Parents being criminally liable for their child’s crime has been under scrutiny because it does little to protect the victims of the crime. However, the basis for criminality is founded on direct involvement. Although there is an argument for inadequate or negligible parenting as contributing to the crime, participation in the crime itself is vital to the criminal act. It is possible for a parent to be proven involved, beyond obvious reasons.
However, lawyers have a challenging time doing this today because to be charged with contributing to their child’s crime can be too interpretive to enforce. Parents cannot be criminally liable for their children’s crimes because they are not physically committing the crime. Subsequent, or after the fact, criminal charges against the parents for neglect or failure to supervise their children resulting in the crime that was originally committed may also be applied.
Civilly; if there are physical or even emotional damages they must and for the most part, is held accountable for the crimes because they are in their charge. Criminally; Parents should not be held accountable for the crimes that their children commit.When the parent is not directly involved in the crime, meaning they are not condoning, encouraging, or taking part in the crime with the minor; they are not physically committing the crime.
To be criminally charged with a crime a prosecuting attorney must be able to prove that the accused acted with intent beyond reasonable doubt. To do so is not easy. Chad Stover; with the American Bar Associations of Lawyers (2017) stated that an attorney must figure out and have liable proof of what was going on in the accused’s mind while the crime was being committed. (Stover, 2017) Criminal offenses are usually defined by actions or in other words the act of committing a crime. LawTeacher.net a site that has entries written by legal professional’s states that if a parent knowingly neglects their parental duties, they would be involved in the crime as omitting; the failure to act and that being the result of the crime. (Omission means a failure to act, 2017) However, like with proving intent, this is not an easy thing to prove successfully.
Although it varies by state, most states need culpability to be charged with a crime. The law and legal definition source US Legal defines culpable as; someone is blame worthy and/or responsible for the accused crime or that they had some knowledge of someone doing something criminalistics, could intervene and do not do so whether intentional or unintentional. (US Legal, 2017) That being said; with no involvement or knowledge of their children’s crimes being committed it would not only be hard to prove any sort of responsibility enough to charge the parents.Children’s behavior is often a combination of contributing factors including others outside of the parent’s influence. I think it is well known that most children are like sponges and soak up whatever behaviors they see. They can adopt any behaviors, good or bad, from parents and also from siblings, a distant relative, teachers, peers, the media, or anyone that they may or may not spend time with. While it is commonly a parent’s job to oversee who is involved with their child most parents come to realize that only lasts until the child grows.
As they age children learn to become more independent and able to choose who plays roles in their lives and who does not. School staff, club leaders, and coaches have a larger impact on children the older they get contributing to less influence by parents as well. This is caused by the fact that as they age they spend more time at school than at home due to an increase in after-school activities, clubs, sports along with a possibility of longer school hours.
Additionally, peers of a child have a significant impact on their behavior that the parent could not always have any knowledge of as well. Professors Brank, Greene, and Hochevar conducted a 3-part study and in their researched findings explains peer influence terms using this example; with the Columbine shooting case, in addition to deeming the parents responsible, they also thought their peers could be deemed responsible for reasons of commission. This means that they shared common goals with the accused. (Brank, Greene & Hochevar, 2017) This is simply because they were in the same “clique” called the Trench Coat Mafia.
At some point, better sooner than later, every individual must take responsibility for their own individual actions. The child, themselves, oversees their own actions regardless of influence. They are the ones who made the final deciding decision to commit the crime. It is assumed that parents typically do their best to ensure their children are taught the moral values, legal and social norms. When a minor child acts with self-will the parents should not be held responsible. (Smith, 2017) Additionally, as the child grows and develops their own decision-making ability the parental influence begins to disappear. Not completely but at some point, the child becomes an individual. The main parental duty; besides food, shelter and other basic needs being met, is to teach your child right from wrong.
If one is successful in their teachings and the child still chooses to commit a crime, then the child themselves should be the only one held accountable.Some may argue the fact that when one or both parents neglect to supervise their children’s behavior development they should be held criminally liable for the child’s crime. Advocates for the victims claim that a parent should be held responsible if they are not fulfilling their parental duties.
According to attorney Janet Portman (2017), the California Supreme Court has described parental duties as “the duty to exercise reasonable care, supervision, protection and control over minor children” referring this act to the “common experiences of humankind.” (Portman, 2017) When a parent neglects their children it is a separate criminal offense not to be joined with the crime of the child. Their new neglect charge may be because of the crime committed by their child but there are no actual connections to the crimes themselves.The Gifford Law Center website states “In 2015, America lost 2,824 people between the ages ranging from 0 and 19 due to gun violence.
this does not include thousands of other non-fatal injuries. (Child Access Prevention, 2017) With numbers like this, I can see why many people can argue that when children are able to gain access to the guns in their home that is owned by parents and they commit a crime that the parents should be the ones criminally liable. However, parents allowing access to their children is yet again a separate child endangerment crime, but not a direct involvement of the child’s crime. It may be the direct reason for the crime, but it was not them committing the act itself.
There are many laws in place to aid in the prevention of children accessing the guns. Federally there are laws in place that prohibit sales to minors and Safe storage laws that need anyone who owns a gun to store their firearms and ammunition when they are not in use to prevent minors and any unauthorized users from gaining access to any weapons. (Safe Storage, 2017) Currently, there are 27 states that take part in Child Access Prevention (CAP) Laws. While these laws vary from state to state they all serve the same purpose. California has the strictest CAP Laws holding the adult criminally liable when a minor gains access to a negligently stored firearm. Utah has the weakest which prohibits parents or guardians from directly giving a firearm to a minor.
(Child Access Prevention, 2017). All other states fall somewhere in between this severity range.If parents were to be held criminally liable for their children’s crimes even though they are not physically committing the crime it defies most legal precedents for culpability. However, criminal charges for not overseeing their children while the crime is committed may apply such as neglect or failure to act on earlier “red flags” for criminalistics behaviors. This is not holding the parent responsible for the child’s crimes but for the crimes, they committed by not fulfilling their parental duties in other words; two separate charges, two separate crimes committed.
Because so many other factors and/or people may contribute or influence the child’s behavior that leads up to the accused crime it would be unfair to charge just one person (the parents) and impossible to charge all that may have or may not have influenced the accused child. The child is criminally responsible only or anyone and everyone contributing to the child’s development should also be criminally responsible. This has been an ongoing debate throughout our country for many years now.
The laws are often changing, adding to, or removing to fit the population consensus. Unless proven to be involved parents should not be held responsible for the crimes committed by their minor children.ReferencesBrank, E., Greene, E.
, & Hochevar, K. (2017). HOLDING PARENTS RESPONSIBLE: Is Vicarious Responsibility the Public’s Answer to Juvenile Crime? Research Gate.
Retrieved 2 November 2017, from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/232450369_Holding_parents_responsible_Is_vicarious_responsibility_the_public’s_answer_to_juvenile_crimeGifford’s Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence (2017). Child Access Prevention.
Retrieved 3 November 2017, from http://lawcenter.giffords.org/gun-laws/policy-areas/child-consumer-safety/child-access-prevention/Lawteacher.net (2017). Omission means a failure to act. Retrieved 1 November 2017, from https://www.lawteacher.net/free-law-essays/tort-law/omission-means-a-failure-to-act.
phpPortman, J. (2017). Parents’ Responsibility for Their Children’s Actions. Lawyers.com. Retrieved 2 November 2017, from https://www.lawyers.
com/legal-info/criminal/juvenile-law/parents-responsibility-for-their-childs-actions.htmlGifford’s Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence (2017) Safe Storage. Retrieved 5 November 2017, from http://lawcenter.
giffords.org/gun-laws/policy-areas/child-consumer-safety/safe-storage/Smith, N. (2017). Parent Responsibility for Children’s Crimes: A Legal and Ethical Discussion. Articlemyriad.com.
Retrieved 3 November 2017, from http://www.articlemyriad.com/parent-responsibility-childrens-crimes-legal-ethical-discussion/Stover, C. (2017). Best Practices in Proving Specific Intent and Malice. Americanbar.org.
Retrieved 1 November 2017, from https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/litigation/materials/2014_sac/2014_sac/best_practices.authcheckdam.pdfUS Legal, I. (2017). Culpable Law and Legal Definition | US Legal, Inc.
Definitions.uslegal.com. Retrieved 1 November 2017, from https://definitions.uslegal.com/c/culpable/