» Juvenile » Is a parent responsible for the damage caused by their children?

Is a parent responsible for the damage caused by their children?

Yes. In Arizona, pursuant to A.R.S. § 12-661 (2008) a judge can make the parents or legal guardians of a juvenile responsible for up to $10,000.00 for each “malicious or willful” tort caused by the juvenile. Prosecutors almost always require that plea bargains stipulate that the juvenile will be jointly and severally responsible for any damages caused by the juvenile and his or her co-defendants.

In my experience, this can often place the attorney for the juvenile between a rock and a hard place. For example, I’ve had several criminal damage cases were the juvenile has a very poor chance of winning a trial (numerous co-defendants and other witnesses willing to testify to the juvenile’s guilt) but I’ve been able to arrange a plea bargain that will either eventually dismiss the case against the juvenile or allow him or her to plead to a much less serious charge, thus preventing a felony conviction on his or her record. The parents are generally very pleased with that kind of plea agreement until I tell them they will be held personally responsible for any restitution that the juvenile cannot pay.

Is it my responsibility to only consider the juvenile’s interest (i.e. keeping a felony conviction off his or her record), or should I consider the entire family? The law is clear that I am only the attorney for the juvenile, though it is often difficult to ignore the financial burden a conviction can place on the entire family. It can be very stressful on a family when a parent is asking the juvenile to go to trial and the attorney is advising the juvenile otherwise.

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