Status Offense

Status Offense in the United States

A kind of violation or offense that is defined by the character or condition of the offender. Vagrancy, for example, is a status crime. A vagrant is a person who has no visible means of support. Status crimes or offenses are most commonly used in connection with juvenile status. There are a number of things juveniles may do for which they can be placed under the authority of the juvenile court that have no adult counterpart. Such offenses as running away, truancy, or curfew violation are examples of status offenses. They derive from the offender’s status as a minor. Status offenses are handled exclusively through state law and are elements of state juvenile codes.

See Also

Juvenile Process (Criminal Process).

Analysis and Relevance

Historically, status offenses have been used as indicators of potential delinquency or special needs. They have commonly triggered some form of state intervention. The idea of creating offense categories separate from delinquency conduct was to insulate the status offender from the consequences of actually being labelled a delinquent. In the late 1960s, many states tried to underscore the line of separation between status offenses and delinquency by revising and renaming particular classes of offense categories. Most states chose to call these categories Children or Minors in Need of Supervision. Notwithstanding the attempts at distinguishing, the lines remain blurred and the practical effects may be of only marginal difference. Often, juveniles in either category may be taken into custody by law enforcement authorities, will likely appear in the same juvenile courts, and may come under supervision of the same treatment personnel. The issue of status offenses is complicated, and it continues to trouble state legislatures. Indeed, a number of states are actively entertaining the elimination of status offense categories from the jurisdiction of juvenile courts. Other changes of a less extensive kind are also under consideration.

Notes and References

  1. Definition of Status Offense from the American Law Dictionary, 1991, California


Status Offense in the context of Juvenile and Family Law

Definition of Status Offense, published by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges: The term essentially refers to non-criminal misbehavior, which would not be criminal if committed by an adult (e.g., truancy, runaway, etc.). The behavior is an offense only because of the minor’s status as a minor.

Status offense in Juvenile Law

Status offenses are behaviors that are prohibited under law only because of an individual’s status as a minor, including running away from home, skipping school, violating a curfew, drinking under age, and acting “incorrigibly.” They are problematic, but noncriminal in nature. The origen may be Truancy, an unexcused absence or inattendance from school.

In this context, Status offense information relating to juvenile justice is available through this American legal Encyclopedia.

Status Offense: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Status Offense. This part provides references, in relation to Status Offense, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Status Offense by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Status Offense and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Status Offense or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Status Offense and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Status Offense. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Status Offense should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Status Offense when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

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