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Parents subject to liability for crimes of children

Parents generally will not face criminal charges for the actions of their children. There are a handful of circumstances in which the state will hold the parent criminally liable because of the extremeness of the child’s actions. This article will explore the three main ways that you could be liable for your child’s actions.

First, most states have some sort of law that punishes parents if their child obtains access to firearms. The laws vary depending on the circumstances but they generally break down into various degrees in which minors gain access to firearms. Some states hold the parent liable if the child uses a firearm regardless of the measures to secure the weapon. Other states provide an exception if the child used the weapon in self-defense or the child gained access to the weapon through unlawful means, such as if he or she breaks into your gun safe. These punishments are enhanced if the child causes serious injury or death.

Second, a few states impose liability for “delinquent youth.” This basically means that your child committed a crime and is charged. Depending on the crime parents could face additional criminal penalties for their child’s actions. Most states do not impose such broad criminal liability and instead limit liability to fines. Many states also require that parents attend any hearings in which their child makes an appearance. Some other states require parents to reimburse the court / government for costs associated with detention, support, care or treatment.

Third, parents may be liable if their child commits electronic or Internet crimes. These crimes break down into two basic categories: illegal downloads and sexually explicit materials. Parents can be criminally responsible if their child downloads music, movies or other products illegally ? even if the parent was unaware of the behavior. Additionally, you could be liable if your child uses his or her phone or computer to send sexually explicit photos of him or herself or of their peers.

If your child has committed one of these actions then you could be held criminally responsible. You may want to speak to a criminal defense attorney not just for your child but for your own peace of mind. Generally, you should not face serious criminal penalties however this depends upon the facts of the situation.


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