MEMORANDUM TO THE COURT
Re: Status Offense Considerations
Definition and nature of Status Offenses
The U.S legal system recognizes status offenses to be activities, which are deemed offenses when committed by young people under the age of eighteen years, often referred as the juveniles because of their age at the time of the activity. The offenses do not affect the adults if they do them. As it is widely known most, legal concepts emanate from legal theories. The legal theories explain why the need for the existence of the laws and provides logical explanations why certain laws apply. Like other legal concepts, the status offenses arise from the legal theory of “Parens Patriae”. The theory explains that status offenses are only harmful to minors, and the courts play an important role in protecting minors from such activities. Minors are put in category under special units in the legal system, and the juvenile courts are responsible for ensuring the good conduct of the minorities depending on the agreed rules within different states. Therefore, different laws may affect children coming from different states.
Some of the specific scenarios involving status offenses that occur in the King’s County include; possession and consumption of alcohol, children under the age of eighteen are not allowed to consume alcohol under any circumstances, and violation of this regulation leads to severe punishment. Running away from home is another scenario, children who run away from their homes without a logical explanation are deemed not mature enough to take care of themselves and hence, should be under their parents or guardian care until they are eighteen and above. The other scenario is when the children under the age of eighteen break curfew laws. Curfew laws are strict and are supposed to be strictly adhered to by the people it targets and in this case the minors. For example, the children under the age of eighteen are prohibited to be in the streets after 11 P.M. These scenarios apply in the Kings County and the minors within the county are expected to adhere to them and other relating laws. Failure to follow them leads to prosecution in the kings county juvenile courts. However, children are supposed to follow the laws with the guidance of the society through parents and other people affecting their lives such as school teachers (Barrett, Katsiyannis, & Zhang, 2006).
Pros of Status Offenses
Status offenses have been a controversial element of the U.S law. Creating a debate of whether they are important at all and whether they should be abolished. However, they are those who believe in status offenses and believe they should stay because they are good in the following ways;
Status offenses help in protecting the underprivileged and youths who are at risk. The society is characterized by people coming from different backgrounds normally with many forms of inequalities, and the state has the responsibility of protecting these children and might end up becoming important people in the society.
The status offenses are not intended for punishing the minors who are involved on the wrong side of the law, but rather reform them so that in the end the children become responsible citizens (Barrett, Katsiyannis, & Zhang, 2006). Hence, status offense helps in creating a responsible and accountable society which, are among some of the best values that a society should have. The status offenses provide an opportunity for the minor law breakers to undergo reformation and training and also, separating them from the corrupting influence of improper associates. These are deemed as a positive way and approach the help the minorities.
The juvenile courts administering status offense regulations are established under the principle of “Loco Parentis” meaning that children are not imprisoned next to adults, hence, gain the privilege of being treated with some standards such as getting psychological assistance (Carmen & Trulson, 2006). This helps in improving the welfare of the children.
Status offenses help the minors from transgressing towards worse offenses. The Juvenile justice system protects youth from present and future harm.
The status offense has the ability of providing support to children to manipulate the minors in a positive way, especially in the disciplines which might have caused the children’s behavior such as the medical and psychological disciplines (Rosenheim, 2002).
Status offenses have a provision for deferred adjudication, giving the juvenile a chance to reconsider and re-evaluate their behavior. At this stage, there is no formal ruling that the juvenile committed a status offense as long as they do not commit other offenses at a specified time. At this time, the children might be able to resolve their problems causing them to engage in the offenses. It therefore gives juveniles a second chance and a chance to prove their innocence.
Status offense is a proactive method of preventing advanced crimes by resolving potential crime advancement when, is fast sited in a child.
When children commit Status offenses, they are given the benefit of a doubt to prove that they are innocent by not punishing them at the first offense. But when involved in a second offense the juvenile court can justifiably proceed with issuing punishment or recommend probation for the children engaging in certain activities.
Cons of the Status Offenses
In some instances, the youths might be mistreated in the institutions which might escalate their irrational behavior, and they end up becoming hardcore criminals.
There are loopholes in the legal system whereby, the children incarcerated in the institutions are not given enough security and safety due to lack of adequate state regulation. This does not assist the youths in becoming better citizens.
The status offenses to some extent contravene the constitution under the youth rights. There still exist some forms of backlash between the laws relating to addressing the issues of minors.
Status offenses do not guarantee a complete behavior change to the youths.
Status offense can create an opportunity for children who go to the institutions to become even worse criminals as the children receive the worst of both worlds; neither, protection or regenerative treatment postulated for minors (Victor, 2008).
Status offense does not provide ultimate liberation of children’s rights, whereby adolescent decision making and development are considered.
Status offense on some scenarios may lead to more problems such as emotional and health problems. For example, some run away children might be experiencing incidents such as sexual harassment and drug abuse hence, running away. Failure of the juvenile courts to take into consideration such issues may cause the children even much more problems. There is a need for the juvenile court system to carefully analyze decisions to be made with the best interest of children at heart, in recognition that homes where children are supposed to find comfort can be a harmful setting causing certain behavior trends.
Status offense may fail to fully understand the concept of social development leading to certain behaviors in children. Therefore, certain scenarios stipulated as status offenses could be unfair and lead to mistreatment of children.
In conclusion, status offenses are justified and hence, should not be abolished. Since its conception, the juvenile justice system has focused on providing for and protecting its youth. Status offenses are, basically, a manifestation of this duty to serve and protect juveniles. However, there has been controversy concerning the best ways that this system should address status offenders. The laws have been established and enhanced with the guidance and review of different disciplines. These areas of focus have studied the pros and cons of such adolescent behaviors such as; runaways, alcohol use, and sexual behavior and have developed genuine reasons for the enactment of status offenses. The aforementioned areas of disciplines have thoroughly analyzed the negative social, economic and personal factors that occur with such behaviors.
For these reasons, it becomes evident that status offense laws are well conceived as conscientious of not just the individuals, but, even the society and in existence to protect and help adolescents. It is, therefore, notwithstanding that juvenile court must ensure the essentials of due process and fair treatment are followed to the latter, and with the appropriate laws, empirical evidence and psychologically the juvenile justice system, comes close to its mandate at fairness and protection of children (Shubik & Kendall, 2007). With all these matters at hand, it is highly recommended that the Kings County can continue to prosecute minors for status offenses. The Kings County stands a chance for having a stable future without rampant crime and complex societal problems emanating from crime through controlling status offenses. Also, it is important when the children are aware of status offenses so that they are disciplined and become weary of engaging in crime. If they are able to avoid committing status offenses, they stand a high chance of obeying the laws when they become adults, which is an important aspect of creating a legal conscious society.
Barrett, D. E., Katsiyannis, A., & Zhang, D. (2006). Predictors of offense severity, prosecution, incarceration and repeat violations for adolescent male and female offenders. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 15(6), 708-718.
Rosenheim, M. (2002). A century of juvenile justice. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Shubik, C., & Kendall, J. (2007). Rethinking juvenile status offense laws: Considerations for Congressional review of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act. Family Court Review, 45(3), 384-398.Carmen, R. & Trulson, C. (2006). Juvenile Justice: the system, process, and the law. Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth.
Victor, S. (2008). State of criminal justice 2007-2008. Chicago: Amer Bar Association.