Some adults remember their teenage years as a time of rebellion. During junior high or high school, many teenagers experimented alcohol for the first time, smoked cigarettes, or tried pot, even though it was technically against the law. While that may be a normal part of growing up, when an adult does something to support this unlawful activity, they can face criminal charges.
Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor in California
Under California Penal Code §272, it is a crime to do something to encourage or cause anyone under the age of 18 to become a habitual truant, juvenile delinquent, or dependent of the juvenile court system. This also includes failing to do something that encourages juvenile delinquency.
Contributing to the delinquency of a minor can be a vague charge. It generally means doing anything that encourages a minor to violate the law, fall out of school attendance, or otherwise become a dependent of the court. This often involves encouraging a minor to commit a minor crime, drink alcohol, take drugs, or neglecting minors who become victims of abuse or neglect.
It is also considered contributing to the delinquency of a minor if a stranger who is 21 years of age or older, contacts a minor under the age of 14 to lure them away from their family or home, with the intent to avoid consent of the minor's parents. Even if the adult did not have any criminal motives, attempting to lure a child away from their home may be considered a crime.
The penalties for contributing to the delinquency of a minor depend on the situation, but could result in an infraction, misdemeanor, or even a felony. As a misdemeanor, a conviction could result in up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. As an infraction, the penalties include a fine of up to $250.
Providing Drugs or Alcohol to a Minor
Selling alcohol to someone under the age of 21 or providing alcohol to minors can be a misdemeanor. However, the penalties may be increased if the minor gets into a car accident after they are given alcohol, or otherwise suffers great bodily injury as a result of drinking alcohol.
However, the most serious charges generally involve providing drugs to a minor, including marijuana. Giving marijuana (or selling marijuana) to a minor can be charged as a felony. Providing marijuana to an underage minor can result in a prison sentence of up to 7 years. This may be in addition to drug charges and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Sending Pornography or Obscene Material to a Minor
There are a number of related charges that could involve contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Sending harmful material to a minor can be a misdemeanor or felony offense. Under California Penal Code §288.2, it is against the law to distribute, send, or exhibit any harmful material with the intent of arousing or gratifying sexual desires. This includes sending nude “selfies” to a minor.
Defenses to Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor
There may be a number of legal defenses available to charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Many innocent people have been accused of crimes because someone else is trying to get them in trouble. For example, a jilted lover could accuse someone of giving weed to their minor child as a way to get back at them.
Other false accusations may involve fraud or mistaken identity. For example, someone may be using another person's name, photo, or online profile to chat with a minor online. The police or the minor's parents may believe the person in the photo is the one who was contacting the child, when in reality, they were using someone else's identity.
It may be a defense to criminal charges if the adult reasonably believed the individual was an adult under the circumstances. For example, if a 21-year-old woman buys a man a drink in a bar, it would be reasonable to believe the man is not a minor. If the “man” was actually a 17-year-old boy who looked older and used a fake ID to get into the bar, the woman may have a defense to charges of contributing the delinquency of a minor because she reasonably believed the minor was actually an adult.
Generally, another minor cannot be charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor. For example, if high school student Jeff convinces fellow student James to ditch their last class of the day to go smoke pot, Jeff would generally not be charged with contributing to the delinquency of James because both are minors.
However, a minor parent or legal guardian (under the age of 18) still has a “duty to exercise reasonable care, supervision, and control over their minor child. In this case, a minor parent or guardian could be charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor if they encourage actions that lead their child to become a juvenile delinquent.
East Bay Criminal Defense Attorney
Lynn Gorelick has more than 30 years of criminal defense experience defending her clients facing criminal charges, including contributing to the delinquency of a minor. She understands how to approach the individual facts of each case for the greatest chance of success, keeping her clients out of jail and keeping a clean record. Whether you are arrested in Fremont, Richmond or anywhere else in Contra Costa County or Alameda County, contact Lynn Gorelick.