When children are arrested for committing crimes, their parents or guardians also fall under police scrutiny. Ohio law makes it illegal for adults to contribute to the unruliness or delinquency of a child, and many adults might soon find themselves facing criminal charges of their own. Like many laws in Ohio, this one is very broad and can sweep in conduct that might appear innocent to most people.
If your child has been arrested or accused of a crime, contact Groth & Associates today. We are experienced in helping adults fight off charges of contributing to the unruliness or delinquency of a child. The sooner you reach out to us, the faster we can begin building a defense.
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WHAT IS AN UNRULY OR DELINQUENT CHILD?
Unruliness and delinquency are legal terms defined in Ohio statutes:
- Ohio Revised Code § 2151.022 defines an unruly child as one who does not submit to the reasonable control of certain adults, such as parents, guardians, teachers, or custodians. A child who is a habitual truant or one who acts dangerously is also an “unruly” child.
- Ohio Revised Code § 2152.02 defines a “delinquent” child as one who commits a crime or violates an ordinance other than a traffic offense. It also includes children who violate court orders.
There are many common examples of unruliness or delinquency, including committing petty offenses or serious crimes, skipping school, or acting dangerously, such as fighting with other children. A child who is obstructive in school could also be classified as “unruly” under the law if adults have trouble controlling them.
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HOW CAN AN ADULT BE CHARGED WITH CONTRIBUTING TO UNRULINESS OR DELINQUENCY?
Ohio Revised Code § 2919.24 makes it illegal for an adult to aid, abet, encourage, cause, induce, or contribute to the unruliness or delinquency of a child.
As you can see, the law prohibits acting in any way that tends to cause a child to become unruly or delinquent. Simply encouraging a child to stand up for himself could be construed as a crime in Ohio.
There are key points to consider about the law. For one, it applies to parents and strangers alike. A parent or guardian can be charged under this statute just as easily as strangers can. So a parent who provides alcohol to a minor can be charged under this statute, along with other crimes.
Aiding and abetting can also happen before or after the fact. Giving a child money that he uses to help commit a crime could land a parent in hot water. Parents do not have to be present when their children act in an unruly or delinquent manner.
The child also does not have to commit a crime (delinquency); acting dangerously is enough to qualify as unruliness. So parents who encourage or contribute to their children getting into fights or doing something dangerous could also be charged under the statute.
When laws are this broadly written, the possibility of overcharging increases. Meet with an attorney as soon as possible if your child has been picked up by the police. Ohio prosecutors can and will seek criminal charges against parents and guardians, as well as unrelated adults, often to score political points or to apply pressure.
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WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES FOR CONTRIBUTING TO UNRULINESS OR DELINQUENCY OF A CHILD?
This is a first-degree misdemeanor offense, which is the highest-level misdemeanor under Ohio law. If convicted, defendants face:
- Up to 180 days in jail
- Up to $1,000 in fines
It is important to note that each day a child is delinquent or unruly is a separate offense. This means parents and other adults could be facing multiple charges for something so simple as letting their children stay home from school for no legitimate reason for an entire month.
HOW DO YOU DEFEND AGAINST THESE CHARGES?
There are many defenses we can bring, depending on the circumstances of the case. We might do any of the following:
- Argue the child is not unruly or delinquent under the relevant laws. If the child isn’t, then an adult cannot be charged for contributing to their unruliness or delinquency. For example, a child might have skipped school a couple of times, but this does not make them a habitual truant. A child might also have been verbally aggressive, but not in a way that endangered anyone or rendered them incapable of being controlled by a teacher or other adult.
- Argue there is insufficient evidence the adult encouraged the conduct. Children engage in a lot of conduct without their parents knowing. For example, a child might borrow the car and say they are going to a football game. Instead, they stop and rob a store. Or they tell their parents they want to hold a party at a summer camp but then sneak in alcohol to share with their friends. The parents are not necessarily guilty of aiding and abetting if they had no idea what the child was going to do.
- Raise the defense of mistaken identity. Another adult might have encouraged or aided the child’s unruliness or delinquency. Often, the only evidence comes from the child himself, who is not necessarily reliable. Children might lie because they want to protect the person who is helping them act delinquent.
These are some of the more common defenses. The best defense flows naturally from the facts of the case. Often, the prosecutor’s evidence is less solid than defendants are led to believe. The last thing a defendant should do is quickly agree to a plea deal when they could instead fight the charges and possibly get them dismissed.
CONTACT US TODAY
One of the criminal defense lawyers at Groth & Associates will gladly meet with you to discuss any pending charges against you. If you are a parent charged under 2919.24, we can also discuss the charges brought against your child.
For help with your case, contact us today. Our lawyers offer to meet with people for free so that they feel comfortable calling our office. There is no risk in a meeting.