State juvenile justice statutes apply different legal labels to youth who commit status offenses. Researchers at times have associated the labels to legislative intent indicating a child welfare orientation on one side of the spectrum and a public safety approach on the other. In the middle are labels that imply a need for services and supervision. Some states require multiple labels because they split status offenses into more than one category. More information on status offense reform is available at the VERA Institute's Status Offense Reform Center and in a study of the competing underlying philosophies in state status offender legislation, Responding to Troubled Youth (1997).
|In need of aid, assistance, or care
||In need of services
||In need of supervision
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States differ in the age boundaries established for delinquency and status offense jurisdiction. These differences impact how juvenile courts and other social services are organized and resourced. Gaps between the status offense and delinquency age boundary in 9 states create unusual structural contradictions where status offense jurisdiction extends beyond delinquency jurisdiction.
The nation's farthest reaching federal legislation is the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA). Enacted in 1974, the Act states that status offenders shall not be placed in secure detention facilities or secure correctional facilities. The Act was amended in 1984 with a controversial exception known as the valid court order exception (VCO). The VCO relaxes JJDPA secure detention restrictions for youth charged with non-criminal behavior who are in violation of a valid court order. More information is available on the OJJDP Core Requirements website and on the federal policy page of the Coalition for Juvenile Justice's website.
Case flow of petitioned status offense cases by detention
Thirty-four states publicly report information about status offense and delinquency cases. Methods of reporting vary between states such as combining traffic citations with delinquent offenses whereas others include only misdemeanors and felonies in their delinquency figures. Additionally, these states report data about multiple stages of the juvenile justice system, such as referrals, petitions, and adjudications. Case rates for status offense cases are often lower than for delinquency cases in juvenile courts. The units of count for court statistics presented below vary by state, which often makes direct comparisons impractical and inaccurate. Where possible, a count based on the number of cases disposed is displayed. Additionally, 5 states that do not publicly report status offense cases report cases to NCJJ through the Easy Access to State and County Juvenile Court Case Counts online tool (Alabama, Florida, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, and Virginia). View each state's profile by clicking on state names for the case totals, detailed footnotes and links to source information. More information concerning delinquency and status offense case counts is also available in the Juvenile Court Statistics report series.
Per 1,000 youth from age 10 to the upper age boundary for each state
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Progressive data 2016
As illustrated in the above topic, some basic court referral information is available in several states. However, only a few report nuances such as the underlying behavior that generated a referral such as running away or truancy. Even fewer profile the diversion of status offense referrals and juvenile court hearing outcomes.
Click a state to see a summary of its policies and more information.