What are Status Offenses?

You may have wondered why it was illegal to skip school, run away, or be out past curfew when you were younger. As a minor, you could get into trouble with the police if they caught you doing those things. However, if you did those things now, no officer would bat an eye. That’s because those types of offenses are status offenses.

What Exactly is a Status Offense?

The legal definition qualifies a status offense as “A type of crime that is not based upon prohibited action or inaction but rests on the fact that the offender has a certain personal condition or is of a specified character”. Essentially, a status offense is a type of crime that wouldn’t be illegal for an adult, but is illegal for a juvenile or minor. Some examples of status offenses are:

  • Truancy

  • Violating curfew

  • Underage possession of tobacco or alcohol

  • Running away from home

Why are There Status Offenses in the First Place?

They were put in place in order to ensure public safety, to preserve the family unit, and to keep children from becoming delinquents early on in their lives. Research has actually shown that a higher rate of status offenses is linked to a higher rate of criminal offenses later in life. In the 70s and 80s, status offenses were “deinstitutionalized”. This means that the offender was no longer required to be processed by the criminal justice system and could be diverted to another agency since most status offenses are quite minor as compared to other criminal offenses.

What’s the Punishment?

Of course punishments can vary between jurisdictions, so this is just a brief example of what could happen to a juvenile after a status offense:

  • Suspension of driver’s license

  • Payment of a fine

  • Required attendance of educational or counseling program

Carroll Troberman, PLLC is home to Austin’s best criminal defense lawyers. If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime, you’ll need aggressive legal representation who knows how to navigate the system. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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