Understanding Why Juvenile Status Offenses Matter

A status offense isn’t the same thing as a crime. A status offense is an act that is against the law due to the age of the person committing the act. Their status as a minor makes the activity prohibited. Adults possessing alcohol is not a problem. However, it isn’t legally okay for minors. In Washington state, juvenile offenses are a serious matter. They can lead to legal action, but with appropriate steps, outcomes like incarceration are less likely.

In 1974, a federal act known as the dein­sti­tu­tion­al­iza­tion of sta­tus offend­ers core require­ment changed the way the United States government viewed status offenses. Instead of incarceration, the federal act encouraged the state court systems to lean toward rehabilitation options. These options can come from parents, teachers, and community programs.

Juvenile status offenses include acts like:

  • Truancy
  • Running away
  • Breaking curfew
  • Purchasing cigarettes while underage
  • Drinking while underage

Will a Status Offense Hurt My Child’s Future?

A lot of parents consider juvenile offenses to be a warning sign that, when handled well, can help get a minor back on the right track. A federal study in 2015 backed this up. They found that most of the minors with juvenile status offenses did not continue on to more serious violations of the legal system. It’s proof that lenient outcomes work well with juvenile status offenses.

Due to this, when a child has a status offense, the goal is to have them secure the most lenient outcome possible. Being in legal trouble at such a young age can be frightening. With the guidance of legal counsel and parents, it doesn’t have to be a moment that labels a minor for life.

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