Kent County Case Evaluates Parents’ Responsibility For Juvenile Crime

A recent case out of Jackson raises the question of parental responsibility when their minor children are charged with juvenile crimes. The case that brought this issue to the forefront concerned a group of teens allegedly responsible for property crimes at the Lily Missionary Baptist Church. The youths allegedly spread religious oils around the pulpit, attempted to break into a safe and damaged doors. The teens were also accused on stealing a van that belonged to the church. The van was then totaled in a rollover crash in Concord, Michigan. As a result of the incident Woody Myrick, a 17-year-old, was charged with breaking and entering, vehicle theft and safe breaking. In exchange for dropping the safe breaking charge, Myrick pleaded guilty to the two other charges. He was sentenced to 300 days in jail, and will be on probation for three-years and responsible for paying restitution. A 13-year-old who allegedly participated in the crimes has also been charged.
If your teen has charged with a crime, speaking to an experienced Michigan criminal defense lawyer is important to review your options and begin preparing a vigorous defense.

After the church vandalism occurred, many in the community wondered whether the parents could be held responsible – either criminally or financially – for the damage caused by their children. However, under Michigan law, parents cannot be held criminally responsible for the criminal acts of their children unless they specifically and knowingly engaged in that “bad act.”

As reported by MLive.com, “If the parent is not involved in a bad act – or even engages in a bad act without the requisite mental state to support criminal culpability – the parent cannot be convicted of a crime…the law does not support criminal liability for a parent based exclusively upon the acts of a parent’s child.”


However, a 2003 Michigan Court of Appeals Court in Taylor v. Gordon determined that parents may be found civilly liable – and be responsible for money damages – in certain circumstances. The appellate court held that “parents may be held liable for failing to exercise the control necessary to prevent their children from intentionally harming others if they know or have reason to know of the necessity and opportunity for doing so.”

Michigan law – MCL 712A.30 – also provides that parents must pay restitution to the victims of criminal acts committed by their children when their juvenile child cannot pay all of the restitution, and where parents had “supervisory responsibility” for the minor child when the criminal act occurred.

Whenever a juvenile is involved in a crime, complicated issues arise. It is important to protect a minor’s future and freedom. Parents may also be concerned about their responsibility for their teen’s actions. To answer your juvenile law questions, or if your child is being investigated for and has been charged with any criminal offense, contact the aggressive Michigan criminal defense law firm of Grabel & Associates for an immediate response.

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