There are many state and federal laws in which adults may legally engage in an activity that minors may not engage in. For instance, it it illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to purchase or smoke tobacco or anyone under the age of 21 to purchase or consume alcohol. However, some choose to get around this law by asking an adult to provide tobacco or alcohol to use, which means that the adult is contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
A Wide Variety of Actions Could Meet This Threshold
In theory, anything an adult does that could work against the best interest of a child is considered contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Technically, refusing to let a child to attend school or feeding the child foods that are high in fat meet the definition of this crime. However, it generally applies to serious acts such as asking a minor to send lewd pictures or getting them drunk through the consumption of alcohol.
You Don’t Necessarily Need to Take Direct Action to Meet the Threshold
In some cases, indirect actions that cause a minor to be put in an unsafe situation could meet the threshold of this charge. For instance, if you leave your liquor cabinet unlocked or leave your gun out in the open where your son or daughter can get to it, you may be creating the conditions for someone to get hurt or even killed. Another indirect act that could put a minor in danger is leaving that child with an adult or other caregiver who you believe may be abusing the child.
Possible Defenses to This Charge
It may be possible to argue that you shouldn’t be charged with a crime because you don’t have custody or guardianship of the child. It may also be possible to argue that there was no intent to commit a crime. For instance, you may have locked the liquor cabinet up before you went to bed. However, your child or another minor may have figured out how to open it anyway before consuming the liquor. In New York state, it is allowable to serve your own child alcohol if he or she has your consent and it is done inside the home. However, it is generally outside the law to get your child drunk.
Possible Penalties If Convicted of the Charge
Typically, those who are convicted of such a crime face jail sentences of up to one year or a fine. Sometimes, a fine and jail time are given as part of the same overall sentence. As it can also do damage to your reputation among family members and others in the community, it is important to talk to an attorney about ways to avoid the charge in any legal way possible.
Contributing to the delinquency of a minor is a serious charge that can come with serious legal and social consequences. Therefore, your first call after being charged with the crime should be to an attorney who may be able you avoid some or all of the penalties you potentially face.
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