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Are Parents Responsible for Their Child’s Crimes? 

Strand Law Offices, LLC Dec. 21, 2022

As a parent, you want to do whatever is necessary to protect and support your child and keep them out of trouble. However, if your child is accused of committing a crime as a minor, it is important to recognize the implications for yourself and seek experienced legal counsel.   

Yes, parents can be held responsible for the misconduct of their children, so you need to understand how your child’s crime may impact you. At Strand Law Offices, LLC, our knowledgeable criminal defense attorney can listen to your concerns and provide the guidance you need.   

From our office in West Chester, Pennsylvania, we provide legal representation to adults and minors facing criminal charges throughout Lancaster County and surrounding counties.   

Parental Responsibility Laws  

Parents are frequently held accountable for the actions of their children. Depending on state laws, parental responsibility can endure until a child is 18 or 21 years old under criminal law.   

In cases where gross negligence can be proven - meaning parents neglected to provide adequate supervision and control - jail time and fines may be imposed by prosecutors. Furthermore, civil litigation often allows third parties damaged by the minor’s misconduct to bring suit against their parent(s).   

As a parent, you are tasked with the difficult responsibility of guiding your children to become successful and responsible members of society. While it is impossible for any parent to guarantee that their child won’t make mistakes along the way, there are proactive measures parents can take in order to ensure they remain on track.   

If your child did something illegal or committed a willful and malicious act, you may need the guidance of an experienced criminal defense attorney to protect your child’s future and protect you from potential responsibility for your child’s mistakes.   

Pennsylvania’s Parental Responsibility Law  

In 2020, there were more than 15,000 delinquency-related allegations across the state of Pennsylvania, according to a report by the Pennsylvania Juvenile Court Judges’ Commission. While not all parents of these delinquents were held responsible for their child’s actions, many of them were under Pennsylvania’s parental responsibility law.   

In Pennsylvania, parents can be held responsible for their child’s actions every time the child engages in willful and malicious conduct, causing property damage or bodily injury to others. When a minor acts willfully and maliciously, their parents may be held liable for paying damages suffered by the injured party.   

However, Pennsylvania parental law limits the maximum amount of damages parents may be required to pay as compensation to the injured party. Under state law, these damages are limited to $1,000 for injuries suffered by one victim or $2,500 for injuries in cases involving more than one victim.   

In cases where parents neglect their duty of care, Pennsylvania courts may waive these limits, which means the parent may be ordered to pay more.   

Are There Exceptions to Parental Responsibility?  

While parents can be held responsible for their children’s crimes in most cases, there are certain exceptions to the parental responsibility law. When the parent becomes unable to care for their child due to incarceration, hospitalization, or other circumstances, another adult may take on that role temporarily. When a child is placed in the care of another adult due to any of these circumstances, the adult caretaker could potentially face responsibility for the actions of the child under their care.   

In addition, emancipation through marriage or military service can transfer responsibility away from the parent and onto the emancipated individual. In other cases, custody of a child may be transferred to the state, and the child will be placed in foster care because of abuse or abandonment. In these cases, the state may become responsible for the child.   

How Can Parents Protect Their Rights? 

Parents can protect their rights and shield themselves from facing liability for their child’s crimes by fulfilling their parental responsibility. However, in some cases, it may not be possible to avoid parental responsibility when a child commits a crime.   

Either way, it is critical to know what your rights are regarding parental liability before any accusation can arise. If you have been accused of failing to fulfill your duties as a responsible parent, you may need the legal counsel of a skilled criminal defense attorney before it is too late.   

An experienced attorney can explain your legal options and will fight for your rights to ensure the best possible resolution of your case. Depending on the circumstances surrounding your child’s crime, it is possible to avoid or minimize possible consequences.  

Fight for the Rights of You and Your Child  

Seeing your child being accused of delinquency or misconduct can be stressful and disappointing for any parent. On top of that, you may also need to worry about your responsibility for your child’s actions. At Strand Law Offices, LLC, our criminal defense attorney will fight to ensure that everyone’s rights are protected (both yours and your child’s) and secure the most favorable outcome possible. We are available 24/7 to address your concerns. We proudly serve clients in West Chester, Lancaster County, and surrounding counties of Pennsylvania.