All In the Family: When One of Your Children Commits a Crime, and Another Is the Victim

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Sep 04, 2022 | 0 Comments

Whether it's a police officer knocking on your door or a 3 a.m. phone call from the local jail, finding out that your child has committed a crime is every parent's nightmare. Even if the crime was relatively minor, or if the charges are eventually dropped, this event nevertheless affects everyone in the family. But when the victim of your child's crime is another of your children, that's another magnitude of nightmare altogether.

Read on to learn what rights and responsibilities you have as a parent in this situation and how you can minimize the impact on everyone involved.

Juvenile Crime and Parental Responsibility

If you learn that someone has committed a crime—say, if they confess it to you, or you witness the behavior—are you required by law to report it? Generally, the answer is no. Failure to report a crime isn't necessarily itself a crime. When it comes to your offspring, however, you may be held liable under your state's parental responsibility laws for certain criminal actions, namely truancy, gun crimes, underage DUIs, and bullying. Additionally, if your child breaks the law and you help conceal the matter, you could face aiding and abetting or accessory charges.

Are Criminal Charges Inevitable?

Not necessarily. The court has a great deal of leeway, and there are multiple factors that influence its decision to charge a minor. These include:

  • The nature and severity of the crime
  • The child's age
  • Their history of crime and/or delinquency, if any
  • Evidence of wrongdoing
  • Whether the child's parents fulfilled their duties to supervise their children and prevent criminal behavior

Unfortunately, juvenile courts are not prejudice-free zones. This means factors like the minor's ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, appearance, and even their attitude can also play a part in an underage offender's fate.

Alternatives Available to Juvenile Offenders

One of the most widely adopted alternatives to prosecuting minors is pretrial diversion programs. These offer first-time, non-violent offenders an opportunity to avoid criminal charges by complying with certain requirements—usually some combination of:

  • Attending rehab for substance abuse, if warranted
  • Completing educational programs such as driver safety courses
  • Mandatory counseling
  • Submitting to random drug screens
  • Successfully completing probation
  • Performing community service
  • Paying restitution to the victim

Pretrial diversion programs can be a godsend to minors and their families; they also ease the strain on court systems and jails that are already overburdened.

Protection From Abuse Orders and Families

Certain criminal behaviors, such as abuse, stalking, harassment, and bullying, can merit filing for a Protection from Abuse order by the victim. PFA orders are also called restraining orders or protective orders; they all forbid the individual named in them from contacting the protectee in any fashion. Should that person violate the protective order by attempting to make contact, he or she will face criminal charges.

Under Pennsylvania law, minors can take out protective orders, and they can be named in PFAs, too. In both situations, they will require assistance from a parent or legal guardian—either filing the PFA or accompanying the accused minor to their hearing. So, while it may be heartbreaking for a parent to find themselves in either of these positions, know that it is equally possible to protect one child who has been victimized by a sibling or to support the one who is named in the order.

Helping You Help Your Family

The Lento Law Firm is well versed in handling complicated, tricky cases involving protective orders, harassment, abuse, and family law. They can help you during this troubling time for your family.

Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 or contact them via this form to tell them about your circumstances and to ask any questions they may have.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients in criminal courtrooms in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania as well as in New Jersey and nationwide. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. With unparalleled experience occupying several roles in the criminal justice system outside of being an attorney, Joseph D. Lento can give you valuable behind-the-scenes insight as to what is happening during all phases of the legal process. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


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Attorney Joseph D. Lento has more than a decade of experience successfully resolving clients' criminal charges in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania counties. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you or a loved one, contact the Lento Law Firm today! Criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento will go above and beyond the needs of any client, and will fight until the final bell rings.

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