Shoplifting is a classic scene in coming-of-age movies—a young person pockets some candy or a toy but is waylaid by the store owner as they attempt to get away with the goods. Or the parent finds out first and marches their child back to the crime scene to make amends. Maybe you’ve been through this situation with your own offspring if you’re a parent.
But what happens when your kid breaks the law beyond a stolen Snickers bar or purloined Pikachu card? Today we’re exploring a parent’s obligation to report a crime committed by their child.
The Legality of Reporting Crimes in Indiana
Most people assume that keeping quiet about a crime that has been committed is itself against the law. Perhaps surprisingly, that’s not the case in Indiana. While there are exceptions to the rule, people are not legally obligated to report crimes. This is true not only of crimes that people learn about after the fact but also when they know in advance that a law will be broken—and even if they witness the illegal action.
So technically, a parent cannot get in legal trouble by failing to report their child’s crime.
Two Notable Exceptions
One exception centers on your participation. For example, consider another common movie trope, that of being an accessory to a crime. You do run the risk of legal trouble if you hide your child from the police or give them a getaway car.
Similarly, you could be charged with aiding and abetting if you encourage or command your progeny to do something unlawful on your behalf. (Know, too, that aiding and abetting make you subject to the same punishment as the crime itself.)
The other major exception is when any minor suffers neglect or abuse. In many jurisdictions, people who work with children—teachers, caregivers, coaches, doctors, social workers, and the like—are mandated reporters. This means they are legally obligated to report any mistreatment of a child that they see or suspect.
In Indiana, however, mandated reporting applies to everyone. If you have evidence that a child is being abused, you must call the authorities. You could face punishment if you don’t.
What About Moral Obligations?
Understandably, you want to protect your child after they’ve made a poor decision, especially one that would stay on their permanent record. But there are some ethical issues at play if you have knowledge of your child’s criminal behavior, particularly if their act has harmed another (or has the potential to do so). Letting your child get away with crime sets a dangerous precedent—and could set the stage for more, and worse, wrongdoing in the future. All parents probably turn a blind eye to some offenses, like sharing a streaming-service password, but in the eyes of many, condoning serious or violent crimes is a crime against society even if not legally punishable.
Facing a Difficult Dilemma Like This?
When your child, or anyone you love, has committed a crime, it can seem like an impossible situation. Knowing what to do in such situations isn’t as black and white as you might like. However, the attorneys at Razumich & Associates can explain the potential outcome of any crime, thereby providing guidance about your next steps. Call them at (317) 983-5333 to schedule a consultation, and let them help bear some of your burdens.