Could you be charged with a crime if a minor around you or in your care commits a criminal act? Yes, and it's often due to a criminal charge known as contributing to the delinquency of a minor. What does this mean? How does it happen? And how can you defend yourself? Here's what every adult needs to know.
What Is Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor?
The specifics of this crime vary by state, but they often have similar characteristics. In general, this charge refers to the facilitation of a minor doing some activity that they cannot legally participate in until adulthood—or not at all. One of the most common instances is an adult who provides alcohol to an underage person.
What Kinds of Activities Can Trigger It?
As mentioned, many uses of this charge involve alcohol and underage minors. This could range anywhere from buying and giving alcohol to a minor all the way to simply knowing that minors can access your liquor cabinet. You may also encounter this charge if you are found to have encouraged or facilitated a minor in committing a crime. Perhaps an adult goads a minor into breaking into their school or taking a joyride without a license, for instance. In some cases, the minor doesn't necessarily have to have completed the act for the adult to be charged.
What Are Some Defenses to This Charge?
What was your intent when you did whatever it was that contributed to the minor's actions? Perhaps you brought alcohol to a party and left it unattended. Minors then got into your alcohol, and you either didn't know or didn't know they were underage. You did not intend to contribute to any minors imbibing. As with most crimes, there generally must be intent to commit a crime in order to be convicted of one.
Another approach is to disprove that your actions contributed to the minor committing the criminal act. While you may have jokingly suggested that the minor break into their school, for instance, it was actually their friends' goading that prompted them to do so.
Where Should You Start?
Contributing to the delinquency of a minor can be a serious charge. It's also often misunderstood, and defenses require knowledge of the state's specific statutes. Get help by meeting with a criminal law attorney in your state. No matter how it may have happened, you need to protect yourself from the actions of another.
Contact a local criminal defense attorney to learn more.