Juvenile Violations: What is a Status Offense?

So-Called “Status” Offenses in the Juvenile System

In Pennsylvania, juveniles can be charged with summary offenses—acts that would be considered crimes if committed by adults. They can also be charged with what are known as “status offenses”—conduct that only brings sanctions because of the person’s status as a juvenile.

Common Types of Status Offenses

Some status offenses are obvious—violation of laws requiring that you be a certain age to engage in specified acts, such as drinking, driving or smoking. Status offenses also include, however, such offenses as truancy (specifically defined as failing to attend school as required), curfew violations, and running away from home.

Penalties for Status Offenses

In Pennsylvania, authorities seek to impose consequences that both preserve family relationships and serve as a disincentive to future criminal activity. AccorTeenage girl smokingdingly, penalties for status offenses are far less severe than for other illegal acts. A juvenile may be required to pay a fine or make restitution to the victim, or may face the loss of driving privileges. The court can order counseling or attendance at an educational program, or may determine that it’s in the child’s best interests to be placed in a foster home or other environment away from parents.

The vast majority of “status” offenses among minors involve truancy or absence from school. Typically, school districts set standards for maximum numbers of absences, and will initiate enforcement of truancy laws. Because of studies linking truancy with future delinquency, many school districts have started to work with law enforcement agencies to address problems related to school absence.

Contact the Law Firm of Laguna Reyes Maloney, LLP

At the Law Firm of Laguna Reyes Maloney, LLP, we have more than 30 years of practice experience. Contact us online or call us at 717-233-5292 to set up an appointment. There is no charge for your initial consultation. We are available to meet with you evenings or weekends upon request.

Juvenile Violations in Pennsylvania

Juvenile Offenses in Pennsylvania — What to Expect

Teenager in handcuffsIn Pennsylvania, most juvenile offenses fall into one of two categories: delinquency or summary offenses. Delinquency involves acts that would be considered crimes if committed by an adult — if you are charged with delinquency, you will be required to go through juvenile court proceedings to resolve the matter. A summary offense is a crime in the adult criminal code that has been committed by a juvenile. Summary offenses are considered less serious than other types of crimes.

If police officers have probable cause to believe that you are either engaged in illegal activity or have committed an offense, you can be detained or taken into custody. The probable cause may stem from information from witnesses, leading officers to obtain a warrant for your detention. Police may also detain you based on evidence they personally observe.

With probable cause, police may either question you on the scene, or may take you to a precinct for questioning. They can also arrange to release you to the custody of a parent or guardian. If the offense with which you are charged is a misdemeanor or felony, law enforcement officers may obtain fingerprints or take photos for your permanent record. In limited circumstances, they can also seek a DNA sample.

Police officers do not have to release you to the custody of your parents. They can place you in a juvenile detention center, a child welfare approved group home, or in any other environment approved by the court. Police may only put you in a secure detention facility, though if one of three conditions exists:

  • You have no parent or guardian to whom you can be released
  • There is a reasonable concern that you will leave the jurisdiction before your hearing is scheduled
  • You need to be confined for your own safety

Contact the Law Firm of Laguna Reyes Maloney, LLP

At the Law Firm of Laguna Reyes Maloney, LLP, we have more than 30 years of practice experience. Contact us online or call us at 717-233-5292 to set up an appointment. There is no charge for your initial consultation. We are available to meet with you evenings or weekends upon request.

No More Life in Prison for Teens Who Kill – PA Courts Need Act Soon

Pennsylvania courts will soon determine how to respond to the U.S. Supreme Court’s June ruling that it is unconstitutional for teens that kill to serve life sentences without the possibility of parole. Pennsylvania’ Supreme Court will hear arguments on September 12 in two cases that will likely determine how the court will resolve the plight of hundreds of other people who committed crimes as teenagers who are now serving out life sentences.

PA Has Nation’s Highest Number of Cases Involving Teens Who Kill Serving Life

Sadly, Pennsylvania has the nation’s highest number of cases involving teens that kill that have been sentenced to life without possibility of parole.

The two cases that will be heard before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court involve Ian Cunningham, who is serving a life sentence after being convicted of second-degree murder in Philadelphia. The second case involves Qu-Eed Batts, who was convicted of first-degree murder in Northampton County.

In Cunningham’s case, issues to be addressed include those sentenced to life who have exhausted all direct appeals. In Batt’s case, the justices have directed attorneys to address the appropriate remedy for teens who have been sentenced to life without parole.

There are 373 “lifers,” who were under 18 years of age when they were sentenced, says the Pennsylvania State Department of Corrections. Others estimate the number closer to 500. The Sentencing Project, a Washington, DC advocacy group says that our state has the most juveniles serving out life sentences of any state in the nation, at about 2,500.

In the two cases in question, Cunningham shot his victim during robbery in 1999. Batts, as part of gang initiation, allegedly killed one man and wounded another in 2006. He was just 14 years old.

Currently, it appears that 46 Pennsylvania prisoners were sentenced as juveniles before 1960, and one sentence stretches back to 1953.

A reporter who interviewed Batts’ lawyer, Philip Lauer, said, “It’s a heart-rending situation when you talk to some of these guys … Some of them have been in there since their really early teens, like barely into their teens.”

Appealing Juvenile Life Sentence: Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney

Please contact the Harrisburg, PA, law firm of Laguna Reyes Maloney, LLP to schedule a free case evaluation with Roger Laguna or Laura Reyes Maloney: 717-233-5292. You may also contact us online.

Juvenile Murderers May See a Second Chance

Pennsylvania can no longer mete out mandatory life sentences for juveniles who have committed murder. The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision has nullified this harsh practice. The case Miller v. Alabama, decided by the Court on June 25, made it unconstitutional for those under the age of 18 to receive life in prison without possibility of parole.

Questions abound about how this impacts juveniles already convicted of murder who are serving life sentences. Does this mean that Supreme Court’s decision needs to reach back retroactively to all juveniles who have been convicted of murdering and who have received a life sentence without parole possibility? Will those who have been jailed for many years now be eligible for parole?

The Pennsylvania Judiciary Committee recently heard testimony on this topic from lawyers and from advocates for juvenile prisoners and for victims’ rights. When the Pennsylvania Senate reconvenes in September, it may potentially address this issue.

Pennsylvania Ranks Highest in Nation for Imprisoning Juveniles for Life Without Parole

Sadly, Pennsylvania is first in the nation for imprisoning juveniles without the possibility of parole. According to Department of Corrections Data, state prisons are holding 380 inmates without parole from murders committed when they were under the age of 18. This accounts for 16 percent of about 2500 juvenile inmates imprisoned nationwide without possibility of parole.

Taxpayers Foot Bill of $1.7 Million Dollars for Those Imprisoned for 50 Years

Forty-one of these former juveniles imprisoned for life are 25 or younger. It costs the Department of Corrections $34,000 annually to care for an inmate. A life sentence that ends, say, after 50 years in prison will cost taxpayers $1.7 million. It might make sense to rehabilitate, rather than punish for life.

Talk With an Experienced Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorney

If you have a juvenile who has been arrested for a serious crime, or if you have been accused of a serious crime, the law office of Laguna Reyes Maloney LLP can aggressively protect your rights and your freedom.

Please call to schedule a free initial consultation with an attorney in our Harrisburg, PA, office: 717-233-5292. You may also email us to schedule your appointment.

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