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What to Do If Your Child Commits a Crime

By Molly Zilli, Esq. | Last updated on

Every parent who has spent more than nine minutes with their child has had to correct their behavior, whether to protect that child or others. And that never really changes. But what if their bad actions cross over into illegal behavior? How do you reconcile the desire to protect them with not wanting to condone a crime? Below are some ideas to keep in mind as you grapple with what to do if your child commits a crime.

Normally No Requirement to Report Crime

Finding out your child has committed a crime can be a tough blow, and many parents will be relieved to hear that generally, there is no duty to report crime. However, there are situations where your silence could be construed as complicity or worse, and you must report crimes where your child is the victim (such as with sexual or physical abuse) or if you are a mandatory reporter.

Additionally, even if you don't report a crime to authorities, you may need to take other types of action. For example, if he or she is addicted to drugs or alcohol, there are many treatment options available which should be utilized before your child has an overdose or hurts someone while driving under the influence.

Situations Where You Must Report Child's Crime

Parents should also know that there are many instances where they can be held liable -- criminally or civilly -- for the actions of their children. For example, if you know about the crime before or after the fact, and you help conceal the crime or its perpetrators, you could be charged with aiding and abetting, or as an accessory. Other situations where you could be held responsible for your child's crime include the following:

  • Truancy: Depending on your state's laws, you could be charged with a truancy-related crime if your child skips school too much.
  • Gun Crimes: Parents and others who keep guns must obey gun storage laws or face liability when a child uses one of those guns to hurt someone else.
  • Bullying: Depending on state law, parents can be held responsible for failing to supervise or control a child who bullies others.
  • Underage DUI: If a parent is aware of their child's underage drinking, they may be liable for that child's drunk driving offenses.

Considerations If Your Child Commits a Crime

Not all crimes are created equal. Finding out your child stole a candy bar is not quite on the same level as discovering a serious drug problem or involvement in murder. But failing to impose consequences for shoplifting or bullying arguably sets them up for worse behavior later on. That's why some parents choose to take action, whether their child is 50 or 15.

If you or your child has been accused of a crime, it's vital to contact an experienced defense attorney as soon as possible to protect your rights and advise you on the best course of action going forward.

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