Status Offense Law & Legal Definition


Status offenses are activities that are deemed offenses when committed by juveniles, because of their age at the time of the activity. In short, these offenses are not illegal if done by an adult. Examples of status offenses include not attending school, breaking curfew laws, running away from home, possession and consumption of alcohol. The basis for status offenses stems from the legal theory of parens patriae, in that status offenses are harmful to minors, and the courts need to protect minors from such activities.

The following is an example of a Federal Statute defining Status Offense:

Pursuant to 25 CFR 11.900 [Title 25 -- Indians, Chapter I -- Bureau of Indian Affairs, Department of the Interior], the term Status offense means “an offense which, if committed by an adult, would not be designated a crime under Courts of Indian Offenses and Law and Order Code or under an ordinance of the tribe.”