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Can I get in trouble for running away?

photo by thepismire via flickr

This is a question that comes up frequently on the lines at the National Runaway Switchboard, and it’s one for which we often can’t provide a totally direct answer. Running away from home usually has negative connotations and, unfortunately, people usually assume teenagers have done something wrong if they’ve run away. Following that is the logical idea that if you run away, you might have to face some legal consequences. Luckily, that’s generally not true.


Like I said, the answer to the question isn’t black and white, but running away is not a legal offense. It won’t be anything that stays on your record; in most cases, it is a status offense, nothing more. If you decided to leave home and run away, it’s likely that your guardian filed a runaway report. When police come across a youth who they know is a runaway, their common reaction is to simply return the youth home. Again, police response varies from case to case; they may decide to take you home, they may leave you alone, or they might take you to the police station, among other actions they may take. But, you have no reason to worry about dealing with legal ramifications. For more clarification, you can always call 1-800-RUNAWAY (1-800-786-2929)to speak with a trained liner at NRS.


– Colin

1-800-RUNAWAY staff

1-800-RUNAWAY staff

The staff of the National Runaway Safeline are here to listen and here to help. Over the years, blog contributors have ranged from high school students to full-time staff to interns.

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Do you have a question related to a situation you're facing? The National Runaway Safeline is here to help.

Our services are available 24/7 by calling 1-800-RUNAWAY (1-800-786-2929), posting on our bulletin board, or sending us an email. You can also start a live chat from 4:30-11:30 Central Time by clicking on the red button at the top of the screen.

To maintain your confidentiality, we do not recommend posting details about your situation in the comments section below.

  • CK

    What if a child is a legally parentaly abducted child by a custodial parent? 

    The  now custodial parent took off with then 8 year old child/boy in 2004. The non custodial parent has never been allowed to list the child as a missing person due to a custody status under current laws. In 2002 the mother, the now non custodial parent left with the 2 children; one child of the custodial parent, and one child from a previous marriage. Leaving and divorcing a documented history of Domestic Violence marriage from the custodial parent. 

    Another case gone terribly wrong, and the abuser/the father was given temporary custody in 2004 and the mother, temporarily stripped of her custodial rights, except to write monitored letters to her son.

    The mother had warned the courts the father would take off with the child. A threat her then husband always had used towards her throughout their 10 years of marriage. Including that she would never ever get their son! If by a small chance she was awarded custody, he would kill him first. A threat she took  she took very seriously.  Her pleas  to authorities only made her look unstable, emotional, paranoid and part of the reasons the mother had her rights removed. 

    The loving, protective mother has spent many years searching for her son. Pleas for help, ignored. Caught in the sea of so many others in her own predicament. Never giving up hope.

    The father has moved around. The mother has been unable to get a good serve on him. Oklahoma has jurisdiction over this case. Having moved and lived to North Carolina, Virginia and even moved the child out of the country to Bolivia. And again, currently now in Murray, Utah.

    The boy/son is now age 17. He found his cousins and half sister and mother on facebook in 2010. He didn’t disclose or talk much then, even falling silent for nearly 2 years up until April of 2012.

    He reached out for help. Disclosing his current location and address in Murray Utah. Begging to get away from his father. The mother notified police and officials in Oklahoma, only to have everyone again say, ” He has custody”.

    The mother was even threatened by a Murray, Utah officer that id she even stepped foot in Utah, she would be arrested for attempted kidnapping. And even if the child ran away to Oklahoma, she would be arrested for kidnapping. 

    The son, is being kept from a relationship with his mother. He is also being denied to get a drivers license, car and a job. Though he discloses they have had some fun times together and he has been exposed to many cultures, he is denied a relationship with is mother. 

    The son/boy secretly talks to his mother. And she has to secretly mail him items. He has to hide these items and fears his father finding out. He also tells her that his father is very manipulative and all he has buys officials off. He disclosed his father has broken his arm in the past for reaching out to his mother’s side of the family. Stating his father said he violated the rules. He discloses of other abuse as well. 

    This child is reaching out to be rescued. The mother is unable to get the help. They are in a very delicate situation. The father knows many officials and he does not want to be returned to his father. The child states his father lies and they believe him. 

    How can the child run away, get into safety and not be reunited with his father. He has stated he wants to take down his dad. Legally. To expose secrets and truths.

    He is only one of many children in this type of situation. 

    A mother fighting years to find her legally abducted child. Fighting a failed and corrupt judicial system and exhausting finances. Doors constantly being shut in her face. Dead ends. Shut out. Shut down. Ignored. Just another blah blah blah story. Falling on deaf ears. Even with legislators and television programs. And attorneys who will not take her messed up case except if she will pay  over $10,000 retainer fees just to touch the case and begin. 

    Yes, this child falls through the cracks of the system. What about what he wants? His safety? Will his father ever let him have a relationship with his mother? Will the father ever give him his freedom to have that? Its what the child wants. Will his father eventually end his life? Forever keeping the child from his mother forever, as he threatened? 

    This child wants to be safe. But can not escape his father’s control. Everyone contacts his father and returns him back to him. 

    Where does he go to be safe? To get back to his mother? How does he get representation and protection? When will someone believe him? He knows how well his father manipulates and charms people. So does her mother. 

    How does he break free?

     Who is out there to rescue these children in these situations? 

    They can’t always just run away. They have been groomed, threatened, manipulated, emotionally and psychologically abused, and more. Caught in the middle of a parent’s hatred towards the other parent. This is ABUSE! 

    Where can he & other’s like him in these situations, find help? They are missing and abducted children. Waiting to be found and rescued. Stop abusing the kids!!!

     

    • 1800RUNAWAY

      Thank you for reaching out to us. It sounds like you feel very frustrated by this situation, especially as it seems the young man in this scenario is unhappy where he is. Given the complicated nature of this case, it might be easier to discuss your situation with us on the phone. You can always call us at 1-800-RUNAWAY (786-2929). There is someone available 24 hours a day. There is always someone available to provide support, discuss options, and find other resources if needed. All of our services are confidential and anonymous.

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