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Your Teenager Admitted to You That They Committed a Crime: What’s Your Legal Responsibility?

As many parents are sadly aware, teenagers sometimes do incredibly foolish things. While this may be a phase, serious problems can arise when such acts crossover from imprudent to illegal. If your teen admits to committing a crime, you need to think about your legal responsibility as a parent, and how you should act going forward.

Like most states, Indiana has parental responsibility laws. These civil laws hold parents and legal guardians accountable for certain crimes and damages their minor child (under age 18) committed. Here are the three areas of parental responsibility under Indiana civil law.

Property damage and bodily activities

Indiana Code Section 34-31-4 holds custodial parents or guardians financially responsible for a minor’s behavior if it causes harm to a person or damage to property, and if the child caused the harm knowingly, intentionally, or recklessly. In such circumstances, the adult won’t be liable for more than $5,000 in damages, nor will they be responsible for punitive damages such as pain and suffering.

Gang-related activities

Indiana Code Section 34-31-4-2 holds custodial parents and guardians responsible if their minor child causes bodily harm or property damage while participating in criminal activity as a gang member. The child must live with the adult for this law to apply, and the parent must have failed to take responsible measures to present the child’s involvement in the gang. In this case, the parent might be held accountable for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, in addition to actual damages, such as property damage.


Indiana Code Section 9-24-9-4, holds the parent or guardian who signed a minor’s application for a driver’s license jointly liable (with the child) for any injuries or damages the minor causes through operating a motor vehicle. However, if you have submitted a verified written request to be relieved of this responsibility, you will not be held financially responsible.

If your child’s crime falls into one of these categories, you should speak with an Indiana criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible to find out what steps you can take to mitigate the fallout for both you and your child.

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