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CT defense lawyerA 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.

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CT defense lawyerWhile no parent likes to think about it, sometimes our children act in ways that are less than legal. When they do, it can often come as a great shock to learn that we as parents may be on the proverbial hook for the monetary damages. Connecticut has what are called parental liability laws which seek to place some of the liability for damages on the shoulders of parents of minor children. If your child commits a crime or an intentional tort (the equivalent under civil law), it is important that you understand the extent of your own responsibilities under the law.

Parents Held Responsible for Minors

While it can be an unwelcome surprise for parents to find they are liable for the damage their children cause, the rationale for holding them liable is fairly clear. In all walks of life, a parent is responsible for their children until they reach the age of majority, which is 18 in Connecticut. This responsibility simply extends to their children’s actions outside the home and immediate family sphere. However, there are limitations on this liability, and it also does not mean that no liability will extend to the minor themselves.

The law states that the maximum monetary threshold for parental liability on behalf of their minor child is $5,000. However, this threshold only applies if a parent is held liable under the specific statute. If a parent is sued for negligence - for example, if they had reason to believe that their child was going to do something violent and took no steps to stop them - that cap would not apply.

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Connecticut defense lawyer, Connecticut criminal lawyerRaising our children correctly is difficult, to say the least. There is no universal blueprint dictating all the right choices and decisions parents should make while raising their children. The reality is that being a parent is fraught with many tough decisions. For example, when our kids grow into their teenage years and start experimenting with alcohol. Most parents understand the danger of alcohol especially when it comes to a minor. But a tough decision must be made, it is nearly impossible to control every decision your teenage child will make, but what can you do to reduce the potential for them to get themselves into trouble?

Supervised Underage Drinking

Many parents when faced with the choice of not knowing what their teens are doing, if they are safe, or even worse, getting behind the wheel after drinking or with someone who has, will consider allowing their teens to drink at home. Parent's believe that at least the teens are supervised, a parent can ensure that no one gets behind the wheel of a car and the peace of mind that comes with knowing where their teenage children are on a weekend night.

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Connecticut defense attorney, Connecticut juvenile crimes lawyerWhile watching any teen movies these days, it seems that all our children want to do is drink alcohol and break rules. As the story progresses, a parent is nearly always out of town, and their child invites the entire school over for a night of unsupervised events. Luckily for these cinematic plots, there almost always seems to be a hero who opposes underage drinking and good choices triumph. Perhaps these scenarios serve as a cautionary tale for us as parents to never leave our children alone. However, on the other end, you also do not necessarily want them to go off to college without ever being trusted while you and your spouse run to the grocery store. What our juvenile children do while we are away can have us met with handcuffs and parental liability when we return.

Underage Drinking

If your child sneaks into the liquor cabinet while you are gone, it is not likely that the police will immediately come knocking on the door. However, once neighbors begin to notice droves of children flocking into your home while your car is absent, someone may be inclined to involve the police. Officers jump on the opportunity to make a public example of the teen in question. The problem with making a display is it supersedes the right to a fair court hearing. In too many cases, these juveniles invited over just a couple close friends and those friends are the people who called the school, unbeknownst to you or your child. In similar scenarios, leaving your adolescent alone with an open supply of liquor can result in a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of $2,000.00. Your child can also face charges, resulting in:

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social host law connecticutEveryone knows minors under 21 years old who are found to possess alcohol can face criminal penalties, but many people are not aware parents and other adults can also face criminal penalties for permitting underage drinking on their property. The so-called Connecticut “Social Host Law” was first enacted in 2006 and strengthened in 2012, providing fewer loopholes and stricter penalties.

The law that was amended, Section 30-89a of the Connecticut Statutes, prohibits anyone owning or controlling a residence or other private property from knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence, permitting a minor to possess alcohol at the residence or other private property. Those individuals are also required by the law to make reasonable efforts to stop the possession of alcohol by a minor. A person who violates the Social Host Law can be found guilty of a class A misdemeanor, for which the penalties are up to a year in prison and/or a fine of up to $2,000.

As written, any adult, including a parent, family member, or friend, can be held responsible under the law. The underage drinking does not have to occur in the home; it can occur anywhere on a person’s property. The adult does not have to furnish the alcohol to the minors in order to be held liable for underage drinking. The adult can also be held responsible even if not present when the underage drinking occurs.

The Connecticut Social Host Law, as strengthened in 2012, makes it difficult for homeowners to avoid triggering the law if underage drinking occurs in their home or on their property. It’s also unclear what “reasonable efforts” are required under the statute to stop a minor from possessing alcohol. If you have been charged with a violation of the Social Host Law, contact an experienced Connecticut criminal lawyer to help you through the daunting process.