In the state of Florida, certain non-criminal acts are considered legal violations when they are committed by minors. These non-criminal acts are known under the law as status offenses. Speaking to a criminal defense attorney will give you a better understanding of these offenses.
What Are Status Offenses?
Status offenses are non-criminal acts that are illegal when committed by minors, but legal when committed by adults.
These acts are seen as legal violations not because of the nature of the act itself, but rather the age of the person who committed it. If these offenses were committed by an adult, they would not be against the law.
Some people believe that teens engage in these behaviors due to lack of maturity, or “kids being kids.” But others fear that these actions may be a result of a bigger problem, such as lack of attention or issues at home.
These offenses are recognized by law because the government has the right to protect minors and teenagers from anything that would be detrimental to their growth. Dealing with this problem helps to maintain order in society. It also allows the government to help juveniles get back on track before they start committing more serious crimes.
Deinstitutionalization of Status Offenses
Deinstitutionalization of status offenses was a movement that took place in the 1960s and 1970s. The goal of this movement was to divert juveniles who committed status offenses to other programs outside of the juvenile court system. Since most status offenses are non-criminal, activists believed that it was not necessary to send all juvenile offenders to court for committing a status offense.
Before this, any teenager accused of committing a status offense would have to go to a juvenile court and be sentenced to some form of correction, including confinement. But research shows that sending teens to youth prisons does not help them. In fact, studies show that incarceration could influence them to commit additional crimes. This is why the movement focused on rehabilitating minors rather than incarcerating them.
Examples of Status Offenses in Florida
There are many different types of status offenses in Florida. Some examples include:
- Having alcohol in your possession
- Violating legal curfew
- Running away from home
Having Alcohol in Your Possession
Many status offense cases involve the possession of alcohol by a minor. The legal drinking age is 21 in the United States. People who are under the age of 21 are not permitted to buy or consume alcoholic drinks of any sort. The reason is because of the effect alcohol has on the body, which may be too much for someone below the age of 21 to control.
Violating Legal Curfew
The state of Florida has established laws that prohibit minors from being in public places at certain hours. For example, minors cannot be in a public place or establishment between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. Sunday through Thursday unless it is a legal holiday. Minors are also prohibited from being in a public place or establishment between 12 a.m. and 6 a.m. on Saturdays, Sundays, and all holidays.
Minors who are first-time offenders of curfew laws are given written warnings. Repeat offenders will be fined for each violation. Authorities can also take custody of the minor and release them to their parents or bring them to their residence.
This is another serious status offense since Florida takes missing school very seriously. Minors that are meant to be in school are not permitted to skip school without a valid reason, such as being ill.
In Florida, a minor with 15 or more unexcused absences in a 90-day period is considered a habitual truant. Habitual truants, along with their parents or guardians, may be ordered to appear in court to explain the unexcused absences.
The judge may order the minor–and in some cases, the parents as well–to complete community service or participate in various other programs as part of their punishment for missing too much school. Minors and parents who fail to comply with these orders could be held in contempt of court.
Minors who skip too much school can also participate in Florida’s Children In Need of Services (CINS) program. Through this program, minors can obtain free services to improve their mental health, learn how to resolve conflict, and work on their communication skills.
Running Away From Home
Minors often choose to run away because of problems in the home. For this reason, the state of Florida attempts to help minors who have ran away from home overcome their issues with their families. Minors who run away may participate in the CINS program.
If your teen or child is being charged with a status offense, contact an attorney to determine the next steps you need to take.