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....