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Are parents held liable for juvenile crimes?

When it comes to criminal activity, generally, the person accused of committing the offense is the one held responsible. This is at least true for cases heard in a standard criminal court. However, juvenile crimes are different, and parents of children accused of crimes in California may be held responsible for damages resulting from their children's actions.

In California, if a child is accused of committing a criminal act, that child's case will, typically, be sent to a juvenile court. For older teens, depending on the crimes of which they are accused, some cases may be turned over to criminal court. For those that are heard in a juvenile court setting, not only does the child face potential consequences for his or her actions but the child's parents do as well. For instance, parents who stand accused of contributing to their child's delinquency may face up to a year in jail and/or a hefty fine.

Parents can also be held liable for the fines, penalties and restitution payments ordered for their child's juvenile offenses. For civil damages, meaning misconduct that led to the injury or death of another person or damage to property, a fine of up to $25,000 may be ordered for each act. For any offenses involving firearm use, the fines can be significantly higher.

Although juvenile crimes are treated differently than adult crimes, the financial penalties can still be substantial, and parents will be called upon to bear the fiscal burden. Alleged juvenile offenders and their parents have the right to fight any accusations of misconduct and seek a dismissal or, at least, a reduction of charges and/or financial responsibility. A California criminal defense attorney can assist parents and juveniles as they determine the courses of action to take after arrests.

Source: sandiego.gov, "Parental Liability", Accessed on April 12, 2015

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Former Criminal Prosecutor With Proven Results