Magazine article Newsweek

Justice: The Newest Parent Trap

Magazine article Newsweek

Justice: The Newest Parent Trap

Article excerpt

Byline: Sanhita Sen

Elisa kelly of virginia probably thought she was being responsible when she bought alcohol for a party and let her underage son and his friends imbibe it under supervision. Instead, she and her then husband, George Robinson, were sentenced last month to 27 months in jail. No one was hurt at the party or drove afterward, but underage drinking itself is one of a long list of crimes for which a violator's parents can be held responsible. These parent liability laws, mostly passed in the 1990s, differ by state, and penalties can vary widely: vandalism fines,for example, run up to $25,000 in California but only $15,000 in Arkansas. Some states are also holding parents legally responsible for less obvious "crimes" such as fighting on a playground for truancy.


Curfew: Portland, Ore.: parents can be fined up to $1,000

Theft Missouri: for restitution and damages caused by a minor, parents can pay up to $4,000

Vandalism Arkansas: parents can be held liable for property damaged by their kids; fines up to $15,000

Drinking Kansas: for allowing underage drinking at home, parents can get up to 6 months in jail

Gang activity Louisiana: if a child becomes a gang member, parents can face jail time, community service and a fine up to $250

Weapons California: if someone is killed or injured because a child was allowed access to a weapon, pay a fine up to $30,000

Illegal downloads Under federal law, parents can be sued for a child's copyright infringement and pay fines up to $150,000

Truancy Florida: get up to six months in jail, and pay a fine up to $500

Injury California: for injuring another person on school grounds, parents pay both damages and a reward for turning in the offender, each up to $10,000

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