What are the differences between a "status offense" and "juvenile delinquency?"

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

First, please be aware that the term "juvenile delinquency" can be used in a variety of ways.

However, at least one use of the term contrasts very clearly with the idea of a status offense  In this definition, juvenile delinquency consists of the commission of an act that would be a crime if it had been committed by a person over the age of 18.  In this sort of case, the offenders' age works to their advantage and they are not punished as severely because they are young.

By contrast, a status offense is one in which the offenders are punished because they are young.  In other words, this is an offense that would not have been illegal at all had they been of age.  The classic example of this is underage drinking.  Drinking is not illegal except for those under 21.  Therefore, it is a status offense, one in which offenders are disadvantaged because of their age.