Two common definitions of a status offense or status crime are
2. In the United States, the term status offense refers to an offense such as a traffic violation where motive is not a consideration in determining guilt. In the United Kingdom and Europe, this type of status offense may be termed a regulatory offense.
Definitions of status offense vary. A neutral definition may be "[a] type of crime that is not based upon prohibited action or inaction but rests on the fact that the offender has a certain personal condition or is of a specified character." The Federal Sentencing Guidelines states that a juvenile status offense is a crime which cannot be committed by an adult. For example, possession of a firearm by a minor, by definition, cannot be done by an adult. In some states the term "status offense" does not apply to adults at all; according to Wyoming law, status offenses can only be committed by people under 18 years of age.
Juvenile status offenders are distinguished from juvenile delinquent offenders in that status offenders have not committed an act that would be considered a crime if it were committed by an adult, whereas delinquent youths have committed such an act.
Status offenses may include consumption of alcohol, tobacco smoking, truancy, and running away from home. These acts may be illegal for persons under a certain age, while remaining legal for all others, which makes them status offenses.
Laws that prohibit certain actions to certain persons based on their sex, race, nationality, religion, etc., are also status offenses. A law that prohibits men from using public toilets intended for women, or a law that sets a curfew for people below a certain age, are examples of status offenses, although they are not always thought of as such.
In some jurisdictions, as social conventions have evolved over time, status offenses that were codified into law long ago are either no longer actively enforced or actually conflict with more recent legislation and cannot be enforced, even though they remain on the books.