Juvenile Crimes and Parent Liability

Earlier this week I was interviewed by Elizabeth Erwin of ABC 15 regarding a car crash at the intersection of 67th Avenue and Van Buren.  A 14 year old allegedly ran a red light and hit an SUV carrying three people, including a small child who was thrown from the SUV.  Police suspect the 14 year old was intoxicated.  People want to know, can the juvenile’s parents be held liable for the crash and the injuries?  What is parent liability?

Can Parents Be Held Criminally Liable?

Unfortunately, this answer is not black or white.  Generally, a parent cannot be held criminally responsible for the actions of their child, but a parent could be held responsible for their own actions, if those actions contributed to the delinquency of that child.

In this case, if the parents provided the 14 year old with alcohol or drugs that led to his impairment, or if the parents provided the 14 year old with the keys to their vehicle, they could be charged with Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor.

If parents assist a child in committing a crime, or after the crime is committed, assist the child in covering up the crime, then parents could potentially be held liable for the juvenile’s crime under a theory of accomplice liability.

Can Parents Be Held Civilly  Liable?

In Arizona, the answer is yes, parents and/or legal guardians can be held jointly liable for their child’s actions.  Arizona law limits the liability of parents to $10,000 per act their child committed.  Arizona law does not require the parents to have any specific prior knowledge that the child will cause damage.

Being properly insured can protect parents from any liability that their children may create.  With regards to an automobile accident, it is important for the parents to be properly insured with high enough policy limits to protect themselves from potential lawsuits.

Civil liability of parents is an area of law that is not well developed, so there may be circumstances where the $10,000 cap could be exceeded if the parent was found to have some responsibility for their child’s actions.

Arizona Juvenile Attorney

Russ Richelsoph is an experienced Arizona juvenile attorney who has handled hundreds of cases involving juvenile defendants.  If your child is charged with a crime, you need an Arizona juvenile attorney who understands the differences between adult court and juvenile court.

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