Parenting a child is one of the most difficult tasks anyone can endeavor. On top of that, Fairfax County does everything it can to protect children from harm from both outside forces and, if necessary, from their own parents. A charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor is a Class 1 Misdemeanor and needs to be addressed seriously. Contacting an attorney is very important because a conviction and jail sentence is possible if the charge is not handled properly. Reach out to us for a free consultation by giving us a call or using the contact form below.
What is Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor?
Virginia Code §18.2-371 criminalizes causing or encouraging acts rending children delinquent. The statute is broken into two parts and says it is considered to be contributing or causing children to be delinquent when any person 18 years of age or older, including the parent of any child, who:
1) willfully contributes to, encourages, or causes any act, omission, or condition that renders a child delinquent, in need of services, in need of supervision, or abused or neglected as defined in §16.1-228.
- When looking at §18.2-371 it is important to cross-reference with Virginia Code §16.1-228 because it defines the terms listed in §18.2-371 and helps the Court determine whether an individual is in violation of the statute based on the specific facts of the case. For example, a delinquent child under Virginia Code §16.1-228 is defined as a child who has committed a delinquent act. In determining what constitutes a delinquent act, the statute defines it, essentially, as a child that has committed a crime or violated a court order. Under this scenario, if the Court has found the child as having committed a crime, the next inquiry is whether the parent or other adult did something to help the child commit the offense.
2) engages in consensual sex or other sexual acts (paraphrased) upon or by a child 15 or older not his spouse, child, or grandchild. Of course, this code section is relatively self-explanatory and is generally prosecuted in cases where the child, who is under 18 years of age, engages is consensual sexual relations with an individual who is at least 18 years of age or older.
- Most of the cases we see in these cases involve parents finding out their child is in a consensual sexual relationship with an individual much older than them and feel their child is being taken advantage of due to their inexperience in relationships.
A conviction of Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor is a Class 1 Misdemeanor. Therefore, the punishment is the possibility of a jail sentence of up to 12 months and a fine of up to $2500. Such a lengthy sentence is unlikely but some jail time is possible depending on the particular case.
Defenses to Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor
Because the statute requires that any parent or adult willfully do something in furtherance of the child's delinquency, the Court must determine if the individual knew what was going on. For example, in Peace v. Commonwealth (2000), a 15-year old boy was found to have been smoking marijuana in his parents garage. In addition, the Court found that the mother knew her son and his friends were smoking marijuana in their garage. However, even though the mother knew this was going on (and there was some evidence she had discouraged the activity albeit unsuccessfully), the Court found the mother not guilty of the charge because she did not encourage the activity or otherwise do anything to facilitate it.
Many cases we see also involve a parent leaving their child in a vehicle while they run into a store. These types of situations are decided by the Court on a case by case basis. When there is evidence that the child was left in the vehicle for a mere few minutes, the weather was temperate, and the doors were locked, there usually isn't a problem. However, when the child is left for a lengthy period of time and, for example, it's hot outside and the air conditioning is not running in the vehicle, the child may now be in harms way and fall under the provisions of the statute.
In those cases where it appears there may some, what we call, simple oversight rather than actual neglect or abuse by the parent or other adult we will help put together a mitigation package for the Court. In many cases, our client has no criminal record and is an upstanding citizen. A conviction for this type of offense may be unnecessary and overly punishing. We may recommend a parenting class, counseling, or community service. In any case, the Court and prosecutors are very receptive to these mitigating measures provided there does not appear to be longstanding pattern of factors that led up to the charge.
Contact us a Free Consultation
Every Contributing to a Delinquency of a Minor case we see in Fairfax County is different and has certain mitigating factors. Whether it be an absolute defense or an explanation, it is important not to go to Court alone. These cases must be explained and rationalized coherently and an attorney can help do that for you. We handle thousands of cases every year and can help you.