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Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor

As an adult, you could face charges for contributing to a minor's delinquency if you encourage a young person to engage in acts that would likely injure or debase their morals, health, and welfare. The offense is often referred to as contributory delinquency and is punishable by time in jail and payment of a hefty court fine. A conviction will also leave you with a damaging criminal record that could affect different aspects of your life, including your social and career life. You need a competent criminal defense attorney to fight your charges to avoid a conviction if you face charges for contributing to a minor's delinquency in Phoenix today. Our team of skilled criminal attorneys at Phoenix Criminal Attorney will fight alongside you for a fair outcome for your situation.

Legal Definition of Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor in Arizona

Children need adults' guidance and protection until they reach an age where they can decide for and protect themselves. Most states, including Arizona, have set eighteen as the legal age when children transition from childhood into adulthood. Below that, an individual is considered a minor, incapable of giving or denying consent, providing and caring for themselves. Sadly, some adults take advantage of the vulnerability of minors to involve them in criminal acts. But the law is very protective of children that any adult that acts or fails to act and, as a result, contributes to a minor's delinquency faces criminal charges.

ARS 13-3613 provides sentencing guidelines for any adult guilty of contributing to a minor's delinquency. You could face charges under this law if you act or fail to act in a way that is likely to injure or debase a minor's health, morals, or wellbeing. Your primary responsibility as an adult living with or close to children is to guide them in the correct behavior and protect them against that which could affect their health, morals, and wellbeing. Failing to do that could result in serious criminal charges punishable by time behind bars and payment of hefty fines.

People that face charges under this law are those whose behavior or lack of it causes a minor to:

  • Engage in delinquent behavior
  • Become a habitual truant
  • Become dependent on the juvenile justice system

A minor engages in delinquent behavior if they participate in unlawful conduct or crime like theft, burglary, and serious offenses like rape and murder. They become a habitual truant when absent from school without an acceptable excuse for part or all of five or more days in ten consecutive days.

A child becomes dependent on the juvenile justice system if their parents or guardians are incapable of caring for their needs and protection. If parents cannot or will not take care of a child properly, a juvenile court can step in, and the child becomes dependent on the court for safeguarding and provision. Here are some of the instances when a child could become dependent on the juvenile court system:

  • If they are a victim of child abuse or child neglect
  • If they have suffered severe emotional damage due to negligence or mistreatment by their parent or guardian
  • If they are a victim of sexual abuse
  • If they are abandoned, with no means of physical and emotional support
  • Their sibling is a victim of child abuse or neglect
  • They are a subject of cruelty by one or more members of their family

ARS 13-3613 provides the elements of this offense, which the district attorney must prove beyond a reasonable doubt for the court to find you guilty of contributing to a minor's delinquency. These elements are:

  • That you acted or failed to act in a particular manner
  • Your actions or lack of it thereof encouraged or contributed to a minor's delinquency, habitual truancy, or dependency on a juvenile court.

You can commit this offense in several ways. Here are some examples of actions or lack of actions that could result in charges under this statute:

  • Encouraging an underage to drink beer or smoke cigarettes
  • Making lewd calls or sending lewd text messages to your friend's underage daughter
  • Encouraging your 15-year-old to skip school so they can hang out with you or work for you
  • Allowing your 14-year-old nephew to use your house to have sex with an older girlfriend
  • Failing to act when your 16-year-old skips school several days in a row for no reason

The statute imposes a responsibility on all parents and guardians to exercise reasonable care, control, supervision, and protection over their children.

You must also have acted with general criminal intent or criminal negligence to be guilty under this law. Acting with a general criminal intent means that you intentionally or purposefully committed a prohibited act or failed to commit the required act. For instance, deliberately giving beer to underage or allowing them to smoke.

You act with criminal negligence when you:

  • Act recklessly in a manner that puts the victim at risk of physical injury or death
  • A sensible person would know that acting in the way you did would create that risk

Note that the victim of this offense is a minor, which means an individual below the age of eighteen.

You are also guilty under this law if your actions or lack of actions cause a minor to be dependent on others. Here are some characteristics of a dependent person as set forth under the law:

  • A child found begging in the streets
  • A vagrant or a person found roaming from one home to another
  • A minor without a parent and guardian that can exercise the proper parental control and care over them
  • A child found in a company of vagrants, criminals, or prostitutes
  • A child who is a habitual abuser of drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol

Possible Legal Defense Strategies For Charges Under ARS 13-3613

If you face charges for contributing to a minor's delinquency, it helps to understand the legal implication of your charges. That will help you put up a solid fight against your charges to avoid a conviction and its effects. You could fight your charges successfully with the help of a skilled criminal attorney. Fortunately, your attorney has several defense strategies they can use, depending on the circumstances of your case, to compel the judge to dismiss or reduce your charges. The best of these strategies are:

The Alleged Victim Was an Adult

Charges for contributing to a minor's delinquency only occur if the victim is an individual below the legal age of eighteen. The judge will dismiss your charges if that is not the case. The district attorney must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the victim was a minor at the time of the crime for you to receive a guilty verdict.

Sometimes the police are mistaken when they make arrests. They could have assumed that the victim was a minor because of the victim’s physical appearance. Or the victim could have lied about their age to the police for whatever reason. The court would dismiss your charges if the victim were an adult when you committed the crime.

You Could Not Possibly Control the Child

In most cases, criminal charges for contributing to a child's delinquency are brought against parents and guardians. They are expected to take care of the safety and welfare of minors. If that does not happen, the responsible parent or guardian could be held accountable if the minor becomes a delinquent, chronic truant, or dependent on a juvenile court.

But parents face several challenges when controlling youngsters. It becomes harder to control children as they grow older. If you could not possibly control your child for any reason at all, your attorney can use this as a defense to have the court dismiss your charges. It could be that the child could no longer listen to you, and they would run away from home every time you needed them to stay. Or, they could not stay away from the people you suspect were influencing their behavior. If the judge accepts this defense, they will dismiss your charges.

It Is a False Accusation

It is not unusual for a parent or guardian to face false accusations regarding their parenting roles and responsibilities. Some people find fault in what others are doing and can quickly inform the authorities out of malice, jealousy, or desire for revenge. False accusation is accepted as a defense for charges of contributing to a minor's delinquency. It does not necessarily mean that you contributed to your child's delinquency.

Minors also lodge false accusations against their parents, guardians, and other adults to get even with them for what the adults did or failed to do. For instance, a child can tell the police that you allow them to drink or smoke to get even with you for the strict manner you have brought them. A child can tell the police that you do not provide for their needs if you do not allow them to do what they want.

An experienced criminal attorney will know how well to prove in court that the accusations you face are false. Then, the judge will dismiss your charges.

Police Misconduct

Your attorney can use this as a defense to have the court dismiss or reduce your charges if the police fail to follow the laid-down guidelines while conducting their investigations or arresting you. The police are likely to act fast when they feel or think a child's life or wellbeing is in danger. Thus, they could overlook some of the guidelines provided under the law while making an arrest or investigating a crime.

For instance, the police could have searched your home or property without a warrant. The police must obtain a detailed warrant to search a person or their property. Otherwise, evidence gathered after an illegal search and seizure is not admissible in court. Or the arresting officer failed to read your Miranda rights after an arrest.

If the court dismisses evidence gathered by the officers during the search or arrest, the prosecutor could be left with little or no evidence to support your charges.

Penalties for Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor in Arizona

Contributing to a minor's delinquency is a Class 1 misdemeanor offense in Arizona. It is less severe than a felony but more severe than a petty crime. Class 1 misdemeanors are more serious than Class 2 and Class 3 misdemeanors.

ARS 13-3613 is punished by:

  • A maximum of six months in jail
  • Court fines not exceeding $2,500

The judge could place you on probation in place of jail. When that happens, you will receive a set of probation conditions to abide by throughout the probation period. Some of the conditions you could receive for this offense include:

  • Participation in community service
  • Payment of restitution to the victim
  • Participation in a group or individual counseling
  • Staying away from crime while on probation

A conviction for contributing to a minor's delinquency will also affect your social life. It could affect your relationship with your family and friends. People will no longer feel safe with you around their children.

A conviction will also affect your career life. It will limit the types of jobs you can apply for. For instance, finding a position where you will be required to work directly or indirectly with children could be difficult. Additionally, you could face challenges finding suitable employment since potential employers almost always conduct background checks on prospective employees. Most employers will not hire anyone with a criminal record.

A conviction record will impact how you receive some services like rental services. Landlords are skeptical about allowing anyone with a criminal record to rent or lease from them. They will do a background check and could decide based on what they find.

ARS 13-3613 and Related Charges

Arizona laws have several other offenses that are closely connected to contributing to a minor's delinquency. Some crimes are charged with ARS 13-3613, while the others are charged in place of ARS 13-3613. Some of the offenses that are closely related to this statute are:

A Minor in Possession of Alcohol

ARS 4-244(9) is the law against anyone below the legal drinking age who receives, buys, consumes, or even possesses an alcoholic drink. The lawful drinking age in Arizona is 21. A person that violates this offense usually faces criminal charges in a juvenile court. Examples of acts that could result in charges under this statute include:

  • A seventeen-year-old boy carrying a pack of beer to a neighbor's home
  • A fifteen-year-old receiving a drink from their uncle at a party
  • Two underage siblings drinking their father's vodka behind their house

The offense is also a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by six months in jail and a fine of $2,500. You could receive probation instead of jail time upon conviction.

Furnishing a Minor with Alcohol

Arizona law against furnishing a minor with alcohol is under ARS 4-241. The offense occurs when you furnish, sell, give or dispose of, or cause another person to furnish, sell, give or dispose of alcohol to a person below the legal drinking age of twenty-one. If you violate this offense, you will likely face charges for two serious crimes:

  • Furnishing a minor with alcohol
  • Contributing to a minor's delinquency

Furnishing a minor with alcohol is a Class 1 or Class 3 misdemeanor, depending on the details of your case. As a Class 1 misdemeanor, the offense is punishable by six months in jail and a fine of up to $2500. As a Class 3 misdemeanor, the offense is punishable by one month in jail.

If you are guilty of both counts, you will receive penalties for the separate offenses, which you must serve consecutively.

Sexually Exploiting a Minor

The law against sexually exploiting minors or child pornography is under ARS 13-3553. You could face charges under this law for:

  • Knowingly filming, recording, photographing, developing, or duplicating visual depictions of a minor engaging in sexual acts.
  • Knowingly distributing, transporting, receiving, selling, purchasing, transmitting, or possessing depictions like those.

Violating this law is charged as a Class 2 felony, which makes it a more severe offense than contributing to a minor's delinquency. The offense is punishable by ten years in prison, which could increase if you have a prior conviction for the same or similar offenses in your criminal record.

Note that sexually exploiting minors under fifteen is charged under ARS 13-705 and is listed among dangerous crimes against children.

Find a Competent Criminal Attorney Near Me

If you face criminal charges for contributing to the delinquency of a minor in Phoenix, you could receive a hefty penalty upon conviction. But you can fight your charges with the help of a competent criminal lawyer for a fair outcome. Your lawyer will guide you through the complex legal process and protect your rights against violation. Our Phoenix Criminal Attorney team has extensive experience handling cases like these. We could use the best legal strategies available to change the outcome of your situation. Call us at 602-551-8092 and let us study the details of your case.

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