Is a Parent Liable When Their Child Commits a Crime?

There are a variety of situations that parents need to worry about when it comes to their children. From schoolyard fights that end with broken bones, to shoplifting and even horrific acts of mass murder, the question of who can be held responsible for these acts is commonly raised by parents. In this blog, we answer the following question: Can a parent be held responsible for property or personal damage that was caused by their minor child?

Traditional vs. Modern Approaches

Under common law, parents were usually not held responsible, on the basis of their parenting alone, for their children’s acts. This means that courts did not hold the parents liable to the victim of their minor child’s careless act. This approach emphasized protections for the parent, not the victim.

In the 60’s however, common law rule was modified to respond to increased calls for parental responsibility. Known as the “Restatement,” this set of new guidelines made a distinction between the careless acts of a very young child and an older one. Under the Restatement, parents have a greater duty to control their younger children and face a correspondingly higher liability if they fail to do so.

Varying interpretations of the Restatement can produce different outcomes. Under a “victim protective” approach, parents can be held liable if they knew of their child’s likelihood to cause harm. Under a “parent friendly” approach, the victim must prove at the parent knew of the child’s inclination for violence. There must also be a direct link between the parent’s knowledge and the incident in question.

Every state now has statutes that cover civil and criminal liability for the acts of one’s child. In fact, criminal consequences have increased in response to the to the 1999 Columbine massacre.  The majority of states impose civil liability for “willful or malicious” acts, or those done “knowingly and intentionally.” The unstated purpose of these laws is to deter poor parenting.

There are 3 ways a parent can be charged as a criminal for their child’s acts:

  • Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor
  • Poor Parenting
  • Firearm Statutes

Is your child facing criminal charges? Are you worried you might be held responsible for the acts they are accused of? Contact our Akron team of juvenile crimes attorneys to request your free consultation today.