Parental Liability for Restitution to Victims of Minors
PARENTS MAY BE ORDERED TO PAY FOR REMOVAL OF A MINOR’S GRAFFITI
Some cities and counties have laws holding minors–and their parents–financially responsible for removal of graffiti and repair of damage to public property caused by a minor child. (These statutes generally also provide for payment of restitution by adults who deface or damage property–not only for payment by minors–but in this post we address the issue as it relates to the parents of minors.) The “repair of damage” may also include related costs like law enforcement costs (to apprehend and arrest the minor), court costs, and attorney fees, in addition to the costs to repair and replace the defaced or damaged property.
Generally, these statutes provide for joint and several liability of the parent or guardian having “custody and control” of the minor responsible for the offense. This means the parent is equally responsible for payment of the fine or repair cost, and that the city can pursue either the minor, the responsible parent, or both until the entire fine is paid. In some cases, the ordinance also allows the city or county to place a lien against the parent’s real property (if any) to secure payment of the fine or other abatement cost.
PARENTS MAY BE ORDERED TO PAY RESTITUTION VICTIMS OF MINOR CHILDREN’S CRIMINAL ACTS
When a minor commits a crime the court may order the minor to pay restitution to the victim. By statute, that liability (for payment of restitution) may also be applied to the minor’s parents–again, via joint and several liability. Foster parents are not liable under these statutes, but biological and adoptive parents, as well as legal guardians, are. This parental liability is generally subject to statutory caps (meaning the parent cannot be charged or forced to pay more than the amount stated in the statute) and can be reduced or even waived by a court based on the parent’s actual inability to pay the restitution. However, the parent or guardian has the burden of proving actual inability to pay, with evidence that satisfies the court.
Parental liability for payment of restitution to the victims of their minor children’s wrongful acts is also (generally) limited to actual, economic damages suffered by the victim and/or the victim’s immediate family. These damages might include medical costs, lost wages (either of the victim or of the victim’s parents, if the victim was a minor and the parents lost work taking care of the injured minor), attorney fees, and repair or replacement of the victim’s stolen or damaged property.
Here, as in other areas of parental liability, parents should take action to help prevent foreseeable torts and other wrongful actions by their minor children. While such actions may or may not prevent parental liability, it’s important for parents to take responsibility for raising their children properly, and taking steps to help encourage children to make appropriate choices (and not to make illegal or irresponsible ones). If you believe your child may be engaging in wrongful, harmful, or illegal conduct, consult appropriate specialists (and an attorney) to seek help for your child and to understand your legal rights–and those of the child–without delay.
DISCLAIMER: This article is intended for informational purposes only, does not constitute legal advice to any person or entity, and does not create an attorney-client relationship with any person or entity. Legal liability involves complex legal analysis, and no single article can provide complete or comprehensive coverage or information about this or any other legal topic or issue. Your personal rights and liabilities may differ, based on individual facts and circumstances. If you believe you have a legal claim or issue, or wish to know more about your individual rights, consult an experienced attorney immediately.