Types of Status Offenses
A status offense is an act that would not, under the law of the jurisdiction in which the offense was committed, be a crime if committed by an adult (28 C.F.R. 31.304[h]) . The five major categories of status offenses are described below; for each category, a detailed literature review is provided.
TruancyTruancy refers to unexcused school absences by a minor that exceed the number of such absence allowed under State law. There are variations across the States in the mandatory starting age for school and the legal dropout age (Education Commission of the States, 2007), and variations across jurisdictions in the legally permissible number of unexcused absences from school (National Center for Mental Health Promotion and Youth Violence Prevention, n.d.).
Research shows that, of all status offenses, truancy is the clearest early warning sign or risk factor for potential delinquent activity, social isolation, and educational failure. Several studies have established lack of commitment to school as a risk factor for substance abuse, delinquency, teen pregnancy, and dropping out of school (Bell, Rosen, and Dynlacht, 1994; Dryfoos, 1990; Huizinga, Loeber, and Thornberry, 1995; Rohrman, 1993). In addition, decades of research have identified a link between truancy and problems in adulthood, such as violence, marital and job problems, criminality, and incarceration (Dryfoos, 1990; Catalano et al., 1998; Robins and Ratcliff, 1978).
Findings from the Program of Research on the Causes and Correlates of Delinquency indicate that truancy may be a precursor to serious violent and nonviolent offenses and that the connection between truancy and delinquency appears to be particularly strong for males (Kelley et al., 1997). In addition, findings from OJJDP’s Study Group on Very Young Offenders show that chronic truancy in elementary school is linked to serious delinquent behavior for children age 12 and younger (Loeber and Farrington, 2001).
For a full review of the truancy problem, theoretical contexts, and prevention and intervention programs, see Literature Review: Truancy.
Running AwayThe Federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) broadly defines a runaway youth as “a child [who] leaves home without permission and stays away overnight” (Snyder and Sickmund, 2006:42). According to Farrow and colleagues (1992), there are four broad categories of runaways: situational runaways, long-term runaways, throwaways (also called "thrownaways"), and system runaways.
For a full review of the runaway problem, theoretical contexts, and prevention and intervention programs, see Literature Review: Preventing Runaways.
Ungovernability/IncorrigibilityIn Juvenile Court Statistics 2005, ungovernability is defined as "being beyond the control of parents, guardians, or custodians or being disobedient of parental authority. This classification is referred to in various juvenile codes as unruly, unmanageable, and incorrigible" (Puzzanchera and Sickmund, 2008:104). Although it is not appropriate to charge with incorrigibility every youth who fails to heed a parent’s requests, it is appropriate to do so when continued disobedience could harm the youth or another person.
For a full review of the ungovernability problem, theoretical contexts, and prevention and intervention programs, see Literature Review: Ungovernability.
Violating Curfew LawsCurfew laws can vary depending on the hours specified, the locale affected, and the age group included. In most jurisdictions, minors are required to be home generally between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., though the times can vary somewhat depending on the day of the week and whether school is in session. Many curfew laws exempt youth who are traveling to and from certain events (such as school, church, or civic activities), commuting to and from work, or responding to emergencies.
For a full review of the curfew violation problem, theoretical contexts, and prevention and intervention programs, see Literature Review: Curfew Law Violations.
Violating Underage Liquor LawsIn the United States, Federal law establishes 21 as the national minimum drinking age. Underage drinking is also governed by State laws, which vary by State. In some States, underage drinking is a civil offense, and in other States, it is criminal offense. As of 2008, 18 States did not specifically ban underage consumption and an additional 26 States had family member and/or location exceptions to their underage drinking laws (NIAAA Alcohol Policy Information System).
For a full review of the underage drinking problem, theoretical contexts, and prevention and intervention programs, see Literature Review: Underage Liquor Law Violations.
OJJDP Deinstitutionalization of Status Offenders
Best Practices Database
The OJJDP Deinstitutionalization of Status Offenders Best Practices Database was created and developed by
Development Services Group
under Cooperative Agreement #2008-JF-FX-0072.