Contributing To the Delinquency of a Minor

Updated January 26, 2024
9 min read
Contributing To the Delinquency of a Minor

Introduction

When an adult encourages a person under the age of 18 to engage in illegal activities, this is legally called contributing to the delinquency of a minor and is considered a crime in the United States that can result in jail time and fines. 

This could be as simple as keeping a child home from school, making the child a truant, or encouraging a child’s involvement in more serious illegal activities. In this article, we look at what contributes to a minor's delinquency in the U.S. court of law and the punishments associated with this crime.

What Is Contributing To the Delinquency of a Minor?

According to U.S. law, contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile is when an adult knowingly encourages a minor to partake in prohibited acts of juvenile delinquency. As far as the legal definition goes, a minor is considered to be anyone under the age of eighteen. 

Any adult who either helps or encourages their delinquent behavior can be charged with this crime, no matter how trivial the act in question. For example, in most states, it is illegal for minors to possess alcohol. Despite being a petty crime, any adult supplying or encouraging the consumption of alcohol among minors could have criminal charges brought against them.

Contributing to the delinquency of juveniles was first termed a crime in 1903 in the state of Colorado. However, today, all U.S. states have established seminal criminal statutes aimed to prevent and punish adults from encouraging children to partake in illegal behavior. Whereas in some states, this criminal charge is regarded as a misdemeanor handled by the state, others view it as a federal offense. As such, the acts encouraged that are deemed criminal, and the penalties awarded vary hugely.

What Are Examples of Contributing To the Delinquency of a Minor?

Since contributing to the delinquency of a minor is legally defined as encouragement of a child’s involvement in any illegal activity, acts that contribute toward this crime are incredibly varied. Here are just a few contributing to the delinquency of a minor examples, ranging from mild to more severe. Allowing a child to engage in any of these activities could result in criminal sentencing:

  • Keeping a child out of school, making them a habitual truant;

  • Allowing a child to consume alcohol and/or illegal drugs;

  • Regularly supplying alcohol and/or illegal drugs;

  • Allowing minors to beg on the street or be homeless;

  • Permitting minors to drive a vehicle without a license;

  • Persuading a minor to commit a criminal act;

  • Accompanying a minor while they commit a crime;

  • Providing a child with a fake ID;

  • Sending pornography or obscene material to a minor;

  • Allowing for illegal sexual acts to occur with minors.

Contributing To the Delinquency of a Minor Defined

For individuals to be convicted, which contribute to delinquency of minors in most U.S. states, specific criteria must be met.

  1. The accused is an adult (over 18 years of age) who encourages the minor to commit the offense.

  2. The accused adult must know that the minor is under eighteen.

  3. The minor’s behavior was either a result of general criminal intent or criminal negligence.

  4. The accused must contribute to the minor becoming a delinquent, a habitual truant, or a dependent child of the juvenile court.

The laws governing contributing to the delinquency of a minor vary between states. Some specifically state that only parents, legal guardians, or other adults who have care of custody can be charged. On the other hand, some states will charge any adult involved. It is important to note that the act of delinquency must not be committed for an adult to be charged; simply showing intent to cause delinquency can stand in a court of law.

Being Charged with Contributing To the Delinquency of a Minor

Anyone charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor in the U.S. will face criminal punishment. In many U.S. states, it is charged as a misdemeanor. This is especially true for first-time offenders or for activities that are deemed less severe, such as supplying alcohol to minors or keeping a child home from school without purpose. 

But if you were wondering — is contributing to the delinquency of a minor a felony? Here is the answer. A second offense will often be charged as a felony. In situations where the accused encourages or helps a child to commit a severe crime such as burglary, this will also be considered a felony offense and carries more severe punishment.

Although valid for most U.S. states, the charges applied depend on the statutes for each state in question. For example, Tennessee deems contributing to the delinquency of a minor as a misdemeanor, with progressively worse punishments for second offenders and more severe illegal activity, as stated above. The same is true for Florida, Louisiana, and California. However, Colorado views all cases as a class four felony offense with more severe implications, as per Colorado Revised Statutes § 18-6-701.

Penalty for Contributing To the Delinquency of a Minor

The punishment for contributing to the delinquency of a minor depends on the charges given, with those charged with misdemeanors carrying less severe penalties than felony offenses. Moreover, the precise specifics of the case, the prohibited act carried out, and the frequency of the activity will ultimately impact the penalties handed out. These factors will be considered when a judge is deciding on appropriate sentencing.

There are different sentencing guidelines for each of the jurisdictions in the U.S. In addition to the specifics of the case, this too drastically impacts the penalties awarded. Some examples include:

  • California: Charged as a misdemeanor punishable by fines of up to $2,500 and a maximum of one year in jail.

  • Florida: Charged as a misdemeanor punishable by fines of up to $1,000 and a maximum of one year in county jail.

  • Colorado: Charged as a class four felony punishable by fines of up to $500,000 and a prison sentence of two to six years.

  • Ohio: Charged as a misdemeanor punishable by up to 180 days in county jail and a maximum of $1,000 in fines.

Conclusion

Encouraging or aiding a minor to partake in a prohibited act or delinquent activity is recognized as a crime in all U.S. states. Despite the accused adults not partaking in themselves, contributing to the delinquency of a minor is a serious criminal offense by U.S. law enforcement. 

Anyone charged with the crime should contact a law firm for legal advice so an attorney can create solid legal defenses to help reduce the penalties awarded to the offender. It's crucial to seek professional guidance at legal resources in case you contribute to the delinquency of a minor to navigate the complexities of the legal system effectively.

Article by
Ilona Riznyk
Lawrina

Ilona Riznyk is a Content Specialist at Lawrina. In her role, she creates and manages various types of content across the website, ranging from blog articles to user guides. Ilona's expertise lies in meticulous fact-checking, ensuring all the published content is accurate and reliable. 

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