There are many situations where children get into trouble, but they didn’t do it alone. Legally these situations are called contributing to the delinquency of a minor. The first legal code or criminal statute to charge adults with helping minors commit crimes was created in 1903 in the state of Colorado. Today those laws extend to every state. If you help a minor to commit a crime whether big or small, you can face serious punishments.
What is contributing to the delinquency of a minor?
Contributing to the delinquency of a minor is a criminal charge that effectively means an adult helps someone under age commit a crime. In most states, a minor is someone under the age of 18.
When a crime is committed by someone underage with the help of an adult there are two components:
- The charges laid against the adults who helped the juvenile in question
- The charges against the juvenile who committed the crime
The legal term ‘contributing to the delinquency of a minor’ or CDM, is the adult component.
Regular Courts versus Juvenile Courts
When children under age commit a crime they get routed through the juvenile court system. This is different from the adult system. For example, juveniles are detained and not arrested, the case against them is handled in a specific court, and if charged, they go to a juvenile center rather than traditional County jails.
However, the adults who are charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor go through the regular legal system for things like misdemeanors and if charged can face time at a County jail.
Who can be charged for CDM Crimes
CDM laws vary from one state to another. For example, some states stipulate that only parents, legal guardians, or people who have custody of a child can face charges for CDM while other states have a definition that includes people like strangers or co-workers.
What qualifies as CDM?
There are many situations based on different states that qualify as CDM.
Again, the laws vary based on states. In some states, possession is required in order to charge someone or process them for a certain crime. For example, knowing that a co-worker possessed drugs at one point doesn’t mean they can be charged with a crime.
But when it comes to children, the legal process is a little different and allows more leeway. In this situation, a statute might stipulate that a 14-year-old neighbor doesn’t need to be in possession of alcohol or drugs that you bought for them in order for you to be charged. The child might not get a criminal charge in the juvenile system but you still will.
Some examples include:
- The most common example is providing alcohol for someone under age. This can take the form of simply buying a pack of beer from a local grocery store and giving it to an underage child but can also extend to hosting a large kegger party for multiple underage children. In this situation even having primarily over age children but serving a few underage children still qualifies.
- Giving someone underage a fake ID so that they can go into a bar or purchase alcohol on their own.
- Another alcohol-related example is allowing someone under age to drink alcohol in your presence in some states.
- Helping a minor drive a car without their license or permit is one example.
- Providing a minor with illegal drugs.
- Other examples include helping a child to be habitually truant meaning helping them skip school regularly. This is usually applied to a parent or Guardian, one who takes their child out of school or allows them to stay home for no reason. In states like Ohio, a parent can go to jail for CDM if their child has more than 5 unexcused absences. In states like California, if your child does not regularly attend school until the age of 16, you can also be charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
- Other examples include helping someone underage commit criminal acts like selling drugs, breaking and entering, or shoplifting. In fact, even a company using a minor who is committing a crime can qualify.
- Tangentially, even if you are not present, if you persuade someone underage to commit a crime you can still be charged with persuasion.
Exceptions to CDM Laws
40 different states have exceptions to this law, most of them relating to alcohol:
- In many of these states, like Michigan and Oregon, a child who consumed alcohol underage for government research such as partaking in a medical study or working undercover with the government cannot be charged.
- In 6 different states if a child is at home in the parents give their consent, alcohol can be consumed including New Jersey and Louisiana. In some situations, kids can have alcohol at home without their parental consent, if no one else is home, such as in New Jersey and Louisiana.
- In 25 states children can consume alcohol for religious purposes such as communion, such as in Colorado and Illinois.
- In 11 states like Nevada and Massachusetts minors can consume alcohol at a restaurant that serves it assuming they have parental permission.
- In 16 different states like Washington and Arizona, children can consume alcohol within medications without any CDM charges.
In 7 states, including North Carolina and Vermont, culinary purposes are given the clear such that when children are cooking with alcohol while in culinary school no one will face CDM charges.
What to do when charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor
If you have been charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, it is very important that you seek legal defenses and immediately from a qualified attorney. There are exceptions to the law which might apply to your situation, but every state is different in how they determine the elements of the crime, and to what degree they focus on intent and cause of delinquency. A qualified attorney will be able to review your case and help you prepare for court if necessary, and better understand the legal process as it applies to your situation.
What is contributing to the delinquency of a minor punishment?
The penalty for contributing to the delinquency of a minor depends on the person and the situation. The consequences for these crimes are contingent upon whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or a felony.
Misdemeanor: If you’re charged with a misdemeanor, conviction usually has jail time no more than one year, probation, and/or fines.
Felony: If you are charged with a felony, you will have lifelong implications such as challenges finding a job, not being able to work in specific professions, and facing time in state prisons rather than County jails.
Regardless of the seriousness of the charge, an actual conviction of contributing to the delinquency of a minor can interfere with future employment, inhibit your social life, and limit volunteer opportunities specifically those that have to do with children like working in schools, volunteering with group homes, or being foster parents.
Every state is different, and for that reason, it is important to understand the laws pertaining to children. If you are a parent, you need to know what is within your legal parameters both at home and in public so that you can hold yourself responsible and ensure that your child does not accidentally find themselves in an unwanted situation. Even if you don’t have children, knowing the laws can help you avoid a criminal charge by accidentally contributing to the delinquency of a minor. In the event that you do face such charges, it’s important to seek legal defenses from a qualified attorney immediately.