My Opinion about Criminal Law

Question 1

My personal opinion is that parent responsibility laws should be on a case by case basis. Parenting is by no means an unfettered right and, as with many rights, it carries significant responsibilities. I do think that some of these responsibilities should be legal. In some of the most heinous crimes, parents should be criminally liable for the acts of their children. While there is no clear consensus about the causes of juvenile delinquency, I do feel that bad parenting is included somewhere in the list. The punishment should fit the crime. REAL WORLD EXAMPLE

Theoretical arguments for

To hold parents criminally liable for the acts of their children could be a good thing. Undoubtedly, perceptions of juvenile offenders have been influenced by the attention focused on high-profile incidents.Yet, while the public’s perceptions about juvenile crime may be partially based upon such rare, high-profile incidents, the reactions to this attention are arguably desirable to combat any future increases in juvenile crime rates. Holding parents criminally liable sends a statement that to parents that they need to take control of their children in order to protect society. These laws are enacted on the assumption that children commit crimes because their guardians have failed to exercise proper control and oversight. These laws should be seen as an inspiration to parents to exert control over their kids to avoid punishment. Thus, the goal for adopting parental liability laws was to punish, or at least threaten to punish, parents for the acts of their children, rationalizing that parents would then exercise control over their children. These laws are put in place because better supervision of children can reduce delinquency and criminal acts. Sometimes parents have remained passive and have failed to prevent the misconduct the child commits. Also criminal liability would serve the purpose of the reimburse the victim and reduce delinquency. I do think that parental responsibility laws should hold parents accountable for allowing their children to engage in conduct that would not be illegal if done by an adult, such as truancy or consuming alcohol. I feel these are necessary because of the vulnerability of children and the public interest in protecting their welfare. Some parental responsibility needs to ensure children attend school and not provide their child alcohol. These are common practices and are for the welfare of the child. Parents also need to be prosecuted for contributing to the delinquency of a minor through encouragement or inducement the minor to engage in criminal activity. Some punishment is could be necessary because a reasonably attentive parent would have known about the crime and done something to prevent it. Criminal liability is used as a compelling interest in protecting children and public welfare that justifies the laws. In fact, some states have enacted parental responsibility laws as vehicles to order parents into skills training, rather than to jail them for their children’s conduct (England n.d.). Certain crimes can be a clear sign that the child needs more supervision. Parents knowing that they can be charged may allow them to increase supervision of their child. Charging parents can be a huge deterrent and increase the responsibility of parents. In certain heinous crimes (i.e school shootings, rape, and murder) there is a demand for justice. Parents may be apart of these demands and the child may not be available to prosecute. The demand for justice and outcry of public disapproval can be met through charging the parents. In the end, someone needs to be responsible for the crime. A parent has a responsibility to supervise and educate a child.

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Theoretical arguments against

On the flip side all the arguments I made before can be invalid. Sometimes in crimes you look for justice and parents just happen to be near by. The crime can be so heinous that the public demands someone be held responsible. Criminal liability can be unjust, because parents are the unfortunate victim as well. When their children commit these crimes they face monumental pain as well. If their child has been charged with a heinous crime, there is a strong likelihood that they have already been ostracized from their community. They are already facing humiliation from their community and being blamed, regardless of the situation. The parents already have to face the guilt of knowing their child hurt someone, and they have to live with the guilt. It is a mental struggle, thinking where did you go wrong to cause your child to commit a crime. These are their children, and they never could have thought they were capable of such abominable acts. Most parental responsibility statutes punish parents for what they haven’t done, rather than what they have done. The laws make parents criminally liable because they are perceived to have not fulfilled their parental duty of keeping their kids from breaking the law. There is no direct evidence connecting “bad” parents to minors delinquent behavior. Parents are not the only cause.

Parents being held responsible doesn’t negate the urge for children to commit crime. Also one of the most prevalent problems of liability is if the parents don’t know what the child is doing. If you don’t know something you can’t fix it. It is unfair to hold that parent responsible if they don’t know about the criminal activities of the child. How are parents being prosecuted for conduct they did not condone or even know about. I also think economic status can be called into question. If a single mother is trying to provide for her child and can not continually watch her child then how can she be held responsible. Another main argument is that the law is unconstitutionally vague and an invasion of privacy. What is the definition of a bad parent? The definition of parent can be different to everyone and all children require a different type of parent for them to thrive in society. Public demand for parental responsibility laws has fluctuated over time. The Columbine High School shootings and other similar incidents have inspired state and local lawmakers to enact parental responsibility laws. In the late 1980s, California and other states passed laws aimed at reducing what the states saw as an epidemic of gang-related crime by youths (England n.d.). What is the “reasonableness” standard that parents must meet, which was is sufficiently definite. Punishment varying from state to state, but state and local parental responsibility laws can also be a problem. In general most of these enactments and enforcement of parental responsibility laws rise and fall in response to media frenzies over high-profile juvenile crimes, changing degrees of concern about public morality, and other social factors. Charging a parent, is based on the illogical reason that they failed to provide the substance to create a law-abiding child.

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