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What's the Penalty for a Parent Giving Drugs to Kids?

Marijuana in rolling paper
By Lisa M. Schaffer, Esq. | Last updated on

It may seem harmless at first. Your kid wants a sip of your margarita. Then a few years later, wants a beer at a barbecue. Later, he wants a 40-ouncer for his own personal consumption at a high school party. What about opening up your stash of marijuana to him, even in a state where adult consumption is legal? It's tempting to give in. Maybe you want to be "the cool parent." Maybe you are worried he'd obtain it illegally anyway? Is this legal? And if not, what sort of penalty might a parent face?

Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor

For a wide variety of reasons, parents today are typically more lenient about their children using, or at least trying, drugs. Concerned that they may get them from a tainted source, parents may be tempted to provide drugs to their kids. As benign as it may seem, studies have shown that kids who received drugs from their parents are just as likely, if not more likely, to become addicted than other teens. To prevent this, there are laws prohibiting parents from giving drugs to their children.

Providing drugs to your child, in all instances, is considered contributing to the delinquency of a minor (CDM), a crime in almost all states. Elements of this crime include:

  • An adult (or another minor, in some states) committed an act
  • which caused (or has the tendency to cause) a minor to become or remain:
    • A dependent of the juvenile court; or
    • A delinquent; or
    • A habitual truant

Generally a misdemeanor, penalties vary by state. In California, punishment includes up to one year in jail, and/or a fine of up to $2,500, and/or 12 months of probation.

CDM Can Also Be a Felony

There are times when CDM rises to the level of a felony. For instance if:

  • A parent is acting with criminal negligence when giving drugs to a child, or
  • A parent is a repeat offender of CDM laws, or
  • The child then causes serious physical injury or death to someone else while under the influence of the drug you provided

In these instances, felonious CDM may apply. Penalties are based on the facts of the circumstance, and include substantial fines, sometimes greater than $50,000, and greater jail time, up to seven years in California even if the drug at issue is marijuana. Also, you may possibly lose custody of your child for maltreatment and child endangerment.

If you are facing a criminal charge for supplying your child with drugs, it should be taken very seriously. Though misdemeanor offenses are often marginalized in the mind of the criminal, they may not be viewed so benignly by future employers, family court judges, and criminal court judges in the case of repeat offenders. Speak with a local criminal defense attorney. Your attorney can go over the specifics of your case and offer you helpful legal advice.

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