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What is a status offense and how does it affect someone?

Have you ever heard of a status offense? This is a type of crime that applies to only a certain group of people. For example, a common example of a status offense is a juvenile that skips out on school. Some may give it a more playful term, such as "cutting class" or "playing hooky," but in reality this is a crime (albeit a relatively minor one).

There are numerous other examples of status offenses, such as consuming alcohol, buying cigarettes or violating a legal curfew. For example, there are many cities around the United States that have curfews that apply to people under a certain age. Once a certain hour of the night is reached, people of this age group (however it is defined by the law) can't be out on city streets.

The idea of status offenses is to protect people from themselves. In this case, since status offenses apply to juveniles, it is the act of trying to protect someone who doesn't know any better due to a lack of life experience from harming their future. But in reality, these status offenses can have the exact opposite effect.

Status offenses can lead to a juvenile down a bad path by ruining their reputation and, in some cases, sticking with them for a long time. Their "criminal" history could affect their ability to get into college or to get a job.

Status offenses are no laughing matter. Though far more minor than other crimes, these violations can do incalculable harm to an individual's future. Anyone who is dealing with a status offense needs to consider their legal options -- even for such a minor offense.

Source: FindLaw, "Juveniles and Age ('Status') Offenses," Accessed April 13, 2015

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