Am I Liable If My Child Commits A Crime?
A parent’s primary duty is to help their children grow up into responsible citizens, but sometimes, mistakes will be made along the way. If your child commits a civil offense or a crime, the laws of the state of Connecticut will sometimes hold a parent liable for their child’s wrongdoing, especially if that child is under the age of 18. It is crucial to understand what this might mean for you and your child both, and to seek the help of an attorney if you wind up in a situation that you do not understand.
Statutory Causes of Action
The relevant law on parental liability is fairly wide-ranging. It states that a parent or guardian of any minor who “willfully or maliciously” causes property damage or injury to “any person” will be jointly and severally liable with that minor for any damages up to $5,000. In addition, if a minor takes a motor vehicle without the owner’s permission and causes damage, the same liability will apply. The law places responsibility on parents to police their children, so as to avoid liability themselves.
That said, in Connecticut, there is a juvenile court system and a standard court system designed for adults. When those under age 18 are charged with crimes (like, say, stealing a vehicle), they may be charged in one of three ways: (1) as an adult, if the crime is very serious; (2) as a “youthful offender,” in adult court, but with certain juvenile protections; or (3) in juvenile court, if the crime is a first offense or is not violent or particularly severe. Parental liability is only a possibility if the child’s case winds up in juvenile court because in adult court, an offender is treated like an adult. However, avoiding parental liability in such a case might very well be the lesser of two evils.
Two Types of Law
Something that is crucial to keep in mind is that while the U.S. Constitution does prohibit someone being tried twice for the same crime, there are two possible methods by which you may be held liable for a crime committed by your child. In most U.S. states, Connecticut included, there are two different types of law that make up the state’s jurisprudence. Statutory law is the name for laws specifically passed by the legislature and signed into law by the governor. Common law is the type of law that is created by judicial precedent.
Statutory laws are very specific, designed to define and punish a specific crime, such as auto theft or battery. Common law is less particular, speaking most often of a duty to exercise the same care that a reasonable person would exercise in the same situation. For parents, the thing to remember is that if you are not found to be liable under Connecticut’s statutory law, you still may be liable under common law if a jury can find that you did not exercise reasonable care over your child.
Contact a Stamford Parental Liability Lawyer Today
If your child has committed an offense and needs help, contacting an experienced Fairfield County juvenile justice lawyer at the Law Offices of Daniel P. Weiner is a good idea. Attorney Weiner is well versed in cases where parental liability is an issue, and will work hard to keep you and your family in the loop as you navigate the legal process. Contact our offices today at 203-348-5846 for a free consultation.