Many people believe that when a child is arrested for a crime, the parents should be held responsible. In California, depending on the crime the child committed, parents can potentially face criminal charges for their child’s misbehavior as well as civil liability in the form of responsibility to pay for damages to persons or property. However, in most cases, parents will not face criminal charges if their child commits a crime.
The Juvenile Court System
When a minor commits a crime, he or she will likely be entered into the juvenile justice system. This is different than the criminal justice system because society recognizes that a person’s mental and physical development is generally not finished until at least the age of 18. Therefore, their conduct is not considered worthy of the same punishment that an adult would deserve for committing the same crime.
Additionally, minors are subject to different laws than adults. These age-based crimes, known as status offenses, make an act a crime if a person under a certain age commits the act. For example, a 17-year-old cannot legally possess alcoholic beverages or smoke cigarettes. These acts are not crimes for adults 21 years or older.
A trial in juvenile court works much like a trial in a typical criminal court: The prosecutor must prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and the defendant has a right to present a defense and be represented by an attorney. However, juvenile court is different in one major way: juveniles do not have the constitutional right to a trial by jury, and will have their case heard and decided by a judge.
The goal of the juvenile justice system is to teach children about the consequences of their actions and correct criminal behavior. Therefore, minors face lesser penalties in juvenile court than adults in criminal court would receive for the same crime.
California Penal Code Section 272: Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor
It is possible for a parent to face charges if their child committed a crime. The most common charge a parent or guardian may face when his or her child commits a crime is contributing to the delinquency of a minor. You could be charged with this crime if you act or fail to act, and that action or failure to act results in:
- A minor becoming a dependent of the juvenile court system;
- A minor becoming a juvenile delinquent; or
- A minor becoming a habitual truant.
To be convicted of this crime, the prosecution must prove your supervision, protection or control over the minor was grossly unreasonable. For example, you provided drugs or alcohol to your 15-year-old son and his friends, or you caused your daughter to frequently miss school.
Contributing to the delinquency of a minor is a misdemeanor in California. If you are convicted of this crime, you face up to 364 days in county jail and a fine of up to $2,500.
Civil Liabilities for Children Committing Crimes
Although you may never face criminal charges for a crime your child committed, you may be liable in civil court for any damages caused by the crime your child committed. This essentially means that you will be responsible for paying for any injuries or damages your child caused.
For instance, if your child steals your keys to take your car for a joyride and winds up injuring someone in a car accident, you may be held civilly responsible for paying for the injuries caused by your child. You may also be responsible for damages to the person’s vehicle.
The Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich Are Here to Help You
If you or your minor child is facing criminal charges, you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. At Wallin & Klarich, our attorneys have been successfully defending juvenile and adult clients facing criminal charges for over 35 years. Let our knowledgeable attorneys help you now.
With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, San Diego, West Covina, Torrance and Victorville, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich defense attorney available to help you no matter where you are located.
Contact our offices today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will get through this together.