An important part of the juvenile justice system involves preventing youths from continuing to engage in unlawful behaviors. This is important because early preventative actions deter teens from repeatedly getting into trouble with the law. Most parents in Massachusetts agree that protecting youths from convictions for juvenile crimes is critical in raising productive, law-abiding citizens.
Charging a teen for status offenses is a way for law enforcement to hold young people responsible for their actions without labeling them as criminals. In other words, teens can be held accountable without having a criminal record that will haunt them for years to come. Examples of status offenses, as opposed to punishable juvenile crimes, include the following.
- Possessing and/or consuming alcoholic beverages
- Truancy, which is also known as unexcused time away from school
- Breaking local curfews designed to keep youths off the street at night
- Purchasing tobacco products such as cigarettes
Young people taken into police custody for status offenses typically avoid formal charges, which keeps them out of the juvenile justice system. However, there are times when teens may still face some form of incarceration for status offenses. Parents need to understand that these offenses still require immediate legal attention.
Acting quickly to secure an attorney gives you the best chance of protecting your child from harsh penalties should minor status offenses evolve into serious charges. Leaving these critical issues to chance could mean youths will have to face a court intent on convicting them for juvenile crimes.
In the end, guiding your child through their teen years may come with legal challenges you never expected. The way you respond to protect your child can have a significant effect on your teen's behavior going forward.