It takes a community to raise a child, that's how the saying goes. It may be true, but community members are under no obligation to take positive steps to "raise a child" not theirs nor are they under any obligation to stop a minor from committing wrongdoings or criminal activities. That said, a person cannot contribute to the delinquency of a minor. Not only will the minor face criminal charges, but the person contributing to the delinquency of a minor will face charges.
The offense of Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor is a serious charge and is more serious if the alleged offender is a person in the fields of either education or childcare. You face criminal penalties if convicted, and you face significant collateral consequences that could impact your job, your reputation, and your future to your detriment.
Bryan J. Jones, a smart, aggressive criminal defense attorney in Charlottesville, can review the evidence against you and help develop a viable defense strategy. Contact his office today with specific questions about your case and to get started on a strong defense.
What Does "Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor" Mean in Virginia?
Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor is a crime meant to insulate the child but penalize the adult. It is a Virginia offense governed under Virginia Code § 18.2-371. According to the statute, this law applies to:
[a]ny person 18 years of age or older, including the parent of any child.
So, you could be a stranger, a teacher, a friend of the family, a parent, or a guardian – regardless of who you are, so long as you are 18 years or older, you can be charged with this offense.
The offense is committed when someone falling under the above-age requirement:
willfully contributes to, encourages, or causes any act, omission, or condition that renders a child delinquent, in need of services, in need of supervision, or abused or neglected as defined in § 16.1-228 or (ii) engages in consensual sexual intercourse or anal intercourse with or performs cunnilingus, fellatio, or anilingus upon or by a child 15 or older not his spouse, child, or grandchild.
This crime can be committed in three basic different ways – as the above definition suggests. The prosecutor must prove that one of these acts were committed in order to return a conviction. Like any case, the prosecutor is burdened with providing evidence that proves the alleged offender is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt – that is a high bar, and Bryan J. Jones will challenge the prosecutor each step of the way. In some cases, when it is in the client's best interest, Bryan J. Jones may discuss a plea offer with you. These offers require that you admit guilt to a certain crime and in return, you receive a lighter sentence.
Elements of the Offense
The elements of this type of crime vary depending on the actual circumstances. Generally, though, the elements that must be satisfied include:
- An adult 18 years or older; and
- An adult who committed an act or breached a duty of care; and
- The act or failure to act contributed to, encouraged, or caused a minor to become a delinquent; or
- The act or failure to act contributed to, encouraged, or caused a minor to be in need of services or supervision or abused and neglected; or
- The act involved consensual sexual intercourse with a minor 15 years old or older but less than 18 years old.
This offense is not a crime of intent, so even if you did not know the person was younger than 18, you can still be found guilty.
Examples of the Offense
Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor is often attributed to the first part of the definition: causing the child to commit or attempt to commit a crime. In Virginia, a delinquent minor is a child who commits a delinquent act prior to his or her 18th birthday. A delinquent act is any act codified as a Virginia crime or city ordinance, this includes:
- felonies, which are the most serious of crimes and that are punishable by imprisonment for more than one year and death in some of the most serious cases; or
- misdemeanors, which are all other criminal offenses that are not classified as felonies.
Examples of this type of crime include:
- Persuading a minor help you commit a crime (shoplifting, selling drugs, destroying property, burglary, etc.)
- Purchasing alcoholic beverages for minors
- Giving or allowing minors to use illegal drugs or drink alcohol in your presence
- Providing a minor with a fake ID
- Helping a minor commit a criminal act
- Neglecting a child you are responsible for.
Of course, having a sexual relationship with a minor who is between the ages of 15 and 17 is also a crime under this statute. So, when a person is convicted of this crime, a current or future employer will have no way of knowing (apart from you stating it) if you were convicted of helping a minor commit a crime or if the conviction was based on a sexual relationship with a minor. Even though the sexual relationship is consensual, it is still highly shunned upon by society and will result in collateral consequences. It can mean the loss of your job (especially if you work with children in any capacity) or difficulty finding a job (again, especially if that job is to work with children in any capacity).
What are the Penalties of a Conviction of Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor?
This crime is charged as a Class 1 Misdemeanor in Virginia This means you could face up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.
Are There Defenses to an Allegation of Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor in Virginia?
It is no defense if you did not know an act was criminal or not. It is also no defense if you did not know the minor was a child between the ages of 15 or 17 in cases where you had a consensual sexual relationship. That said and as already mentioned, your attorney Bryan J. Jones will work to challenge the prosecutor's case against you. Part of the challenge involves creating doubt and poking holes at the prosecutor's evidence.
Your defense will include relevant facts. There could have been a mistake of identity, and you are not the person who did what allegedly happened. The minor could have also acted without your encouragement or assistance. For example, the minor stole drugs or alcohol from you rather than you giving it to him or her.
Whatever your defense is, the facts will matter. Bryan J. Jones will review evidence, including your testimony, depositions of other relevant persons, review the police report, and investigate when necessary. A defense strategy will be developed according to the unique circumstances of your case.
Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Charlottesville, VA
If you have been charged with Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor, you need to contact a smart, experienced criminal defense attorney in Charlottesville today. Bryan J. Jones is committed to his clients and puts forth defense strategies that work.