What are Status Offenses? | Scartelli Olszewski, P.C.
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What are Status Offenses?

Peter Olszewski
Peter Olszewski

Criminal charges come in all shapes and sizes. The one factor that necessitates different types of criminal charges the most is age. While to many there may not be a huge difference between a crime committed by a 17-year-old minor and an 18-year-old adult, society and the law believe there is a significant difference. This difference is especially true when it comes to someone who is 8 years old or even 13 years old. For this age group, Pennsylvania, like many other states, has status offenses.

With different expectations, there also come different treatments and rules. There are things that people under the age of 18 can’t do, and for these laws, they are charged differently. Status offenses are one of the most common ways criminal law treats people under the age of 17 differently.

If your child has been charged with committing a status offense, contact the criminal defense attorneys at Scartelli Olszewski, P.C. for more information. Our skilled attorneys can help.

What are Status Offenses in Pennsylvania?

In Pennsylvania criminal law, a status offense is a type of crime that only applies to certain people. These types of offenses are typically related to age but can be changed or used for other personal characteristics.

For example, in Pennsylvania, it is against the law for someone under the age of 21 to buy alcohol or use false identification. It is also illegal for minors (anyone under 18) to stay out after their curfew without permission from their parents or guardians.

People who break these laws can get into trouble with the police and may have to pay fines, go to court, or even spend time in detention centers. These are not crimes when adults do them, but they can lead to legal consequences for minors who commit them.

What are all of Pennsylvania’s Status Offenses?

Currently, Pennsylvania only has five primary types of status offenses. All other status offenses are just derivative laws of these five. Local governments, like those in Lackawanna and Luzerne counties, can change the specifics. We give examples of how they can do that. First, learn the five types of status offenses:

  • Truancy: This means missing school without good reason. Being sick or somehow physically disabled from attending, having permission from your parents or the state, or being expelled are considered ‘good reasons.’
  • Running away from home: Minors are not the property of their parents, but their parents do have parental rights to make legal and custodial decisions about them in exchange for completing parental responsibilities. If a child runs away, this is keeping parents from utilizing their rights and completing their parental responsibilities.
  • Violating curfew: Minors have curfews where they can’t be out without explicit permission from their parents. This does not mean they can’t go to stores and other people’s houses, especially if they have a driver’s license. This is more to say they cannot be outside wandering around.
  • Underage use of alcohol: Drinking alcohol or using tobacco while under the age of 21 is illegal. For those who are 18 or older but younger than 21, it’s a criminal charge, but for those under 18, it’s a status offense, which is met with different consequences.
  • General ungovernability: If a child is a general delinquent who cannot be controlled, they can be considered a status offender. They don’t have to commit any serious crime, so much as they aren’t obeying their parents.

What is the Difference Between Status Offenses in Different Counties?

While Pennsylvania has five primary types of status offenses for all counties in the state, they’re not all the exact same. Counties have the right to change the specifics of the status of offenses. For instance, in Lackawanna County, the curfew for minors is 9 PM, while the curfew in Luzerne County for minors is 10 PM.

Counties can make specific changes like this to reflect their needs as a county. Since people can easily travel between counties, you’ll want an attorney familiar with the laws in more than just one, like those at Scartelli Olszewski, P.C.

What are the Punishments for a Status Offense in Pennsylvania?

In Pennsylvania, if someone is found guilty of a status offense, they may face several different punishments. These can range from fines and court costs to probation, community service, mandatory classes or programs, and even detention. What determines the punishment is what status offense the minor commits.

Running away, for instance, usually doesn’t result in punishments for the minor, unlike the other types of offenses. If it’s consistent, law enforcement may report the minor’s household to the Child Welfare Services (CWS). From there, the offense would be changed to/become general ungovernability before the minor would receive a punishment.

What Should You Do If Your Child is Charged with Committing a Status Offense?

Depending on the status offense, your household can be investigated. Often, parents are to be held responsible for the status offenses of their children and can be met with many different punishments. This can be the loss of child custody, criminal charges, or worse, depending on what status offense they committed.

If you receive a criminal charge as the result of an investigation resulting from a status offense, contact the criminal defense attorneys at Scartelli Olszewski, P.C. They may not seem as like much on paper, but status offenses can carry serious consequences.

Peter Olszewski
Peter Olszewski

Peter Paul Olszewski, Jr., a shareholder and managing partner at Scartelli Olszewski, P.C., brings 37 years of litigation experience. He is a renowned trial lawyer in Pennsylvania, specializing in medical malpractice, personal injury, and criminal defense. Peter's notable achievements include securing multi-million-dollar verdicts and serving as District Attorney and Judge. He is committed to community involvement and is actively engaged in various legal associations.
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