Understanding parental criminal liability

On Behalf of | May 26, 2023 | Criminal Defense

Sometimes minor children make mistakes, causing harm to others.

Under certain circumstances, parents in California would be liable if a child’s willful act results in injury or death to another person.

What charges can parents face?

The criminal charge of “contributing to the delinquency of a minor” would be filed against a parent who was grossly neglectful in the care of the child who committed a criminal act. This neglectfulness includes failing to exercise reasonable care, control, supervision or protection of a child. If convicted, the parent faces possible jail time and fines..

What are the possible defenses?

Parents are not always responsible for their children’s actions. Some situations where that is the case include:

  • When the parent has an emancipated or institutionalized child
  • If the parent did not have custody of the child when the criminal conduct occurred
  • If  the child did not intentionally or willfully commit the act

Parents are of course not liable for criminal acts committed by adult children.

How is parental civil liability different?

Parental civil liability refers to a parent’s financial responsibility to compensate someone if the child willfully or maliciously damages that person’s property. In California, the financial liability of parents is limited to $25,000 per incident.

When does parental liability begin?

Parental liability usually starts when a child is 8-10 years old. It ends when the child reaches the legal adult age, which is 18 in California.

Parents facing criminal charges for their child’s actions  should retain a skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney to protect their interests and guide them through the court process.

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