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Exercising Parental Authority

Parental Liability

In addition to the liabilities mentioned above, parents or guardians are legally liable in various ways for the acts of their children. These are additional reasons for parents to deal with their child's behavior before it results in criminal acts.

  • Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor. Parents who fail in their legal duty to exercise reasonable care, supervision, protection, and control over their minor children can be charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, a misdemeanor punishable by one year in jail and/or a $2,500 fine per count. This is stated in California Penal Code Sec. 272(a).
  • Liability for Fines, Penalties, and Restitution. Under California Welfare and Institutions Code Sec. 730.7 juvenile court judges might order parents to pay fines and penalties assessed against a minor that they have legal and physical custody and control of, and also to pay restitution to the victims of the crimes committed by their minor children. The upper limits on these payments are specified in California Civil Code Secs. 1714.1 and 1714.3, as noted below.
  • Liability for Civil Damages. Under the California Civil Code Sec. 1714.1 parents are liable for civil damages of up to $25,000 for each tort or act of willful misconduct of a minor in their custody and control that results in injury or death to another person or in any injury to the property of another. This limit is adjusted every two years for changes in the California Consumer Price Index. If a parent is insured, the maximum liability of the insurer is set at $10,000.
  • Civil Liability for Injury Caused by Firearms. Under California Civil Code Sec. 1714.3 parents are liable for injuries caused by the discharge of a firearm by a minor in their custody and control, where the minor was permitted to have the firearm or the firearm was left in a place accessible to the minor. Damages are limited to $30,000 for injury to or death of one person, or $60,000 for all persons in a single occurrence.