If your child has recently committed a crime, you may have found yourself in a surprising situation when you learned that parents can be held responsible for their child's actions. While parental liability can be complicated, there are some basics, which are outlined below, that parents should understand.
Why Might a Parent Be Held Responsible for Their Child's Actions?
The reason that parents may be held responsible for a child's actions are numerous, but the majority of reasons have to do with logistics.
For example, if your child vandalizes a neighbor's home but has no way to pay to fix the issue, should the neighbor just forget that the incident occurred and pay for the fixes themselves? The answer to that question, in the United States anyways, is a resounding "no." While each state differs on amount of liability, in the example above, you would likely be financially responsible for your child's actions. Other instances where you might be held responsible for your child's actions include encouragement of the destructive or injurious behavior or criminal participation in the behavior, such as providing easy access to a firearm used in a crime.
Are There Different Kinds of Parental Liability?
There are two kinds of parental liability when it comes to a child's actions – civil and criminal.
Civil liability occurs when a child causes damage to a public or private property. A civil case can be brought against your child by the person who owns the property, such as a homeowner or the city. If your child has destroyed property, there's very little chance you can get out of paying money damages to the property owner, as evidenced by the vandalism example above. Criminal liability, on the other hand, can occur when a child causes property damage or physical harm to another individual. Criminal cases are brought by the police. It's unlikely that parents will be held criminally responsible for their child's behavior, though there are certain instances where that can occur, such as if the parent participated in or encouraged the crime.
If My Child Committed a Crime, How Can I Protect Myself?
If your minor child has committed a crime, your first step should be to contact a criminal defense attorney from the Law Office of Michael Marinaro & Associates or a similar firm. The attorney can represent your child as well as help you to understand your liability.
Unfortunately, there may not be much you can do to avoid financial (civil) liability for a child's actions. If your child has committed a serious crime, however, and you fear that you could be held criminally responsible, you may be in luck. As long as you can prove that you had no reason to believe your child would commit this act or that you did everything possible to prevent it, there's very little chance you can be held criminally responsible.
To learn more about parental liability, consult with a criminal defense attorney today.