View Full Version : parents should be held criminally liable for the crimes of their children

03-08-2001, 09:10 AM
Every few weeks another nutty kid shoots up a school.

Maybe I'm getting old, but when I was a kid, we didn't BRING FUCKING GUNS TO SCHOOL AND SHOOT PEOPLE. We worried about the shitstorm raining down on us if we got caught staying out past curfew.

I think it's not society, it's brain-dead parents who raise these monsters. Every time they get in trouble, it's always "he's a good kid, he got mixed up with the wrong people". Whining piece of shit apologist parents. They didn't do their job. They chose to bring these monsters into the world, and failed in the critical years of training them to be socially-responsible human beings.

We are all paying for their kids to get an education. The least they can do is provide JUST A BIT of guidance which might, just might, prevent them from shooting up schools and whatever other mayhem they cause.

I think it is time for parents to quit placing the blame on others for the horror these kids have brought upon society. It is they who have brought them into this world, and they should be held accountable for their actions.

If people wish to bring children into our society, and enjoy the benefits society provides them, it is encumbent (sp?) on them to mold their offspring into law-abiding decent citizens. If they fail, I believe they should be held not only civilly, but criminally responsible.

If their kid kills someone, of course i do not believe they should be tried for murder, but there should be criminal prosecution nonetheless. There should be a few years of jail time for these idiots. It is time for people to finally take responsibility for their actions.

Your kid robbed a 7-11? well, you fucked up raising him. off to jail for 2 years. your kid killed someone? you're an obvious fuck-up as a parent. 10 years, perhaps. No more free-rides and whining to the press about how society corrupted your precious baby. fuck you, and you can baby your delinquent in the same jail he's incarcerated in.


03-08-2001, 09:17 AM
Thank God I live in America.

You see....you actually have to commit the actual crime here in order to be punished.

Under you scenario I see children being raised in prison type surroundings in order to protect the parents.

Typo Negative
03-08-2001, 09:34 AM
Spooje was a drug addict thug and theif more many years. This was by no means any fault of his mother, who was raising 3 kids on her own. She did the best she could. And an admirable job at that. My 2 sisters turned out great. Heck, I turned out great after I got help for my addiction.

But before I got I got help, I committed crimes. You would see my mother punished for that? Even though she tried every thing she could to straighten me out?

Children are individuals, not extensions of their parents. They have freewill and begin exercising it, sometimes before their intelligence kicks in. Some of these children get large and strong early. Big, strong and willfull means hard to control. Some kids have mental problems that are not their parents fault.

BTW, thats a little more cursing then I'm used to seeing in GD,zuma.

03-08-2001, 09:48 AM
Originally posted by zuma
Maybe I'm getting old, but when I was a kid, we didn't BRING FUCKING GUNS TO SCHOOL AND SHOOT PEOPLE. We worried about the shitstorm raining down on us if we got caught staying out past curfew.

Actually, this isn't true. There is no more violence among young people today than there was 50 years ago. Or 100. Please see this thread, which explains that young people are still more likely to be killed in their homes than in school: http://www.abcnews.go.com/sections/us/DailyNews/Youthviolence010117.html

A piece from the article:
The [surgeon general's] report said the reason is clear. “Since 1994, a decline in homicide arrests has reflected primarily the decline in use of firearms," it said.

“Weapons carrying and use in violent crimes have declined. At the same time, however, rates of arrest for aggravated assault remain nearly 70 percent higher than in 1983."

Please also read Harold Schechter's book titled "Fiend" which is the biography of a late 19th century child psychopath. This book cites numerous examples of youth crime at the time, which led people of the period to rant and rave along the same lines: "What's becoming of today's youth." Only the "today" in question was 1890.

There were no "good old days." The means of violence has changed, the way we're informed about it has changed, and the social structure that kids operate under has changed. Levels of violence among those kids, really has not changed.

As for the parents being held responsible, I have questions about this myself. My concern regards the age at which a "child" is responsible for him/her SELF. Certainly, we all agree that at 7 years old, it's a parent's responsiblity to keep a kid out of trouble. And maybe we all agree to the same thing when the kid is 12. But what about 14? 16? 19?

The "kids" who perpetrated the the Columbine tragedy were the same age I was when I went off to college. Was it still my parents fault if I got into trouble then? I'm not sure.

In that particular case, I think there was such an outrage aimed at the parents of the perps because the actual killers had taken their own lives and left and angry mob with no place to receive their vengeance.

In this LAST episode, I really do believe there were adults who were aware that there was danger and should be held (partially) responsible. But I tend to waffle on this issue. I'm not sure what I think about where the "cut off" for parental responsibility is and how to determine if it was neglect that caused the violence.


03-08-2001, 10:13 AM
This is a topic that I care deeply about, and actually have had some field experience.

In some cases, clearly parent neglect/abuse has a very direct link to the criminal behavior of the child. For example, a parent who allows a child to have access to alcohol, drugs and weapons, should not be able to claim "hey it isn't my fault" if the child then goes on a drunken rampage. However, just because the parent has alcohol in the household does not mean that they are criminally liable for the actions of the minor abusing it.

I've seen cases where parents were (and IMHO correctly) held accountable for:

1. Contributing to the delinquency of a minor (by allowing teens to drink on their property -unfortunately, the person I know who did this is now my State Representative)

2. Abuse/neglect of the child

3. In one case, where mom and step dad du jour drove the kids around in neighborhoods, waiting in the car while the kids broke into houses and robbed the places, the mom and step dad du jour were both sent to prison for Receiving and Concealing stolen property, and mom had parental rights terminated with all her kids.


So, in some cases, certainly. In other cases a resounding no.

There was a case IIRC a 14 year old boy beat a younger boy to death. There was a lot of publicity on the case 'cause the 14 year old had such a cherabic face. The parents had noted some problems with him and had attempted to get help for him before the killing. they did what they could.

But in your scenario, where do you stop? certainly the parents had some effect on the child, but what about the school, let's imprison the principal of the school, too. Coaches? sure. Scout leaders!, and Grandparents, yea, that would stop it all for certain.

Rather than have a one-size-fits-all standard, how about looking at each case and seeing what can be done to prevent tragedy (if anything)? or is that too radical?

03-08-2001, 10:30 AM
Q for SexyWriter:

How do know that there is no more violence among kids today than there was 50 or 100 years ago? Do you have any sources that you can share that actually compare rates? (BTW, I am not claiming that there was no such violence 100 years ago - I am asking about your claim that there was no difference in violence levels.)

03-08-2001, 10:41 AM
I am all for holding parents and other involved adults responsible for their contributions when a minor commits a crime. But just like in the case of trying juveniles themselves I do not belive that blanket legislation is needed. Things like this should be evaluated on a case by case basis.

Sunday night on Dateline they did a program about young people dying in gun violence. A week in the life and death of 35 young people who fell victim to gun violence. One of those boys was 13. He was shot by a friend in his own room. The friend had brought over his father's gun and the boys were smoking pot and horsing around in his room. The victim had a cache of guns of his own right there in his room. The mother knew the boys were in there horsing around and knew they were smoking pot. They police confiscated a huge bong. The program never stated what the woman was tried for, I'd assume contributing or something similar, but she spent 5 months in jail for failing to exercise parental responsiblity in this case. She deserved it, maybe even got off a little too easy.

To me that is a perfect example of how a parent not only fails to use adult judgement but aids a minor in creating a dangerous or criminal situation. I know in California a few years back they were attempting to prosecute parents involved with gangs. Seems that the gang culture has gone into it second and third generation there and parents, former gang members themselves were aiding and abetting their own children in gang related crimes. Seems clear to me who needs to be prosecuted in these instances.

I would not want to see law abiding, caring parents recieve punishment for the crimes of their children, but some parents and adults do bare a measure of responsibility. The ones that do should be held accountable.


03-08-2001, 10:51 AM
Originally posted by IzzyR
Q for SexyWriter:

How do know that there is no more violence among kids today than there was 50 or 100 years ago? Do you have any sources that you can share that actually compare rates?

I'm looking for that information. It wasn't long ago that the FBI stats on homicide showed a 50 year low. Now, however, I'm coming up empty on a search of FBI crime stats. And I'm being interrupted by WORK of all things. Damn people expect me to WORK for my money. Can you believe that?

I'll check into it as I have time and post cites. The Schechter book includes those stats as well.


03-08-2001, 11:08 AM
How do you set a standard for responsible parenting? Also, how do you identify the exact "cause" for antisocial behavior?

Sure, I think parents should know if thier kid has a 3' grafyx bong, or a sawed of shotgun barrel as I seem to recall from Columbine, I think many folk might agree there is some degree of parental negligence. But if the kid is more discreet, and keeps small qualtities of drugs well hidden, or carries an easily concealable weapon ... You can only do so far as a parent, short of electronic monitoring, cavity searches, and random urine and tissue testing. Instead, you just have to hope you instill the proper values in your kid such that when they experiment, they do so in moderation and with an awareness of the potential implications of their actions.

Should we prohibit 2-income families because some studies have been interpreted to indicate higher rates of deviance among latchkey kids? Of course, if the parents are actually bad influences, the kids might benefit from their absence.

I've got 3 kids. They seem like pretty good kids. But if one of them screws up and does something grossly illegal or immoral am I necessarily to blame? And does my responsibility magically disappear at, say their 18th birthday?

And how do you accomodate situations such as described by spooje. His parents batted .667, which would be pretty incredible if they were playing baseball!

I think parental negligence would have to be pretty darn high before any criminal liability would attach. Civil may be another matter. If parents are, or should be, aware of a potential danger, and fail to take reasonable steps, they may be civilly liable under certain circumstances for the acts of their kids.

How about vandalism? To what extent do you believe the parents should be liable for the damages their kids might cause? What factors might sway you one way or another? Do you believe parents should be responsible for torts committed by their kids?


03-08-2001, 11:36 AM
Just as I stated in my earlier post parental liability should be judged on a case by case basis. Like the father of our recent school shooter, he attempted to control access to his firearm. And justly so, the authorities have decided that he should not be held responsible for his son having access to the gun. Had he been some nut job that taught his kid how to make pipe bombs and silencers then I'd have thrown the book at him.

I am loathe to get into the discussion about this new child mass murderer right now. My opinion on this recent shooting and others deviates quite sharply from that of many other adults posting on this board. I will say that I do not believe in laws that REQUIRE certain charges for juveniles without regard to the situation. I firmly believe that juvenile prosecution should be evaluated individually on a case by case basis.


ITR champion
03-08-2001, 07:16 PM
Originally posted by zuma
Every few weeks another nutty kid shoots up a school.

Maybe I'm getting old, but when I was a kid, we didn't BRING FUCKING GUNS TO SCHOOL AND SHOOT PEOPLE. We worried about the shitstorm raining down on us if we got caught staying out past curfew.

Spooje and Freedom have already stated my exact positions on this thread's issue, so I won't repeat them any more.

The idea that back in the "good old days" all children were perfect little angels who never did anything wrong has already been refuted numerous times. Why do some people continue to mindlessly repeat this stupid line? Have you really not read any of the threads about the supposed "decline of morality"?

03-08-2001, 08:58 PM
Part of the problem, from the point-of-view of a step-parent of a potentially dangerous teenager:

You can do everything "by the book" and your child still turns out mean. We are under considerable restrictions as to how and what methods we can use to control a renegade child's behavior. It is horribly obvious when people scream blanketed prejudiced remarks about "bad parents" when every situation is unique.

My wife did everything a wonderful mother could do for her son (as she did with her 3 daughters), but for some reason, nature or nurture, the boy is hard to deal with. Our option for counseling may have been the action that prevented major problems, and is the only culturally acceptible solution.

But what if they boy were more subtle and devious about his anger? What if the boy just snapped without warning signs, got angry at a classmate, and got a gun off the street... is it possible, Zuma, that your blanket assertions that all the parents of troubled children are dopes might be overstated and insensitive to reality? Is it possible that many parents really do try their best, often without any experience in the matter, no matter how harshly criticized in their methods, but honestly try to raise their kids well, and yet their child still turns out to be mean and hurtful? Do you think that you could possibly point all parents to a handbook, that outlines all of the ways for a parent to "fuck-up" in every situation, so that they might be averted?

And then, are you suggesting that it's IMPOSSIBLE for a child to turn into a killer if the parents did "everything" right, and by the book?

It makes me wonder how many wonderful parents succeeded in preventing their kids from being killers. We'll never hear about those true heroes.

One Cell
03-08-2001, 10:43 PM

Last November I posted a thread here posing the question "Should we require a license for people to have children?". See http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?threadid=44998

The post created an uproar, with many people asking what would be the content of the test exam?

Here we are. How about this as a test question:

If you have a teenage kid, should you have guns at home? If yes, explain your liability if the kid somehow gets hold of that gun and goes on a shooting spree.

03-09-2001, 12:08 AM
Originally posted by One Cell

If you have a teenage kid, should you have guns at home? If yes, explain your liability if the kid somehow gets hold of that gun and goes on a shooting spree.

Your liability should be the same as if your kid had killed someone with the baseball bat, butcher knife, claw hammer, or chainsaw you keep in the garage. In other words NO LIABILITY.

There is no logic or reason to your argument. All these kids who commit these murderous rampages came from good homes. What possible good would come from punishing the parents? Letting a bunch of simple minded rednecks feel like they can somehow protect themselves from random violence if they follow all the rules?

Instead of going after the easy target, why not go after the schools? I find it appaling that my taxes go to an educational system that allows a student to be beaten and tormented to the point where he goes insane. I'm not excusing this kids actions by any means, but if a kid is getting picked on every day at school, the school needs to be held responsible.

Saying we should punish the parents of children who commit crimes is a simplistic and ineffective solution. The only result would be to criminalize people who's only crime was that they raised a mentally imbalanced child.

03-09-2001, 07:33 AM
Another problem with this bit of "logic" about punishing "bad parents" is that there are lots of toxic, treacherous parents who have good kids. How are we going to punish THEM for abusing and neglecting their responsibilities if the child never causes any trouble?

Of course, we aren't. I think the whole idea of punishing parents in the way it was suggested is ludicrous. I just felt like pointing out another way in which this concept can never be just.


03-11-2001, 12:38 AM
Where would the line be drawn? Neglectful parents may have been neglected kids. Both sets of grandparents, all step parents, and siblings who may have affected the child—do they share the liability?

Bill H.
03-11-2001, 09:19 PM
I am a big-time believer in what the OP proposes. Frankly, not because of these shoot-up-the-school type of criminals, but rather the everyday thieves, rapists, murderers.

Give the parents a bit of punishment and I expect the crime rate will go down. And when I say parents, I include parents who haven't even seen the kid in years, such as absent fathers.

And the benefit of this policy goes beyond reduced crime. Parents who actually parent create a better next generation.

03-12-2001, 02:12 AM
[i]Originally posted by Bill H.
Give the parents a bit of punishment and I expect the crime rate will go down.The parents who had no idea or reason for concern aren't going to act differently and the parents who don't care about their children still aren't going to. The parents who have reason to fear and and do care about their kids—they're doing the best they can already.

03-12-2001, 03:03 AM
Give the parents a bit of punishment and I expect the crime rate will go down.

Just because something brings the crime rate down, that doesn't mean it's a good thing. We can chop off everyone's arms and legs at birth, and that'll make the crime rate go down, guaran-damn-teed. Doesn't mean we should do it.

One Cell
03-12-2001, 11:49 PM
Originally posted by msmith537
Originally posted by One Cell

If you have a teenage kid, should you have guns at home? If yes, explain your liability if the kid somehow gets hold of that gun and goes on a shooting spree.

Your liability should be the same as if your kid had killed someone with the baseball bat, butcher knife, claw hammer, or chainsaw you keep in the garage. In other words NO LIABILITY.

A kid with a baseball bat, butcher knife, etc. cannot possibly go on a rampage killing or wounding 15 people. Heck, before he tries the second victim he is overpowered in no time by others. Guns, on the other hand, are different. All he has to do is keep on pulling the trigger. Pop, pop, pop ... and there goes 15 people on the ground in 15 seconds.

As for punishment for parents of such kids, I really think they are already punished plenty when such a tragedy occurs. Not only they have to carry the guilt all their lives, their dear baby's life is destroyed forever. What bigger punishment can you give such parents than destroying their own lives as well as the life of their child?

Again, I maintain if you have the privilege of having a kid in the house, you'd better stop wanting also the privilege of having a gun in that house. Choose one or the other. You can't have it both ways. Sure, the kid can always go and obtain the gun elsewhere (as did the ones in Colombine), but that makes it just that bit harder for them.

In short, my message to parents with teenage kids: Get rid of the gun in the house. If you must have the gun, at least lock it up in some safe box, outside the house, in your favorite hunting club.

03-13-2001, 12:28 AM
A kid with a baseball bat, butcher knife, etc. cannot possibly go on a rampage killing or wounding 15 people.

Sure he can. He's just gotta do it right.

Guns, on the other hand, are different. All he has to do is keep on pulling the trigger.

Unless everyone else around him also had a gun. He'd fire off a single shot, maybe two... then he'd be dropped like a fly. Easy, simple, quick.

The problem is that too many people are pussies about guns.

03-13-2001, 12:29 AM
Oops... forgot the smiley. Insert a :D at the end of that post (in other words, I'm hardly being serious).

03-13-2001, 09:13 AM
Originally posted by One Cell
I maintain if you have the privilege of having a kid in the house, you'd better stop wanting also the privilege of having a gun in that house. Choose one or the other.

Do we really have to waste time dealing with these simplistic arguments? First of all, I applaud your clever attempt to frame gun ownership as a privilege. For that matter, I applaud your attempt to frame having a family as a privilege. They're rights. And your rhetoric won't change that fact.

Your "guns in the house cause killings" view is just poor reasoning. There are tens of millions of houses with both teenagers and guns. If there was such a strong correlation between gun ownership and school rampages, the country would quickly be depopulated.

03-13-2001, 02:40 PM
...but then again, not really.

Anyone else see the ABCNews.com article about why this Williams kid went on his killing spree out in California? We sit here and debate about how we can sort of understand the motive if he was picked on, berated constantly, and it was all approved of, even if indirectly, by the school not taking action - but his explanation so far is:

"He said that while he did not intend to kill any particular person, if someone died, they died," San Diego County sheriff's Detective Sharon Lunsford said.

Williams allegedly told detectives he was angry at Santana High, in part because he was disciplined for repeated tardiness.

Now, I'm curious to hear what other reasons they'll come up with during his trial... but what the hell is wrong in a kid's head when he decides to shoot up his school because of his own improper actions being reprimanded? It boggles my mind.

OK, back to your discussion.

Doctor Jackson
03-14-2001, 04:03 PM
In the state of Georgia a parent IS responsible for the acts of their minor children. GA Code 51-2-3 states:

(a) Every parent or guardian having the custody and control over a minor child or children under the age of 18 shall be liable in an amount not to exceed $10,000.00 plus court costs for the willful or malicious acts of the minor child or children resulting in reasonable medical expenses to another, damage to the property of another, or both reasonable medical expenses and damage to property.

(b) This Code section shall be cumulative and shall not be
restrictive of any remedies now available to any person, firm, or corporation for injuries or damages arising out of the acts, torts, or negligence of a minor child under the "family-purpose car doctrine," any statute, or common law in force and effect in this state.

(c) The intent of the General Assembly in passing this Code section is to provide for the public welfare and aid in the control of juvenile delinquency, not to provide restorative compensation to victims of injurious or tortious conduct by children.

To me this says that, over and above any other legal avenue for compensation the victim may have, the parents can be held responsible for a civil penalty if their minor child violates the law and in doing so injures person or property. The code itself says this is intended to be punative toward the parent(s), not restorative to the victim.

I would be very surprised if other states did not have similar statutes.

03-15-2001, 02:19 AM
Surprisingly enough, Zuma, it's entirely possible for a child to be a living terror without any fault on the part of the parents. Children do successfully hide all sorts of things from reasonable, involved parents. I question whether punishing parents for the offenses of their children will in any substantial way act to curtail such offenses. And the principal purpose of the criminal law is to discourage crime, not to create more people to punish; so punishing them "so someone has to pay" is an improper motivation.

You haven't given me any reason to believe that this measure will actually curtail youth crime.

Oh, and Doctor Jackson, that Georgia statute is the first I've heard of of its ilk.

Spider Woman
03-15-2001, 08:20 AM
I wonder what provisions would be made in the case of the mother who is raising children who have been abandoned by their fathers (or I suppose, in some cases, fathers raising the family that the mother has abandoned).

It could be that some of the problems that children from these families have, come from that sense of abandonment/worthlessness. Would the absent parent also be held responsible for the crimes of his/her children? Or would they only hold the parent who stayed to take care of the children responsible?

03-15-2001, 09:30 PM
Can a parent self-emancipate from a dangerous child so as not to be held liable or accountable for the kid's criminal behavior? Of course, the parent would also waive all other rights and privileges as well.

It seems that holding parents 100% responsible for the child's willful violence is patently unfair, save for the cases where "bad" parenting can be proven.

What I'm interested in is how those like Zuma and Bill H have complete disregard for how bad a caring parent suffers when their child turns out to be a criminal. Imagine, just for a minute, that the kid you cared for and played ball with and took fishing, and helped teach to swim... turns out to be a jd, a punk, a pusher, or worse. And you did nothing to make it happen; indeed you did everything "by the book" and in the most loving way.

I know the suffering isn't nearly that of the victims, but it's devastating to the parents of the criminal, too. Parents of bad kids often carry the guilt and shame of the crime as if they had perpetrated it themselves on the victims. Society, in the likes of Zuma and Bill H, tends to brand the parents guilty to be proven innocent.

Billy Rubin
03-15-2001, 10:06 PM
So, let me get this straight; Minors aren't responsible for what they do, and the parents who don't excercise control enough to prevent them from shooting up a schoolyard, they have no responsabilities either? Crikey, what a great deal! I should start training my 5 yr old to start taking down liquor stores- we could be independantly wealthy by the time he's old enough to convict. If you're kid breaks a neighbor's window, you're gonna pay. As a minor, he may not be capable of accountability, but his parents damn sure ought to be. Oh, wait,there's that magic word,"accountability". If a parent allows a child access to a firearm that parent HAS in fact committed a CRIME, and should be tried, convicted, punished. If you knew you could do the time, maybe you'd pay attention to what mischief the little dears were up to.

All this is, of course, IMHO. And the idea of self-emancipation from a child is an excellent one, Wrath, it would be an excellent indicator of the child "most likely to shoot up columbine". Tho a little Orwellian.


03-16-2001, 09:43 AM
Why does everyone in this thread continue to deal in absolutes? I don't get it. I don't recall that anyone is suggesting blanket legislation be enacted to criminally punish parents for the misdeeds of their children. But...does anyone remember the 6 year old kid that took a gun to school and killed his little classmate. His mother had dumped him at her brother's crack house where he had access to some other adult's gun. They charged that adult with something. Perhaps they charged the mother with neglect, I never heard. Please do not tell me that the adults in this instance were not neglegent, perhaps even criminally so.

When my daughter was 14 she decided that she hated school and refused to go. I would be late for work taking her there. She'd then walk off school grounds. I'd leave, drive the 45 minutes back home to go look for her. This went on for several months. She would disappear and not come home all night. I'd call the cops. In my state a minor must go to school. Was it my fault, certainly not. They'd never charge a parent struggling with an unruly teen. But...a neighbor down the street never made her son go to school. He repeated 4th grade three times! The school eventually bumped him up to 6th grade. He's failing that now, and she still isn't making him attend. He stays home with her and lays around playing video games watching televison all day. They'll never charge her, but I hope you get my point. She is directly responsible for his truancy.

As for guns, there are instances when a parent is clearly negligent in allowing access to their firearms. Granted most of the people I know who own guns are hunters and their children have been trained in gun safety. Most of them keep their firearms locked up.

Rumor has it that this recent kid, Andy Williams, spent a lot of time at home alone. His father often didn't come home at night. It's one thing to trust a teen at home alone for an occasional weekend away, (I'd never do it myself. I remember all the hellacious parties I threw as teen when mom went out of town.) but to leave your teen alone on a regular basis without adult supervision of any kind is neglegent behavior. Is it criminally negligent, maybe not, maybe so. These things should be looked at when we are dealing with juveniles that commit crimes.

I know the trend now is to hold these kids responsible as we would adults but they are not adults. And if the adults in their life have contributed in a blatantly neglegent way to their criminal behavior then certainly they should be held responsible. How will we ever break the cycle if we do not.