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ARE PARENTS RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR CHILD’S CRIMES?

Darryl A. Stallworth May 4, 2021

Many parents do not realize that they can face liability for their minor child’s crimes.

For any parent, seeing their child being accused of a crime can be stressful and overwhelming. Besides fearing for the child’s future, a parent whose child is in trouble with the law has one more thing to worry about: parental responsibility.

If your child committed a crime, you need to protect both your child and yourself. As an Oakland criminal defense attorney with decades of experience representing underage defendants and adults, I am committed to preserving the rights of minor children accused of criminal offenses, willful misconduct, or wrongdoing, as well as helping their parents.

I understand what your child and you are going through right now. If you worry about potential parental responsibility for your child’s crimes or wrongdoing, I am prepared to answer all of your questions and help you pursue a favorable outcome in your case. Contact my firm, Darryl A. Stallworth Law Office, to discuss your situation today.

PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITY LAWS IN CALIFORNIA

Although statistics cited by the Population Reference Bureau show that felony arrests among juveniles ages 10 to 17 in California have declined by nearly 90% between 1980 and 2019, thousands of kids in Oakland and other parts of the Golden State face criminal charges every year.

California has several parental responsibility laws in place. These laws are designed to make parents legally liable for crimes and misconduct committed by their minor children.

Under California’s parental responsibility laws, parents can be held responsible when their minor kids cause bodily injuries to other people or cause damage to property. There is also a separate law that makes parents liable for car accidents caused by their children.

CALIFORNIA’S PARENTAL LIABILITY FOR WILLFUL MISCONDUCT LAW

Under California Civil Code § 1714.1, parents or legal guardians can be held liable for any civil damages caused by any act of “willful misconduct” committed by their minor children when such misconduct results in:

  • Bodily injury to another person

  • Death to another person, or

  • Damage to the property of another person

A guardian can also face liability when they have custody and control of the minor child. The law limits civil damages to up to $25,000 per wrongful act.

CALIFORNIA’S PARENTAL LIABILITY FOR MINOR DRIVING

California Vehicle Code has two statutes regarding the legal responsibility of parents or legal guardians for civil damages caused by their minor children’s driving:

  1. California Vehicle Code § 17707 provides that the parent or legal guardian who signed and verified their minor child’s application for a driver’s license can be held jointly liable – along with the minor – for any damages arising from the minor child’s negligent acts, wrongful acts, or omissions while operating a motor vehicle.

  2. California Vehicle Code § 17708 provides that parents may be responsible for any foreseeable damages caused by their children when they give permission for a minor to drive their motor vehicle and the minor ends up causing a car crash.

For the purposes of the statute, permission can be either express or implied.

DUTY TO EXERCISE REASONABLE CARE

Under California’s Penal Code, parents and legal guardians of minors under the age of 18 can also be responsible for their child’s crimes.

Under California Penal Code § 272, parents or guardians have a duty to exercise “reasonable care, protection, supervision, and control” over their minor kids. In other words, if a court finds that a parent knew or reasonably should have known that their child was engaged in criminal activity or was likely to commit a criminal offense but failed to take any reasonable steps to discipline or otherwise control the child, the parent can be charged with a crime for their failure to exercise reasonable care.

GETTING HELP FROM AN EXPERIENCED CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY

If you are a parent of a minor child, you know how stressful and overwhelming it can be to raise children and make sure that they become law-abiding citizens. Sometimes, kids make mistakes, and their parents cannot reasonably prevent those mistakes from happening.

If you are worried about parental liability for your child’s crimes, misconduct, or negligence, consider speaking with a skilled criminal defense attorney. As the founder of Darryl A. Stallworth Law Office and a criminal defense attorney with decades of experience representing juveniles and adults in Oakland, California, I am here to listen to your concerns and help you move forward. Schedule a case review today.