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

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Steph Müller eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Status offenses and juvenile delinquency are both law violations committed by a minor.

A status offense is something that somebody underage has done that is only illegal because of their status as a minor. Examples include drinking alcohol, running away from home, and truancy. For an adult, drinking, choosing to leave and start a new life, or not going to work/school are not criminal activities. They are often unwise, but never criminal. These activities have criminal status only due to the fact that the person committing them is underage.

A juvenile delinquency, on the other hand, is a crime committed by somebody underage that is always a crime, no matter how old the perpetrator is. Examples include murder, rape, and robbery.

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Tim Mbiti eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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A status offense is an action deemed illegal because it has been carried out by a minor. The same behavior would not be regarded as an illegal act if carried out by an individual of legal age. Such behavior includes; running away from home, use of alcohol and other illegal drugs among other offenses.

Juvenile delinquency incorporates status offenses but differs in the scope of offending behavior. Offenses carried out by a minor in this case may cross over to criminal activity regardless of age. These are activities that provide for prosecution of both minors and those of legal age/adults. They may include; robbery, murder, and organized crime.

Status offenders are not charged or treated as adults. However, some juvenile delinquents may be charged and treated as adults based on the scale of the criminal behavior.

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The difference between these two is that a status offense is one sort of juvenile delinquency.

Juvenile delinquency can be defined as any actions taken by a minor that are illegal.  There are, of course, many sorts of juvenile delinquency.  Status offenses are the least serious of all types of juvenile delinquency.  These are actions that would not be illegal were it not for the age of the person involved.  One example of this is drinking alcohol, which is only illegal for those under 21.

Other forms of delinquency can be much worse.  Anything from petty theft to murder can be defined as juvenile delinquency.  Status offenses are a type of juvenile delinquency, but they are much less serious than other types.

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