Parental Criminal Liability

Firearm Access Laws

In a few states the parents can be held criminal liable if their children obtain access to firearms. In 9 states, failing to store a loaded firearm properly to prevent a minor from having access to the firearm can result in criminal charges. In some states the law provides for enhanced penalty for the offense if minor uses the gun and causes injury or death. In some states the law provides an exception – use of the firearm in self defense by the minor or the minor gains access by unlawful entry into the place the firearm is stored. In most states parents have a legal duty to take away any firearm which is in the possession of their minor children and which the parents are aware of. In many states it is a misdemeanor offense to leave a firearm in a manner that it can be accessed by a minor. However if the minor uses the gun and injures someone, it is a felony.

Internet Access and Computer Hacking

Internet and computer hacking and other unlawful activities using a computer or the internet by minor children can result in criminal liability for the parents. In 2003 more than 250 persons were sued for downloaded copyrighted music onto personal computers. This included many parents who were unaware that their children had downloaded such music illegally. The California Court of Appeal in Thrifty-Tel v. Bezenek held that the parents of minors who had hacked a computer network were liable for the unlawful acts of their minor children. As technology develops, there are opportunities for minors to sell pornographic images of themselves or engage in other illegal activities over the net. In such cases, the federal law will preempt state law.

Delinquent Youth

In some states the parents may be held criminally liable for the activities of delinquent minors. Some states have less stringent liability laws. In Texas, Michigan and Kansas, parents are required to attend hearings of delinquent minors. Failure to do so will result in contempt charges.

Parents in West Virginia, Kentucky, Kansas and Alabama have to bear the court costs associated with such proceedings. In some states like Virginia, North Carolina, Indiana, Idaho, Florida, Oklahoma, Missouri and Maryland the parents must bear the cost of the juvenile proceedings or undertake restitution payments.

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