U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Process Evaluation of Recent Juvenile Transfer Statutes in Virginia, Volume I Final Report

NCJ Number
Date Published
115 pages
Publication Series

This report includes a literature review of the process of and practices of juvenile transfer to criminal court, an overview of recent Virginia juvenile transfer statutes, a process evaluation of these statutes, trends in Virginia's juvenile transfer practice, factors that influence transfer decisions in Virginia, and a qualitative and quantitative study of key decision-makers' attitudes toward juvenile transfer.


The literature review notes that all States and the District of Columbia have at least one of three principal mechanisms by which a juvenile's case can be transferred to criminal court: judicial waiver, prosecutorial discretion, or statutory exclusion. The literature review focuses on the evolution of current transfer practices, the implementation of transfer provisions, factors that affect transfer decisions, and dispositions and sentencing outcomes. In Virginia, as a result of the Juvenile Justice Reform Package of 1996, there are now three different procedures for transferring a juvenile to adult court. The criterion for determining which procedure to use is the offense with which the juvenile is charged; the legislation thus increases the power of the prosecutor in the transfer decision. Two new procedures were created for transferring a juvenile, the automatic certification and the prosecutorial certification, in addition to the traditional means of having the juvenile court decide whether the offense is sufficiently serious to warrant transfer. Automatic and prosecutorial certifications both sidestep any consideration of whether the juvenile is a "proper person" to remain in the jurisdiction of the juvenile court. The enactment of these provisions can be viewed as a movement toward greater mechanization in juvenile justice laws and a consequent movement away from juvenile justice's traditional focus on individualized decision-making. The process evaluation of the recent juvenile transfer statutes in Virginia examined the concordance between the Virginia Code requirements and transfer decision-making practice. Descriptive information is provided on measures that relate to juvenile transfer practice. First, with the increase in crime rates, the number of violent-crime arrest rates has been down since 1995. The numbers of those who were transfer-eligible for automatic waiver has been fairly stable; the number eligible for prosecutorial waiver has been down since 1997. The number of convicted offenders under 18 years old in the circuit court increased between 1996 and 1997. A number of current and prior-record factors were found to be significantly related to the certification decision. These included the seriousness of the current offense, victim-related factors, weapon use, and the offender's prior-record information. Judicial and prosecutorial decision-makers varied in their attitudes toward the transfer process; both groups considered the current and prior offense to be the most important factors in a case, but judges were more likely to be concerned about treatment options, the offender's age, and the juvenile's safety in adult correctional facilities. Areas are identified for future study. Extensive exhibits, 33 references, and appended site visit coding form and the questionnaire for the survey of judges and prosecutors

Date Published: January 1, 2001