Parents in Texas like to trust their children to make the right decision and never commit crimes. When we give our children independence and allow them to hang out with their friends without a chaperone, we expect they will abide by the law. However, when juvenile children decide to commit a crime, it is not just them that can be held accountable.
Under parental responsibility laws, parents of juveniles in Texas can be held responsible for the reckless and criminal acts of their children. Parents cannot be charged in a criminal court for the actions of their children. However, they can be found guilty of negligence for failing to ensure that their children did not commit crimes.
The Love DuCote Law Firm LLC.
If your juvenile is facing criminal charges in Texas, you will need an experienced juvenile defense attorney. At The Love DuCote Law Firm LLC, we have many years of experience helping juveniles and parents defend against criminal charges in Texas. Our lawyers have a deep understanding of juvenile court proceedings, and we know that the best way to avoid both child and parental responsibility is by putting up a convincing defense.
We understand how stressful it is if your child is engaged in delinquent conduct and how detrimental the consequences of the juvenile court system are. All the attorneys at The Love DuCote Law Firm LLC have vast experience with juvenile defense and criminal law, and we can help get you the best result in your case.
Call us today at 832-843-1691 for a consultation with a Texas juvenile defense lawyer.
Texas Juvenile Justice System
Minors aged at least 10 years old up to 18 years old are considered juveniles under criminal law and the Texas Family Code. Both adults and juveniles can be charged with crimes, including violent crimes, but the penalties and procedures are different. If a juvenile commits a crime in Texas, they are charged in a juvenile court as opposed to an adult criminal court, unless the crime was sufficiently serious to warrant an adult criminal case.
Juvenile courts have a different aim than adult courts. The aim of the juvenile system is to provide treatment, rehabilitation, and training to minors, and to teach them about responsibility for criminal conduct. The idea behind the juvenile system is rehabilitation rather than punishment, and it is less severe than adult court.
A juvenile can be arrested and brought to a police station for violating a criminal law, engaging in delinquent conduct indicating a need for supervision, or violating juvenile probation. The minor must be transferred to a juvenile processing office without unnecessary delay. The law requires Judges to hold a detention hearing no longer than 48 hours after the original arrest.
Unlike adult criminal cases, there are no minimum sentences for juveniles. The penalties handed down by the Texas Juvenile Justice Department are less severe than those in adult court. For serious crimes, a juvenile may be sentenced to juvenile detention until their 19th birthday. They could also receive a determinate sentence if the felony crime was so severe that a serious penalty is necessary.
Texas Parental Responsibility Laws
The parental responsibility law in Texas provides that parents can face consequences for the criminal conduct of their children. As per the Texas Family Code, a parent or guardian can be held responsible for the negligent and malicious conduct of their children in causing property damage. Parental responsibility laws do not apply to personal injury caused by juveniles in Texas.
If a juvenile violated property damage laws, such as vandalism, destruction or damage of physical property, graffiti on a school or church, or arson, a parent or guardian can be held accountable under negligence laws. The penalties for parental responsibility vary, however, there is a cap on the damages that a victim can recover from a parent. The penalties for parental negligence include:
- Up to $25,000 in damages.
- Court costs.
- Attorney’s fees.
There are two parts to the Texas parental responsibility law; negligent conduct committed by a juvenile offender, and malicious conduct committed by a juvenile. All parental responsibility is a civil liability and an adult will not be charged with a crime for their children’s conduct.
Negligence of the Child’s Parents in Texas
The first aspect of the parental responsibility law in Texas is negligence. A parent or guardian can be held responsible for the alleged criminal offense of their child if they failed to exercise their “duty of control and reasonable discipline” over the child, and this directly caused the child’s negligent conduct.
The prosecuting attorney must show that the parent or guardian exercised negligence toward their children by failing to discipline them, take control of their actions, and look after them to the extent that prevented them from engaging in delinquent conduct. Negligence is measured on the grounds of reasonableness. So, the juvenile court Judge may look at what a reasonable parent or guardian would do in the same situation.
If a parent gives alcohol to their children, and they then get intoxicated and vandalize their school or someone else’s property, the parent may be held accountable under negligence laws.
Willful and Malicious Conduct
Parents in Texas can also be held responsible for their children’s willful and malicious conduct that results in property damage. Willful and malicious conduct relates to an intentional desire of the minor child to cause damage to another person’s property. If the child was aware of the harm they would cause through their conduct, and did it anyway, the parent can be held responsible for the crime.
An example of willful and malicious conduct is if a child deliberately set fire to another person’s vehicle and knew that this would damage the vehicle. If the parent knew their child was going to do this, or if they did not take sufficient measures to prevent it from happening, they can be held responsible for their actions.
Common Law Parental Responsibility in Texas
Outside of the Texas Family Code, a parent can be held responsible for the negligence of their children under the principles of common law. If a victim does not get compensation for their harm under traditional parental responsibility laws, they may decide to bring a personal injury claim against the parent based on parental responsibility.
In a personal injury suit, the victim must show that the parent knew of the child’s propensity for harmful behavior before the crime took place, and failed to do anything to prevent it. Like parental responsibility, personal injury suits are based on principles of negligence and reasonableness. The plaintiff must provide evidence to show that the parent could have prevented the foreseeable harm.
Will My Child Be Charged in a Juvenile Court?
Unless your child is over the age of 18, they should be charged in juvenile court proceedings. However, in some scenarios, a prosecutor may decide to try a juvenile in the adult criminal system because they committed a capital felony, they committed a first-degree felony, or they are between the ages of 15 and 17 and committed a second-degree felony or state jail felony.
The penalties in the adult court system are far more severe than in the juvenile courts. Admitting a child to the adult system can have serious consequences on their mental well-being and is unfavorable in juvenile cases. In juvenile court, a minor child has more rights than an adult defendant.
A juvenile must be accompanied by their parent or guardian at the initial detention hearing and throughout the entire process. They may also have legal representation at all stages of the trial. If they do not have a guardian or legal representative, the court will appoint them a guardian. A child can decide to enter a plea of “true” if they plead guilty to the charges. If not, the case will go to trial and will be decided by a Judge and jury.
Defending Against Juvenile Criminal Offenses in Texas
The best way to ensure that you are not held responsible for the actions of your child through parental responsibility laws is to put up a strong defense strategy in their juvenile criminal case. If your child is not convicted of a crime, then you cannot be held liable for parental responsibility under the Texas Family Code. A victim may still bring a case against you under common law principles, however, it will be difficult to prove.
To successfully defend against a juvenile criminal offense, you will need a defense strategy for the crime. The type of defense strategy your lawyer may use depends on the facts and circumstances of your child’s conduct. Some defense strategy examples include:
Violation of Rights
If your child’s rights were violated at any stage of the arrest, investigation, or interview process, their juvenile defense lawyer can use this as a defense for their case. This could include an unlawful search and seizure, not bringing their case to the juvenile processing office fast enough, not notifying the parents of the child, or failing to conduct a hearing within 48 hours of the arrest.
Juveniles are more susceptible to duress and coercion than adults. If your child was coerced into committing damage to property by an older child or adult, their lawyer may use this as a defense. If it was a situation of duress, where the child genuinely feared for their life or safety, the lawyer could get the charges dropped.
What Should I Do If My Child Has Been Arrested in Texas?
If your child has received a juvenile arrest warrant or been brought into a police station for a suspected crime, the first thing you should do is contact an attorney. Minors have extra rights under the Juvenile Justice Code and Texas Family Code to ensure they are protected. The law enforcement officer that arrests your child must ensure these rights are respected at all times.
The prosecuting attorney has time limits to bring charges against a juvenile. For a capital felony, an aggravated controlled substance felony, or a first-degree felony, the state has 30 days to file a petition against the child. For other less serious offenses, the state has until the 15th working day after the detention hearing to bring charges against the juvenile. If they do not file charges within these time frames, the juvenile must be released.
By hiring an attorney, you can ensure that your child’s rights are protected at all costs. Minors in Texas that have no previous convictions for crimes can take part in the First Offender Program. This program aims to keep children out of the court system by allowing them to carry out community service and pay restitution.
Your lawyer can help your child get into the First Offender Program and avoid going to court for their alleged crimes. They may also get into deferred probation, which allows them to avoid the formal criminal process if they complete the probation period without committing any further crimes.
Can I Be Held Responsible For The Actions of My Child in a Texas Juvenile Defense Case?
Although parents can spend many years caring for their children, working hard to provide them with shelter and food, and doing everything in their power to give them a good upbringing, they are still susceptible to crime. If your child commits a crime in Texas, the last thing you need is to be held responsible for their actions.
However, parental responsibility laws in Texas provide that a parent or guardian can be held responsible for the actions of their child in a juvenile defense case. If the parent fails to exercise a “duty of control and reasonable discipline” over their children, they may have to pay serious fines for their children’s conduct.
Contact The Love DuCote Law Firm LLC Today!
To avoid paying huge fines for your children’s misconduct and having their lives affected by a criminal conviction, contact an experienced juvenile defense attorney today. The juvenile defense lawyers at The Love DuCote Law Firm LLC have over 40 years of combined experience with criminal and juvenile law.
Our attorneys understand the harsh consequences of getting involved in the juvenile system, and we will do everything in our power to avoid a juvenile conviction. An attorney from our law firm will represent your child from the moment of their arrest and all throughout their case to ensure they are treated fairly. We want neither you nor your child to face life-lasting consequences for an innocent mistake.
Our managing partner, Leigh Love, has worked as a prosecutor in the District Attorney’s office in Fort Bend County. She understands the tricks that prosecutors use to secure a conviction and uses this to her advantage when devising a defense strategy. All of our Texas lawyers have won awards and recognitions for their dedication to criminal defense.
Call us today to schedule a consultation with a juvenile defense lawyer at 832-843-1691.