohol under age 21
Public Order/School Disturbance Disorderly conduct
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Statewide adjudications are shown by offense type for each fiscal year since 2017. Offense types include: alcohol, drug, motor vehicle, person, public order/school disturbance, weapons, other/not available. (Data collected by the OCA from the Trial Court's Public dashboard on January 11, 2022.)

Youth Dispositions

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Annual number of sanctions by sanction type in Massachusetts since fiscal year 2017. (Data collected by the OCA from from the Trial Court's public dashboard on November 14, 2022.)

Sanctions can be described as the final outcome of a case. In adult court, this is referred to as a "sentence." Common sanction options for dispositions in juvenile court include:

  • Placing the youth on probation for a period of time
  • Committing a youth to the custody of the Department of Youth Services (DYS)
  • Giving the youth a suspended DYS sentence
  • Giving the youth a full or partial adult sentence if the youth was adjudicated as a Youthful Offender.

The first sanction graph indicates the total number of cases with a disposition each year. If you hover over each bar, more data is provided on the number of cases with each type of sanction that year.

Dispositions Data: Demographic and Geographic Breakdowns

"Demographics of dispositions, statewide and by court county," below, shows dispositions and demographics over time. From the drop down menus, you can select a demographic indicator (race/ethnicity, gender, or age) and either the entire state or an individual county to see the breakdown of that indicator in dispositions over time. You can also select to see this data for all sanction types or a specific sanction (i.e., probation, commitment, suspended commitment, or no sanction).

As a point of comparison, this page also includes a visualization showing the racial distribution for all Massachusetts youth (not just those in the juvenile justice system) based on U.S. Census data.

Skip this  data visualization presentation.

Statewide dispositions are shown by race, gender, and age group for each fiscal year since 2017. Beginning in FY19, youth under 12 can no longer be arrested or prosecuted in the juvenile justice system as a result of An Act Relative to Criminal Justice Reform. Data submitted to the OCA for FY17 included just three race categories. (FY18- FY22 data collected by the OCA from the Trial Court's Public dashboard on November 14, 2022.)

Below, select a county to see how many dispositions occurred that year or use the drop down menu to see the change in number of dispositions from the previous year. Use the drop down menu to select to see this data for all sanction types or a specific sanction (i.e., commitment, probation, suspended commitment, no sanction). You can also use the drop down menu to view the number of dispositions in each court county per 10,000 youth (ages 12-17) in that county. To change the year, select the fiscal year from the drop down menu.

Skip this  data visualization presentation.

A heat map shows annual dispositions by county. The Massachusetts Juvenile Court consists of 11 divisions across the state: combining Franklin and Hampshire counties, and Barnstable, Dukes and Nantucket counties along with the town of Plymouth.  (Data collected by the OCA from the Trial Court's Public dashboard on November 14, 2022.)

Sanctions Data: Offense Type

Court cases are grouped into categories for reporting purposes, based on their corresponding chapter and section of the Massachusetts General Laws. These offense types are the same as used by the adult court system with a few exceptions: public order offenses include “school disturbance” case types, and “alcohol” is a separate category of offense for youth. For youth, sex offenses are included in the “person” offense category.

On cases containing multiple charges, the offenses are categorized by the first charge listed; additional charges may be of a different category and/or severity.  Youth 14 years or older who are accused of homicide offenses are automatically prosecuted as adults in Superior Court, rather than in the Juvenile Court, and are therefore not captured in this data.

Examples of youth offenses and corresponding offense types

Offense type Examples of offenses
Person Assault and battery, home invasion, carjacking, robbery, statutory rape
Property Larceny, unarmed burglary, arson, breaking and entering, shoplifting
Motor Vehicle Leaving the scene of property damage, operating a motor vehicle with suspended license, reckless operation of motor vehicle
Weapons Carrying a dangerous weapon, possession of a firearm without license
Drug Possession of Class A or B drugs, distributing drugs or possession with intent to distribute (class A, B, C, D, E)
Alcohol Possession of alcohol under age 21
Public Order/School Disturbance Disorderly conduct
Skip this  data visualization presentation.

Statewide dispositions are shown by offense type for each fiscal year since 2017. Offense types include: alcohol, drug, motor vehicle, person, public order/school disturbance, weapons, other/not available. (Data collected by the OCA from the Trial Court's Public dashboard on November 14, 2022.)

About the Data

Data Obtained From:

Adjudication and Disposition Data is obtained from the Massachusetts Trial Court's Public Tableau Dashboard

The Middlesex District Attorney's Office provides data on adjudications and dispositions for Middlesex County on their website

Juvenile population data is sourced from Easy Access to Juvenile Populations (EZAPOP), a data analysis tool available through the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP)’s Statistical Briefing Book. The population estimates provided are derived from data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau and subsequently modified by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). To learn more about the data click here.

Definitions:

Adjudication: The court's determination of whether the accused youth is guilty or not guilty in delinquency matters. 

Bench trial: The trial of a case before a judge without a jury.

Beyond a reasonable doubt: The highest standard of proof in a delinquency case. The judge or jury deciding the case must decide "to a moral certainty" that the youth committed the offense. This is a certainty that convinces one's understanding and satisfies reason and judgment.

Commitment: The most serious disposition for a delinquent youth that gives DYS custody of the youth until their 18th birthday, or until their 21st birthday for youthful offenders.

Conditions of probation: Conditions set by the judge that youth are required to follow to remain on probation and be successful. There are “general” conditions of probation that every supervised youth is required to follow, and “special” conditions of probation that may be set specifically for each individual.

Continued Without a Finding (CWOF): A decision that a judge can make after a defendant has admitted that the prosecution can prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt or after a trial in which the prosecution has proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt. By continuing a case without a finding (of delinquency or guilt) the judge gives the defendant a chance to avoid having an official record of conviction 

Disposition: The final outcome of a case, sometimes called the "sentence"

Plea: A juvenile's answer in court of "delinquent" or "not delinquent" to the charge(s) against them.

Probation: A youth adjudicated delinquent can be supervised by a probation officer as they remain in the community and follow their conditions of probation. If the youth violates their conditions, their probation officer can bring the youth back to court, where their probation can be revoked. 

Suspended DYS commitment: A disposition that gives youth the opportunity to be placed on probation with a DYS commitment possibility. If the youth successfully completes their probation term, they will not be committed to DYS. If they violate their probation, a judge may commit them to DYS. 

Youthful Offender: A person who is subject to an adult or juvenile sentence for committing an offense while between the ages of 14 and 18 which could send an adult to state prison. This applies only under special conditions depending on the seriousness of the offense and the offender's prior record. For more information, see M.G.L. Chapter 119 Section 58.

Definitions for juvenile justice terms adapted from "Kids and the Law: A User's Guide to the Juvenile Court" 4th ed. by Rebecca Pries, LMHC and Carol Rosensweig, Esq. Click here for an electronic copy and more information.

Date published: November 2, 2020
Last updated: November 2, 2020

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