Chapter 3.4.6 Status Offenders

Status Offenders

Pursuant to ICJ Rule 1-101, “Accused Status Offender” means “a person charged with an offense that would not be a criminal offense if committee by an adult.”   Other authorities provide similar, and often more specific, definition.  For example, California law defines “status offender”  as “Any person under the age of 18 years who persistently or habitually refuses to obey the reasonable and proper orders or directions of his or her parents, guardian, or custodian, or who is beyond the control of that person, or who is under the age of 18 years when he or she violated any ordinance of any city or county of this state establishing a curfew based solely on age is within the jurisdiction of the juvenile court which may adjudge the minor to be a ward of the court.”  See, e.g., Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 601(a) (2010).  A status offender may also include juveniles who are habitually truant where it is determined by authorities that “the available public and private services are insufficient or inappropriate to correct the habitual truancy of the minor, or to correct the minor’s persistent or habitual refusal to obey the reasonable and proper orders or directions of school authorities.”  See OJJD “Literature Review – A Produce of the Modern Programs Guide” (“A ‘status offense’’ is ‘a noncriminal act that is considered a law violation only because of a youth’s status as a minor offense which would not be a criminal offense if it were committed by an adult, in other words, an act which is only an offense because of the perpetrator’s status as a child.”). A status offender is sometimes referred to as an “unruly child” which includes a juvenile who: (a) is habitually and without justification truant from school; or (b) is habitually disobedient of the reasonable and lawful commands of his legal guardian or custodial agency and is ungovernable; or (c) has committed an offense applicable only to a child; and (d) in any of the foregoing is in need of treatment or rehabilitation.  See Model Juvenile Court Act § 2 (Unif. Law Comm’rs 1968).

For a discussion concerning the procedures for returning a status offender to the home or sending state, see discussion infra Section 4.3-4.5.