Status offense

A status offense is an action that is prohibited only to a certain class of people, and most often applied only to offenses committed by minors.

In the United States, the term status offense also refers to an offense such as a traffic violation where motive is not a consideration in determining guilt. In the United Kingdom and Europe, this type of status offense may be termed a regulatory offense.


Definitions of status offense vary. A neutral definition 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."[1] The Federal Sentencing Guidelines states that a juvenile status offense is a crime which cannot be committed by an adult.[2] For example, possession of a firearm by a minor, by definition, cannot be done 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.[3]

Juvenile status offenders are distinguished from juvenile delinquent offenders in that status offenders have not committed an act that would be considered a crime if it were committed by an adult, whereas delinquent youths have committed such an act.[4]


Status offenses may include consumption of alcohol, truancy, and running away from home. These acts may be illegal for persons under a certain age, while remaining legal for all others, which makes them status offenses.

Status offense may also apply to other classes, including laws forbidding ownership of firearms by felons, where such ownership is otherwise legal.

Laws that prohibit certain actions to certain persons based on their sex, race, nationality, religion, etc., are also status offenses. A law that prohibits men from using public toilets intended for women, as well as a law that sets a curfew for people below a certain age, are examples of status offenses.

Status offenses from the past that are no longer operative include:

See also


  1. Definition of status offense
  2. U.S.S.G. § 4A1.2(c)(2).
  3. (2002)Working Draft. State of Wyoming.
  4. Juvenile Status Offenders.
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