Messina Madson & Kendall Castello, MC Criminal Law
Are Parents Responsible
for Their Child’s Crimes?
Imagine that your child has committed a crime in Texas. Under Texas law, a juvenile is a minor who is at least 10 years old but not yet 17 at the time of committing the alleged offense. In addition to your child facing juvenile charges, you – as the parent – might also be responsible for your child’s crimes. If your child has committed a negligent, willful, or malicious act, you need to understand parental responsibility laws in Texas to determine if you can be held liable for the criminal acts of your child.
Contact a criminal defense attorney in Dallas, Texas, to determine if you can be held responsible for your child’s crimes. At Madson Castello Law, we handle juvenile and parental responsibility cases throughout North Texas, including Denton, Fort Worth, and McKinney.
Parental Responsibility Laws
Every state adopted parental responsibility laws to hold parents and legal guardians responsible for the negligent and criminal acts of their children. Parental responsibility laws vary from one state to another. However, a general assumption is that parents can be held responsible for the negligent and criminal acts committed by their children because they failed to ensure reasonable supervision and control of their children.
Like most other states, Texas adopted parental liability laws to make parents liable for specific acts committed by their minor children. However, unlike some other states, Texas does not impose parental responsibility for personal injury caused by their children. In Texas, parental responsibility applied only to acts resulting in property damage, including vandalism. According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, 901 juveniles across the State of Texas were arrested for vandalism in 2020 alone.
Texas parental liability laws consist of two parts:
- Parental responsibility for negligent conduct committed by their children; and
- Parental responsibility for willful and malicious conduct committed by their children.
Parental responsibility laws apply to parents, legal guardians, or other persons who have the duty to control and discipline minors in their care.
Negligence in Child’s Crime Cases
The first part of the parental responsibility law in Texas makes parents liable for negligent acts committed by their children. As mentioned earlier, the statute does not apply to cases involving personal injury caused by minors. The statute imposes parental liability for a minor’s negligence in cases involving property damage.
However, a parent can only be held responsible for the negligent conduct of their child if there is proof that the parent’s failure to exercise the duty to reasonably control and discipline the child is reasonably attributable to the child’s negligence.
In Texas, parents can be held responsible for the negligent conduct of their children regardless of the child’s age. Keep in mind, though, that a parent cannot be held liable for the negligence of their children when the child reaches the age of 18. A common example of a child’s negligent conduct is breaking the school’s window or a car’s windshield when playing football or basketball. Under the parental responsibility law, the child’s parents can be held liable for the cost of repairing the broken window or windshield or any other property damage caused by the child.
Willful & Malicious Conduct
The second part of the parental responsibility law in Texas makes parents liable for willful and malicious acts of their children if the conduct results in property damage. The terms “willful” and “malicious” are used to describe a child’s conduct when they intend to cause property damage and are aware of the harmful consequences of their conduct.
Parents can also be held liable for property damage resulting from a child’s gross negligence or recklessness. In other words, this part of the parental liability statute does not apply to accidents or negligent conduct. Parents are held responsible for the willful and malicious conduct of their children as long as the child is at least 10 years of age but has not reached the age of majority (18).
Possible Damages in Child’s Crime Cases
The parental liability law in Texas caps the recovery for damages in child’s crime cases involving willful and malicious conduct. Damages in such cases are capped at $25,000 plus reasonable attorney fees and court costs. This is the damages cap per occurrence, which means two separate willful or malicious acts causing property damage will be capped at $25,000 each.
Thus, possible damages in child’s crimes cases include:
- Up to $25,000 in damages per occurrence
- Court costs
- Reasonable attorney fees
If you are facing parental liability for the acts of your child, consider speaking with a criminal defense attorney to help you navigate the complex parental responsibility laws in Texas.
Getting the Experienced Legal Support You Need
At Madson Castello Law, our criminal defense attorneys are dedicated to offering legal support and guidance to parents facing liability for the negligent, malicious, and willful acts of their children. Our attorneys will provide reliable representation to achieve the best possible outcome in your specific case. We are committed to compassionately defending the legal rights of children and their parents facing liability for a child’s crimes. Set up a consultation with us in North Texas today.