Sociology Index


Status offense is a delinquency or crime that can only be committed by people occupying the status of a minor. The Juvenile Delinquents Act created criminal status offense of school truancy, incorrigibility, sexual immorality and violations of liquor laws. Only young people could be charged with or found to commit status offence because of these behaviors. In the USA, the term status offense also refers to an offense such as a traffic violation. In the United Kingdom and Europe, such status offense may be termed a regulatory offense. A status offense is a noncriminal act though considered as a violation only because of a youth's status as a minor. A status offense is an action that is prohibited only to a certain class of people, and generally applied only to offenses committed by minors.

A neutral definition of status offence may be "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." Status offenses such as smoking among children is considered as communicating with the adult world or negotiation of status within children's culture.

Relatively few states define status offenses as delinquent behavior under statute, yet many status offenders end up being treated as de facto delinquents. One such way is through the use of probation as a disposition for status offenders, which is an option in 30 states (Szymanski 2006).

Often, status offenders will be placed on probation, only to be later incarcerated as the result of a technical violation, regardless of whether the status offense was serious enough to initially warrant the use of confinement (Yeide and Cohen 2009).

The Federal Sentencing Guidelines states that a juvenile status offense is a crime which cannot be committed by an adult. In some states the term "status offense" does not apply to adults at all. According to Wyoming law, status offenses can be committed only by people under 18 years of age. But, some sexting laws and have effectively made sexting by a minor into a status offense, but it is treated by the legal system as a criminal offense. It is de facto a status offense since an adult is allowed to possess a nude image of themselves but a minor is not allowed to possess or distribute a nude image of themselves.

Smoking and symbolism: children, communication and cigarettes 
Northern Ireland Centre for Diet and Health. This paper about status offence. It argues that it is necessary to focus on the social relations of children if we are to understand and prevent childhood smoking. Addressing the complex issue of childhood agency, it is argued that regardless of various restrictions to their choices, children can act (status offence) intentionally in constructing their identities. It is suggested that the metaphor 'rite of passage' and terminology such as peer 'pressure' versus adult 'influence', commonly used to analyse the children's smoking behavior, may actually conceal important aspects of childhood agency.

CRIN'S Global Report on Status Offences. This Child Rights International Network publication gives an overview of status offences, including curfew violations, disobedience and begging.