One of the most important duties of a parent or an adult caregiver is to teach a child discipline and encourage good behavior. Unfortunately, some adults are negligent. They do not try to instill discipline in their children at all. They may even encourage their offspring or wards to commit illegal acts.
The law refers to this kind of neglect or abuse as contributing to the delinquency of a minor, which can manifest in many different ways.
According to FindLaw, contributing to delinquency usually involves one of two kinds of actions. An adult may purposely do something to cause a minor to commit delinquent behavior. Secondly, an adult may have the responsibility of acting to stop a minor from engaging in delinquency but fails to do so.
A common example of delinquency is underage drinking. An adult who contributes to this form of delinquency may give a child a pack of beers or host a party for the child where alcohol is available. A parent could also get in trouble for not having their child go to school or encouraging a child to commit illegal acts like theft or vandalism.
According to state law, a person has to be at least 18 years old to contribute to the delinquency of a minor and willfully intend to cause a minor to commit illegal behavior or aid the minor in doing something illegal. In fact, a prosecutor may charge an adult for simply encouraging an underage person to break the law.
The law takes the delinquency of a minor seriously enough that a child does not actually have to do anything wrong for a prosecutor to file charges against a parent. The law may determine that a parent or guardian is only putting a child in the position of committing criminal acts. Nonetheless, this can serve as grounds for prosecution.
Under North Carolina law, the crime of contributing to delinquency is punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor, which can put a person in jail for up to 120 days. A charge of contributing to delinquency can also have consequences in child custody cases. If one parent accuses the other of causing their child to commit criminal acts, the other parent may lose custody.