Parents can be legally responsible for damages their children cause when unsupervised. Just like many other legal situations, the consequences can vary based on the extent of the damage, the age of the child, and many other factors. This will determine whether the consequences are civil and/or criminal, and the extent of each. An experienced juvenile defense lawyer may be able to defend you or your child in the case of criminal charges. Call Jenn and Justie at Colorado Lawyer Team to learn about parental responsibility for juvenile offenses in Greenwood Village.

When Are Parents Responsible?

Parents are not necessarily responsible for everything their children do. However, they can be financially responsible if their child causes property damage, bodily injuries, or shoplifts. Parents can also be considered negligent if they are aware their child engages in careless or reckless activities and fails to take reasonable steps to prevent them. In both of these situations, the children must be under the age of 18 and not emancipated in order for the parents to be liable. These rules apply to both parents and other legal guardians.

Property Damage or Injury (Colorado Rev. Stat. Section 13-21-107)

Parents can be responsible if their minor child maliciously, or willfully, damages or destroys another’s property. This can be any type of property:

  • “Real” property, which is fixed property such as land and buildings
  • “Personal” property, which is moveable property such as furniture and vehicles
  • Property with all types of owners, such as individuals, local and federal government, school districts, corporations, or other organizations

As you can see, this law applies to a wide range of situations. One limit on this rule is that parents are only liable for the actual amount of damages up to $3,500. This is in addition to reimbursing the property owner for court costs and attorney fees incurred while bringing the matter to court. Likewise, parents can be liable for bodily injuries their child causes up to $3,500 plus court costs and attorney fees. While the limit is set at $3,500, this amount is per victim. So, if the minor damages several vehicles, the parents could be liable up to $3,500 for each car owner.

Shoplifting (Colorado Rev. Stat. Section 13-21-107.5)

Parents can also be responsible if their child is caught shoplifting. In this case, parents are responsible for the actual damages, or value, of the property. There is no limit to this amount, such as with property damage or injury. Additionally, there could be a penalty that must be paid to the property owner. It’s easy to see how one careless decision by a teenager can cause serious financial strain on parents!

Other Situations

There are other situations where the parents can be responsible for their child’s actions. If the parent is aware their child commits specific careless or reckless activities, they could be liable if they fail to take reasonable steps to prevent the child from causing harm. This could apply to a wide range of situations. One common example of this is in the case of auto accidents. If a parent is aware that their child frequently speeds, does not check blind spots, or commits other dangerous driving offenses and does not take measures to prevent this behavior, they could be liable in the case of a crash and bodily injury. This liability will be imputed to the person who signed the affidavit or liability, which is associated with the application for a driver’s license.

While auto accidents are one of the more frequent cases, this could apply in many other situations where the parents knows of reckless or careless behavior and fails to act. And while these are the current laws in Colorado, many other states have similar or even stricter rules. In some states, parents can be liable if their children bullies others, commits a bias offense (hate crime), misuses a firearm, and plenty of other situations.

Consult A Colorado Criminal Defense Attorney for Assistance

Parental responsibility laws are complex and can carry criminal and/or civil consequences. Having an experienced defense attorney to advocate on your defense can improve your legal outcome. Getting legal advice in these situations is crucial to your ability to overcome charges against you or your child. Schedule a consultation with the Colorado Lawyer Team to discuss parental responsibility for juvenile offenses in Greenwood Village.