What Are California’s Runaway Laws?

In the state of California, there is no law that suggests that a person under the age of 18 running away from home is committing a crime. Minors who run from home can be detained by police and returned to a legal guardian, according to The Interstate Compact on Juveniles.

While runaway laws vary state by state, in California, there is no legal consequence for a minor running away. There is, however, very little a minor can do if caught by the police to not be returned home. In all states that have adopted the Interstate Compact on Juveniles, California included, the police are required by law to return children to a parent, a guardian or the court. In addition, any minor who persistently runs away from home may become a ward of the court, according to section 601 of the Interstate Compact of Juveniles.

Any minor in California can be detained by a police officer without a warrant if that minor looks to be in poor health or inebriated or is in a violation of curfew, as stated in section 625.1 of the Interstate Compact of Juveniles. If a minor runs away in California and is detained by an officer of the law, she theoretically has four legal options. A runaway minor can be returned home, be taken in by another legal guardian, apply for emancipation or become dependent on the court, according to CriminalDefenseLawyer.com. In other states, runaways may receive a criminal charge.