FACING A CRIMINAL CHARGE? PUT ME IN YOUR CORNER
Teenage Boys Leaning on Metal Fence

ARE PARENTS RESPONSIBLE
FOR THEIR CHILD’S CRIMES?

The Law Offices of John Della Rocca Feb. 21, 2022

If you’re a parent, you know you’ll do anything for your child. You’ll always be there to support them, to advise them, or help them out of a bind. But what kind of responsibilities do you have as a parent if your minor child commits a crime? Each state handles parental responsibility laws differently, and if your child was recently charged with a crime, you need to be aware of your rights and responsibilities under Pennsylvania law. 

Although the number of juvenile arrests has gone down in recent years in the Commonwealth, Pennsylvania still sees roughly 4,883 minors arrested a year, well over the national average of 3,084. These children and their parents need to know what their rights and responsibilities are so these matters can be handled swiftly and compassionately. If you’re concerned about recent charges your child is facing, call the Law Offices of John Della Rocca to set up a consultation. I serve individuals and families in and around Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, including Delaware County, Montgomery County, Bucks County, and Chester County, as well as communities throughout New Jersey.

Parental Responsibility Laws

Every state has some kind of law on the books that holds parents liable for certain acts their children commit, and these are called parental responsibility laws. In many cases, these charges will remain in a civil court and will result in a parent paying damages for vandalism or destruction of property their child has committed. If the charges are held in a criminal court, the parents may also be held liable if the child injured someone else, committed a crime on the internet, or committed a crime related to access to firearms. In general, these parental responsibility laws apply to minors under the age of 18 of whom the parents have legal custody.

In Pennsylvania specifically, parents are responsible if their child commits a willful, “tortious act” that results in property damage or the injury of someone else. This is sometimes referred to as “willful and malicious conduct.” In these cases, the parents assume negligence on behalf of their child and will be liable for whatever damages a judge approves to compensate the injured party. The parents can contest the judge’s decree, but it still remains a civil liability, not a criminal liability. 

In some cases, common law can take precedence where it’s shown that a parent was aware of their child’s propensity to commit a crime and did nothing to attempt to prevent it, or that the parents contributed to the delinquency of their minor child. In this case, the child’s crimes could be taken to a criminal court and the parents could be found negligent. 

Possible Damages 

While it is up to a judge to determine damages, there are limits in place that apply to most crimes committed by minors. In Pennsylvania, parents are limited to paying $1,000 for injuries suffered by a single person, and $2,500 for injuries sustained to more than one person (meaning that the maximum they would pay regardless of how many people were injured is $2,500). Note that when common law takes precedence, these limits may be waived if the parents have neglected their duty of care. 

Getting the Experienced Legal Support You Need

Both civil and criminal cases concerning juveniles can be difficult and sensitive issues to address. If your family is facing charges due to an unlawful act your child has committed, you need a criminal defense attorney to ensure everyone’s rights are protected and that your family receives a fair judgment. If you’re in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area, call me at the Law Offices of John Della Rocca to set up an appointment.