Being a parent is hard, incredibly hard. But on top of everything else, it can be a confusing experience when your child is charged with a crime. There is a lot that needs to be done and this can vary depending on the age of the child, too.

One of the questions that often comes up when parents are first grappling with the fact that their child has been charged with a juvenile crime is that of responsibility. “What am I responsible for here?” Many worry that they will be responsible for getting their child a lawyer. As a parent, you can hire a lawyer for your child but if you don’t have the money to then one will be provided by the court.

But there is a whole other range of responsibilities you have as a parent. These stem from what are known as parental responsibility laws.

What is the Parental Responsibility Law?

New York state’s parental responsibility law can be found under N.Y General Obligations Law 3-112. This law defines the parental responsibilities for the damages caused by a minor child. This defines the oldest a child can be to court towards this law as 17, since they can be tried as an adult once they hit 18. But it also states very plainly that it applies to children who are 10 or older.

So as a parent of a child on Long Island you would be held responsible for the damages of your child so long as they were between the ages of 10 and 17. It is also important to note that this does not apply to parents across the board but rather to those that have custody. A parent or a guardian can be held responsible but if the child’s custody was held by social services then that responsibility would not then magically fall onto the parent. This would be entirely unfair, as that parent does not have a large enough role in the child’s life to count as responsible for them.

What Damages Could I Be Liable for Through the Parental Responsibility Law?

Pretty much anybody can seek to recover damages from you for the actions of your child. That means an individual, a corporation, a church or even a municipality itself can pursue damages. This particular point is kept wide in order to allow anybody that was wronged to be able to seek damages, if it was narrowed down then certain people and groups might not be able to pursue damages and thereby be let down by the law meant to help them.

3-112 is most strongly concerned with property damage. However, the damage that your child did to the property must have been done so willfully or maliciously. This is important because it means that there was intent behind your child’s actions. If they damage a property by way of an accident then parental responsibility does not come into play. 3-112 is written in such a manner as to more or less cover the whole range of property damages from destruction and vandalism to theft and the like.

3-112 in New York state also covers false bomb crimes. If a child plants a false bomb or calls in a false bomb threat then you could be held responsible for the cost that the property would lose due to business being shut down, as well as the cost required to deploy a bomb unit and enough law enforcement officers to cordon off the area from the public. This can easily get more and more expensive at an exponential rate. Thankfully, there is a limit liability in place up to $5000.

What Happens if I Can’t Pay for the Damages My Child Caused?

If the damages that you are required to pay are more than $500 then you can apply for the equivalent of a hardship forgiveness. In order to do this you need to gather a lot of evidence to show that you are simply unable to afford the damages you’re being asked to pay. The court will hear all of the evidence you present them with and make a decision based upon it.

At this point the court may decide to forgive a portion of the damage in order to provide the parent with a more affordable cost. However, this only applies to damages that are more than $500 and as such no damage will be reduced down to less than $500. You can pretty much bet that if you have to pay damages for your child then it’s not going to be less than $500.

How Can I Defend Myself From Paying These Damages?

There are some defenses which can help prevent you from having to pay damages on behalf of your child’s actions. One such defense is to be excused from liability for a minor which left your custody without cause. For example, if your child has run away from home then you can’t be held responsible for the actions that they’ve taken.

In many cases, what you’ll find is that parents have a hard time getting by without paying for the damages their children have caused. However, good parenting tends to be respected in the court and those parents that show a willingness to be responsible for their actions, and especially those that show that they are taking an active role in teaching their children why what they did was wrong, tend to have smaller amounts of damages they are liable for.

But the best way to avoid paying for damages from your child’s action is to hire an experienced lawyer that can help your child to win their case. That’s why we here at Mirsky Law Firm want to help you. Give us a call at (516) 299-6187 to see how we can help you and your child move past this hardship.