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¡No Se Deje!
Every State in this country has laws that impose legal obligations on parents for the acts of their minor children. Parents of children that damage public or private property or that injury people are often surprised when the law punishes them (the parents) by imposing significant fines and/or sending them to jail.
The most relevant California law relating to parental liability states:
“any act of willful misconduct of a minor which results in injury or death to another person or in any damage to the property of another shall be imputed to the parent or guardian having custody or control of the minor…and they shall be jointly and severally liable with the minor for any damages resulting from the willful misconduct”.
The financial responsibility of the parent or guardian is limited to $25,000, plus a cost of living increase every two years, for each unlawful act of the minor. And, the parents or guardian are obligated to pay for the court costs, attorney’s fees, and damage to property including graffiti painted by their minor children. And, section 272 of the California Penal Code is similar to the laws of many states, which makes it a crime to “Contribute to the Delinquency of a Minor.” This law is violated if parents/guardians “fail in their legal duty to exercise reasonable care, supervision, protection, and control over their minor children.” This is a crime and is punishable by a fine of $2,500 and/or up to one year in jail per illegal act of the child. Parents of first time juvenile offenders are usually given a choice of participating in parenting classes or facing criminal charges.
A 1996 law allows judges to order parents or guardians to pay up to $25,000, plus a cost of living increase every two years, to the victims of crimes committed by their minor children. This is in addition to the fines and other costs that can be imposed on the minor. Judges can also consider the future earning power of the parents, guardians and the guilty minor in determining the amount of the fines and penalties. This means that parents, guardians and minors can be ordered to pay these very significant amounts from future earnings for many years. These strict laws reveal and represent a change in attitude within our society and among lawmakers. It is now the legal policy in this country to hold parents and guardians responsible for not properly raising their children to respect the rights and property of others. It is now believed that punishing the parents and guardians will cause them to make sure their children do not injure others or damage their property.
The law imposes punishment for “negligent supervision” on adults having custody and control of minors who unlawfully cause damage or injury. The law includes grandparents and others that have “custody and control” of a minor. The punishment of parents and guardians only applies until the child is 18 years old in California or sooner if the minor is emancipated by court order, marries, or joins the military. ¡NO SE DEJE! ®
JESS J. ARAUJO, ESQ.