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Are Parents Responsible for their Child’s Crimes?

Zachary McCready Nov. 24, 2021

According to the California Department of Justice, there were 59,371 juveniles referred to probation in 2019, and the majority of those referrals were for misdemeanor crimes. Teenagers, as well as younger children, will experiment and rebel—sometimes in ways that conflict with the law. Their actions can have drastic consequences on not only their own lives, but their parents’ and legal guardians’ lives as well.

At McCready Law Group, I’m committed to understanding your child’s situation, determining how your child’s crime may impact you, and providing you both with a strong legal defense. I will explain how your Duty to Exercise Reasonable Care can influence your outcome, as well as how the relevant California laws affect your case. I’m committed to offering experienced legal guidance and vigorous representation to all of my clients. My firm is proud to serve individuals in Long Beach, Cypress Hill, and Lakewood, California, as well as nearby communities.

Parental Responsibility Laws

Parents can be held legally responsible for their minor children’s actions in both civil and criminal court. Whether the minor child’s actions were intentional or accidental will impact the case.

What Are These Laws?

The purpose of parental responsibility laws is to encourage parents to take a greater role in supervising their minor children. The assumption is that if the child’s parents supervise their minor more closely, they will prevent their children from committing crimes. Therefore, if parents fail to supervise their minor child and that child commits a crime, it is possible for the parents to be punished by the law.

To Whom Do They Apply?

These laws apply to the parents of any children who are 17 years old or younger. Additionally, if an adult encourages or enables a minor to participate in a crime, that adult will be prosecuted for contributing to the minor’s delinquency.

California’s Parental Liability for Willful Misconduct Law

Sometimes a minor may intentionally, or willfully, commit a crime. When this is the case, the minor’s parents may be held responsible for their child’s actions. Specifically, they are responsible for the civil damages that the court may award the victim. This may not apply when the minor acted on accident—only when the minor acted wrongly with willfulness.

California’s Parental Liability for Minor Driving

Who is responsible when a minor causes a car accident? In California, the answer is the person who signed the minor’s driver’s license application, which must be their parent or legal guardian.

If a minor driver causes an accident, their parents or guardians may be held financially responsible. Both parents can be held jointly liable for any car accident that their minor child causes.

Duty To Exercise Reasonable Care - California Penal Code Section 272(a)(2)

The law in California is very clear about parents’ responsibilities. According to California Penal Code Section 272, if a parent fails to fulfill his or her “duty to exercise reasonable care, supervision, protection, and control over their minor child,” they have committed a misdemeanor crime.

Therefore, parents are responsible for more than just the financial losses that their minor child’s misconduct led to. Parents can also face misdemeanor charges if the state finds them negligent in their duty to provide reasonable care.

Getting Help from an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney

If your child has been accused of a crime, you need to understand the implications for their future as well as your liability as a parent. You may have to undergo training, pay a fine, or even face jail time. It's extremely important that you retain a highly skilled criminal defense attorney to help you protect your child’s rights as well as your own.

Criminal Defense Attorney in Long Beach, California

Depending on the minor child’s crime, you and your child may both need legal representation. As an experienced California criminal defense attorney, I will be by your side during this tough time, and I will fight for you and your child every step of the way. McCready Law Group is proud to represent clients in Long Beach, Cypress, and Lakewood, California. Contact my firm today to schedule your case assessment.

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