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Parents’ potential liabilities when children commit crimes

On Behalf of | May 19, 2020 | Criminal Defense |

There has been an ongoing debate in juvenile law about whether courts should hold parents accountable for alleged criminal acts committed by children. One might think about stolen packages or shoplifting, but juveniles often commit other far more serious crimes, such as mass shootings at a school. Should the law hold parents responsible for these instances?

In December of 2018, the Miami Herald reported a story involving a five-year-old package pirate who allegedly acted on her father’s orders. Victims caught the young child on camera and learned that she reportedly acted on the instructions of her father. The police then issued a warrant for the father’s arrest.

When parents direct the crime

When parents become actively involved in the alleged crime or push children to commit certain actions, that is altogether a different case. After all, small children judge wrong from right based on environmental factors and the direction provided by parents and other adults.

Even a child who inherently feels a specific action is wrong might not feel empowered to speak out against the parent directing them or to disobey them. However, what about instances when the parents have no involvement?

When parents have no involvement in the incident

Several states and cities have considered putting legislation in place to hold parents more accountable for the behaviors of their children. Among them are Birmingham, Alabama, and a metro Atlanta city in Georgia.

In 2018, WBRC reported that a Birmingham Councilwoman was ready to send a strong message to parents and other community members. The proposals centered on the belief that it took a village to raise a child, but that it should not include the police department.

Where public opinion falls

People who support these laws believe many parents have indirectly contributed to crime and violence by failing to raise law-abiding children. Those who oppose the laws say the punishments might prove misguided as even well-raised children can go astray.

Parents of children accused of crimes should look closely at the laws in the jurisdiction to see if they are legally, partially accountable. Note also that when this is not the legal case, the media and the general public almost always hold parents partially responsible.