Can Parents Be Charged When Their Child Commits a Crime?

It’s every parent’s worst nightmare: their child has been charged with a crime. But in some cases, that nightmare can be made worse if their child’s criminal conduct can lead to criminal charges for the parents themselves.

Thankfully, in most situations, this is not the case. As a general rule, if a minor commits a crime, his or her parents will not be held responsible. But there are situations where parents can be charged with a crime and even held civilly liable for what their child has done.

Typically, if a minor — a child under the age of 18 — commits a crime, he or she will be go into the juvenile justice system. This is far preferable to entering into the adult criminal justice system, as the juvenile justice system recognizes that minors do not have the same decision-making capacity as adults, and so should not be subject to the same punishments. The juvenile justice system has both different sentencing and some different laws than the adult criminal justice system (such as possession of cigarettes). In the juvenile court system, cases are tried in generally the same way as in the adult court system, but with one major exception: they are not entitled to a trial by jury. Instead, a judge hears the case and issues what is known as a disposition, rather than a finding of innocent or guilty.

In certain situations, if a parent’s actions led to a child committing a crime, either one or both parents could be charged with the crime of Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor. This crime is charged when a parent either acts or fails to act, and that action or failure to act results in a minor (1) becoming a dependent of the juvenile court system; (2) becoming a juvenile delinquent or (3) becoming a habitual truant. The prosecution will have to show that your supervision, protection or control over the minor was grossly unreasonable in order for you to be convicted of this crime. For example, if you provided alcohol or drugs to your minor child, causing him or her to be arrested for a crime, that could lead to a criminal charge. Or if you allowed your child to drive your car, knowing that he or she did not have a license and was not legally allowed to drive, that could also lead to a criminal charge. Contributing to the delinquency of a minor is a misdemeanor charge, which could result in up to 364 days of imprisonment and a fine of up to $2,5000.

In addition to criminal sanctions, if your child causes property damage or physical harm to someone while committing a crime, you could be sued as well. In the example above, if you allowed your child to drive your car without a license, that could be grounds for a lawsuit if he or she caused an accident as a result.
If your child has been charged with a crime or you have been charged with a crime as a result of your child’s criminal conduct, Mississauga young offender lawyer can help. Contact us today