Juvenile Justice

State Direct File Waivers and Juvenile Violent Crimes and Arrests

Benjamin Steiner
Associate Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Nebraska, Omaha

Key Findings

  • Direct file laws have little effect on violent juvenile crime.
  • Only one state saw an increase in juvenile crime rates after waiver laws went into effect.
  • Nine states had no change and two states saw a decrease in juvenile crime rates after waiver laws went into effect.


In the study, “Assessing the Relative Effects of State Direct File Waiver Laws on Violent Juvenile Crime: Deterrence or Irrelevance?” Steiner looked at violent juvenile crimes for a five year period before and after waiver laws were put into effect. During the 1970s, juvenile crime was on the rise and some individuals didn’t think the laws prevented future crime. In response, the Supreme Court made it easier for juveniles to be charged in adult, criminal court. The data came from multiple researchers’ findings and the government. Of the states included in the study, nine states were unaffected by the waiver laws, while two states had in increase in violent juvenile crime and one state had an increase in juvenile arrests. Only one state had a decrease in juvenile arrests and juvenile violent crime. These findings showed that direct file laws did not significantly impact violent juvenile crime.

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