According to California laws, a minor is any person aged below 18 years. The law is very protective of minors because they lack the mental capacity to make informed decisions. Thus, it is a criminal offense to do something or fail to do something that could cause a minor to become involved in delinquency or illegal behavior, become dependent on the juvenile justice system, or become a habitual truant. The law against contributing to a minor’s delinquency is apparent, with clear consequences on anyone found guilty. Results of a conviction might include a one-year jail time and a hefty fine. If that happens to you, you can partner with an experienced criminal defense attorney to fight your charges to avoid a conviction. But first, take time to understand what the offense entails.
What Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor Entail
The crime against contributing to a minor’s delinquency is under California PC 272. The offense is charged on any person that does something or fails to do something that consequently causes a minor to become involved in delinquency or crime. You can commit this offense in many ways, including allowing a child to smoke marijuana at a party or sending a child to sell drugs on your behalf. The law expects adults to be at the forefront in reducing juvenile crimes and delinquency in the state and across the globe. Hence the strict manner in which this offense is prosecuted and punished.
California PC 272 prohibits any act or omission that could result in a minor becoming dependent or ward of a juvenile court. Knowingly allowing a child to commit a crime, skip school or engage in acts that could cause them to become a ward of the court is a serious criminal offense. Unfortunately, the police and everyone serving within the juvenile justice system take children's issues very seriously. Thus, you may face severe criminal charges against a minor even when you’re innocent or did not intend to commit the offense. It helps to work alongside an experienced criminal attorney to avoid a wrongful conviction.
If you face charges for contributing to the delinquency of a minor, the district attorney must prove specific facts of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt for the court to find you guilty. These elements are:
- That you acted or failed to act in a particular manner
- In doing or failing to do so, you contributed or caused a child to become a chronic truant, delinquent, or a ward of a juvenile court.
Remember that the duty of care, protection, supervision, and control of a minor falls on the parents or legal guardians of the child.
A person is guilty under this statute if he/she acted or failed to act with criminal negligence or general criminal intent. Acting or failing to act with criminal negligence means that you acted in a reckless manner that is likely to cause a significant physical injury or death and that someone reasonably would have known the possible consequences of behaving the way you did.
Acting with general criminal intention means that you purposely or intentionally acted the way you did or failed to act the way you should have done under the circumstances.
The prosecutor will also prove before a jury that your actions or omission caused the alleged minor to become a truant, delinquent, or a ward of a juvenile court.
A child becomes a delinquent if they have been found guilty of committing a crime. It is not unusual for minors to commit crimes in California and the rest of the world. But the blame could fall on an adult whose actions or omission caused the minor to commit the offense.
A minor becomes a habitual truant if he/she does the following:
- Violates a curfew set as per his/her age
- Persistently and habitually refuses to obey rational orders from his/her parents or legal guardian
- Has and without reasonable excuse, failed to attend school at least four times in one school year
Lastly, a minor becomes a ward or dependent of a juvenile court for reasons like:
- The child has suffered child abuse, child neglect, or sexual abuse
- The minor has experienced severe emotional disturbance due to neglect or mistreatment by the parent (s) or legal guardian
- He/she was left with no means of physical or emotional support
- The minor’s sibling has suffered neglect or abuse at the hands of their parents or guardian
- One or more members of the minor’s household have subjected him/her to acts of cruelty
California PC 272 is a misdemeanor offense, punishable by:
- Jail time for a maximum of one year
- A fine of not more than $2,500
The judge might decide to place you on misdemeanor probation in place of jail time. When that happens, you will be given probation conditions to abide by throughout the probation period, which could last for up to five years. Some of the probation conditions you could receive for this offense include:
- Mandatory requirement to pay court fines and fees
- A need to participate in therapy, either individually or in a group
- Completion of treatment programs like drug or alcohol treatment if drugs or alcohol contributed to your behavior
- Find gainful employment
- Take part in community service
- A restraining order to keep away from the alleged victim, or an order to stay away from minors
- Mandatory appearance to all court dates
- Mandatory regular meetings with the parole officer
- Not to commit any other offense within the probation period
You are required to periodically return to court during the probation period to give the judge your progress report. The judge will review your case, ask questions about your progress and discuss any specific issues he/she might have noted in your report.
A positive progress report moves you closer to the end of your probation and the criminal consequences of a conviction. At the end of the probation, the law allows you to apply for the expungement of your criminal record. That will take care of all the negative implications of the conviction and give you a fresh start.
Failing to honor those court appearances is a crime. The judge will issue a bench warrant for your arrest. A probation violation will be held, whereby the judge will decide what will happen to you and your situation. You may have to serve the total jail time the law provides or face additional criminal charges for failing to appear.
What Happens After Your Arrest?
If the police suspect you of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, they will obtain a warrant for your arrest from the magistrate. Much investigation into cases like these happens after the suspect has already been arrested. Therefore, you may not have a chance to talk the arresting officer out of your arrest. But you will have an opportunity to defend yourself during the trial. The outcome of your trial will determine whether or not you’ll face the severe consequences of a conviction. Note that crimes against minors carry more severe and life-altering consequences.
On top of the criminal consequences of a conviction, you will have a criminal record that will likely affect your life in many ways. For instance, a criminal record might make it hard for you to find suitable employment. It also becomes difficult for people to trust you, even after serving your sentence. That is why it is advisable to work closely with an experienced criminal defense attorney after an arrest.
Your criminal defense attorney will take you through the complex legal process. An arrest will likely confuse you. It is possible to make mistakes when you are confused. Sadly, some errors will make your situation worse. Working with a criminal attorney from the start of the process will help you avoid these mistakes. The attorney will handle all legal issues for you, smoothening the process and relieving the burden you must carry after the arrest.
Your attorney will investigate your case and gather sufficient evidence to help your situation. That will not be possible to do after your arrest. Much evidence is lost after some time. Therefore, you may not find enough to support your case when you’re finally granted bail. Your attorney will be there from the start to gather evidence and create a compelling case against your charges. Winning a criminal case becomes possible with the help of a competent defense attorney.
Your attorney will fight alongside you and against your charges to avoid a conviction. Experienced criminal attorneys know the right kind of evidence to gather to win a particular case. He/she will interview witnesses, find expert reports, and read through the police report to find loopholes through which he can weaken the prosecutor’s account. Additionally, your attorney will have defense strategies allowed by the law that he/she could use to compel the judge to reduce or dismiss your charges.
Possible Defense Strategies Against Charges under California PC 272
If you face charges for contributing to a child’s delinquency, finding the best legal help to fight your charges is advisable. As previously mentioned, California law allows several defense strategies your attorney can use to fight your charges and convince the judge to reduce or dismiss them. Some of these strategies are:
You Didn't Know That The Alleged Victim was a Minor
You might commit a severe offense in California without knowing it. There are certain things you can do or not do for an adult that would result in criminal charges if done or not done for a minor. If you are not aware of the actual age of the person in question, you may unknowingly commit the offense of causing a child to become a delinquent.
You are only guilty under PC 272 if you commit this offense against a minor. For instance, if a friend comes to you looking for a room to spend the night with his girlfriend, you can innocently allow them to use your home without knowing that the person is indeed a minor. Rarely do people ask each other’s age, especially if they only meet a few times a week. In this case, you will be excused for not knowing the actual age of the alleged victim.
However, if the alleged victim was visibly a child or was in uniform, you should have reasonably known that he/she is a minor. For example, allowing a group of young boys in uniform to smoke marijuana in your home is a crime. The prosecutor will use the fact that the young boys were in uniform to prove in court that you knew or should have reasonably known that they were minors.
You Couldn’t Reasonably Control the Minor
You face charges under this statute when you do something or fail to do something that should have prevented a minor from becoming a truant, delinquent, or a ward of the court. Sometimes we focus more on what someone did to the alleged minor, not on what the person failed to do to protect the minor under his/her care.
For instance, a parent who doesn’t protect their child against crime might face charges for contributing to the delinquency of that child. A parent or legal guardian can do that through education, discipline, and even seeking help whenever all interventions have failed.
However, the parent might not successfully control a minor. Some minors are aggressive, especially when they are older (16 or 17), and might cause the parents or guardian more problems. If you face charges for failing to control or protect a minor like that, you could use this as a defense to have the judge dismiss your charges.
Example: A child who runs away from home might be difficult to reasonably control, however strict the parents might be. The parent may not control how the child behaves and whether or not he/she goes to school. You may not be guilty of contributing to your child’s delinquency if you tried your best but failed.
It could be that someone is accusing you falsely of a crime you did not commit. It happens all the time, especially if the person is simply jealous, seeking revenge, or is trying to get back at you for something you did or didn’t do. Cases of false accusations, especially for severe offenses against minors, are high in California. Some people are paying for crimes they did not commit in the first place.
When you face false accusations, let your criminal defense attorney know. It will not come as a surprise because he/she has probably handled similar issues in the past. Thus, an experienced attorney will know how to fight your charges in court to have the judge dismiss your case.
Your child might have accused you of contributing to their delinquency out of revenge or merely to seek attention. Someone else might accuse you of the same for the same or similar reasons. Your attorney will gather sufficient evidence that will counter the prosecutor’s evidence. If that works, the judge will dismiss your charges.
Crimes under California Law That are Related to PC 272
California law has several crimes against children. Two of these are closely related to contributing to a minor’s delinquency. They are:
Furnishing a Minor With Marijuana
The law against furnishing a child with marijuana is under California HS 11361. The statute prevents adults from:
- Offering, selling, or giving marijuana to a child
- Causing a child to use marijuana
- Employing or using a child to sell, give away, or transport marijuana
The offense is closely related to contributing to a minor’s delinquency. Therefore, you could face charges for both offenses simultaneously if the facts of your case satisfy the elements of both crimes.
However, furnishing a minor with marijuana is a more severe offense and is a felony in California, punishable by up to seven years in state prison.
Furnishing a Minor With Alcohol
The law against furnishing a minor with alcohol is under California BPC 25658. The law makes it a crime for anyone to provide or sell alcohol or a person under the California drinking age of 21. The statute also prohibits persons below the legal drinking age from purchasing and consuming alcohol on the premises like bars, liquor stores, and restaurants.
The offense is generally a misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum of one year in jail.
Find a Competent Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
If you face charges for contributing to a minor’s delinquency, working alongside a competent criminal defense attorney is advisable. Your attorney will guide you through the complex legal process, help you gather evidence, and plan a solid defense against your charges. At The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney, we have the skills and experience in using the best defense strategies that will compel the court to reduce or dismiss your charges. Call us at 310-564-2605 if you or your loved one faces charges under this statute today. Our team will be happy to discuss and plan your case for a favorable outcome.