Home Our Work Special Projects Raising the Minimum Age for Prosecuting Children

Raising the Minimum Age for Prosecuting Children

As of October 2022, 24 states in the U.S. have no minimum age for prosecuting children. The U.S. is an outlier throughout the world in the practice of prosecuting young children in court; 14 is the most common minimum age of criminal responsibility internationally.

It is shocking to the conscience that there are still states in this country that have not set a bare minimum age at which you can try a child in juvenile court. This has led to many examples of troubling treatment of young children. In January 2021, we watched in horror as video (*trigger warning*) was released of Rochester police officers pepper spraying a 9-year-old Black girl, while trying to force her into a police car. The lack of a humane and rational minimum age for prosecuting children puts youth like this 9-year-old girl at risk of experiencing the trauma of arrest and police involvement.

We must do better.

Processing and confining children in the juvenile justice system is not only traumatic but it exposes them to damaging collateral consequences, including:

●       Barriers to education and employment,
●       Fines and fees,
●       Risk to immigration status,
●       Physical and sexual abuse,
●       Suicide, and
●       Disruptions to mental and physical development that incarcerated children experience.

NJJN calls on all states to set a minimum age of prosecution of no lower than 14-years-old in accordance with the standards set forth by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).  See below for resources to help you in your efforts to establish or raise your state’s minimum age for prosecuting children.


State Laws on Age Limits:

Updated_June 2023

Created with mapchart.net 

>>Download: Charting U.S. Minimum Ages of Jurisdiction, Detention, and Commitment (July 2023)


  • Table 1: Minimum Age of Juvenile Court Jurisdiction (PDF)
  • Table 1: Minimum Age Restrictions for Pre-trial Detention in the Juvenile Court System (PDF)
  • Table 3: Minimum Age Restrictions for Youth Commitment in the Juvenile Court System (PDF)
  • Chart of Minimum Age Laws for Juvenile Court Jurisdiction, Pre-trial Detention, and Commitment in the U.S. States and Territories - Public Google Doc

Policy Positions:

NJJN Policy Platform: Raise the Minimum Age for Trying Children in Juvenile Court


Fact Sheets and Issue Briefs:


Podcasts & Interviews





Organizational Statements:

  • American Bar Association Resolution 505 (2021): The American Bar Association (ABA) urges all federal, state, local, territorial and tribal legislative bodies to enact laws which raise the minimum age for prosecution of children as alleged juvenile delinquents to age 14.
  • Child and Adolescent Health Group Statement (2021): The following child and adolescent health professional organizations collectively endorse action to institute a minimum age of at least 12 years old for juvenile justice system jurisdiction: American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, American Council for School Social Work, American Psychological Association, Clinical Social Work Association, National Association of Social Workers and Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics (2020): Recommends legislation that establishes a minimum age of (at least) 12- years-old for criminal responsibility under which a person may not be charged with a crime.
  • Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine (SAHM) (2016): Recommends upholding the minimum age of criminal responsibility as age 12 years, under which youth may not be charged with a crime or penalized, citing to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) General comment No. 10(2007). This General comment has now been superseded by General comment No. 24 which recommends a minimum age of 14-years-old.
  • Youth Correctional Leaders for Justice (April 2021): Recommends that states enact legislation raising the minimum age of youth court jurisdiction to at least 14. 
  • National Juvenile Justice Network (2020): We recommend in our 2020 Policy Platform that states set a reasonable minimum age for charging children in court and we recommend that age be no lower than 14- years-old.

International Resources

Research Publications

Note that some of these require access to particular journals in order to review the full publication.