If you’re a parent, catching your kids with drugs is probably up there in your top ten list of worst nightmares. You might start to wonder where you went wrong, why you didn’t notice, what you could have done differently. You worry about possible physical and mental health effects, their performance at school – or potential suspension or expulsion if they were caught at school – and what it means for their future. One thing you might not have considered is what the effects on you personally might be. Not just whatever guilt or embarrassment you might be feeling, but actual criminal repercussions. Is it possible that you could be held legally responsible for your minor child’s drug use? The answer is, not usually, unless you actually provided the drugs.
There are very few states that impose parental criminal liability for crimes committed by minors. Mostly these laws apply to things that pose a risk to the general public. For example, nine states have laws that hold parents criminally liable for storing firearms in such a way that children can gain access to them. Computer hacking is another area where parents might be held liable. In 2003, The Recording Industry Association sued 261 individuals for downloading protected music onto their personal computers and infringing copyrights, including parents who had no idea that their children had done the downloading. There are a fair number of states that hold parents liable for juvenile delinquency, which includes activities that would be considered a crime had an adult committed them. There are also age-related crimes like truancy from school.
When it comes to drug use, parents can be arrested if they provided the drugs or allowed them to fall into the minor’s hands. In a 2017 case in Louisiana, for example, parents were arrested after their five children tested positive for drugs. Officers believed that the parents themselves were using the drugs but left them out where the children could get to them. They were charged with multiple counts of cruelty to juveniles. In this situation, even access to substances that may be legal for adults, such as alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana, can be considered child endangerment.
There are also laws against bad parenting that results in child abuse or neglect and contributing to the delinquency of a minor, which means allowing or encouraging illegal activity by people under the age of 18. This can be as simple as keeping your child home from school and contributing to his or her truancy, or as serious as sexual exploitation. Providing drugs or alcohol to underage individuals is also considered contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Punishments vary, but in California, the penalties for this can include a fine of $2,500 and up to a year in jail.
If you or a loved one need help with quitting drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504 to get started.