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Status offense versus misdemeanor and felony

Did you realize that if you are under the legal age in Kansas, you can't buy cigarettes and you can be charged with a "status" offense if you skip school? It is true. Possession of alcohol and drinking alcohol are both status offenses. The reason for this is based on "parens patriae" which translates as protecting juveniles from certain harmful activities.

In the late 1960s and the 1970s, it was determined that status offenses need to be de-institutionalized. Before this, if a juvenile committed one of the crimes above, he or she was sent to reform school. The authorities decided to instead divert these misguided juveniles to an agency -- and their parents -- for help because they often saw the same faces popping up again and again when they had been to reform school. It was as if the label of juvenile delinquent led them to do worse and worse things.

Many times, just the simple act of caring enough to not send the juvenile to an institution can be enough to divert him or her from a lost life of crime.

Whether or not a juvenile ends up in detention depends on the crime the juvenile committed. If the juvenile committed a misdemeanor, like shoplifting, then he or she could be released after the intake process. If he or she broke into someone's home, this is a felony and the juvenile will likely be placed in juvenile detention until the trial takes place.

If your child is in trouble with the law, an attorney can help you understand how the juvenile justice system works.

Source: FindLaw, "Juveniles and age ("status") offenses," accessed Jan. 22, 2016

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