Status offenses are behaviors that violate the law only because the person engaging in them has not yet reached the age of majority. Common examples of these behaviors include running away from home and skipping school. Each year, thousands of children enter the juvenile justice system for these types of behaviors. Currently, status offense laws vary greatly from state to state, with a broad range of terminology and definitions governing the issue. Similarly, diversion programs and practices, as well as sanctions following disposition of a case, differ significantly among the states.
This brief examines existing status offense laws across the 50 states and the District of Columbia. It details the legislative label that each state applies to status offense behaviors, the types of behaviors that fall within that label, diversion options that are available in the case, possible outcomes following adjudication, and whether the state uses the valid court order (VCO) exception or a 24-hour hold for youth who are detained for status offense behaviors. This brief may be used by judges, advocates, and legislators to assess national trends and gather ideas for system reform.