The state of Virginia has made a lot of effort to ensure the safety of children within its jurisdiction. However, if a parent neglects his or her responsibility for his or her child, ending up harming the child, the parent might end up facing severe punishment according to the law. In such a case, one should find legal assistance from a professional law firm to avoid the consequences that might follow. If you are charged with Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor under VA Code 18.2-371, we at the Virginia Criminal Attorney are ready to defend you. We serve Fairfax and the entire Northern Virginia area.

Legal Definition of VA. Code 18.2-371- Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor

Under VA. Code 18.2-371, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, is defined as an act of voluntary contribution to the delinquency of a child, neglecting and abusing a child who is in need as defined under VA. Code16.1-228. It also defines any consensual sexual intercourse with a child at the age of 15 years or more. Anyone who is accused of any or both of these two criminal activities will be found guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor offense in Virginia.

There are a couple of factors that a prosecutor must prove to convict a suspect under this section. These factors are considered as elements of the crimes and are as follows:

Willful Contribution

When defining willful intentions, it means that one did something deliberately and intentionally. For the prosecutor to satisfy this aspect, he or she must prove that the adult was aware of the activity that he or she was about to make and probably knew about the consequences that might result from the actions.

The action can also be related to failing to commit a specific action or failing to act when you have a responsibility to do so. Parents and guardians have the highest-burden in ensuring that they exercise the duty of care to their kids and contribute the highest when it comes to delinquency with their kids. Therefore, the prosecutor should prove that your actions were exceedingly negligent to the point of creating a risk to your kids, and you were reasonable enough to know the risks that will result from the action.

The Delinquency of a Child

Delinquency of a child is also referred to as juvenile delinquency. In Virginia, a delinquent child is considered to have committed a delinquent act before his or her eighteenth birthday. The crime might be a felony or a misdemeanor based on the state’s law. Often, juvenile delinquency is also considered as juvenile offending. Therefore, one can consider a delinquent child as a dependent on a juvenile court, since this is the court that handles cases related to them.

Child or Minor

A child or minor is anyone below the age of eighteen. The prosecutor has to prove that your actions contributed to the delinquent actions or behavior of a child if the child was below eighteen years old. Please note that the court does not dismiss any defense that the defendant might bring up, claiming that he or she did not know that the victim in question was a minor.

Domestic Violence as Defined under VA. Code 16.1-228

VA. Code 16.1-228 defines domestic violence in Virginia as an act involving violence, threat, severe injury, sexual assault, and reasonable fear for death. The kind of actions that are considered under this code includes forceful detention, criminal sexual assault, stalking, or any other criminal offense that results in bodily injuries.

Consensual Sexual Intercourse

Prosecutors can also charge you under VA. Code 18.2-371 if you are involved in sexual consent with a minor. Consensual sexual intercourse means that there was an agreement to participate in sexual activity. Although there is a consensual agreement between you and the minor, the action stands as an offense since it involves a minor. This is considered as taking advantage of the child.

Under Virginia laws, the terms “carnally know” or “knowledge “is used to describe sexual acts. They include:

  • Sexual intercourse
  • Cunnilingus, which involves oral sex that consists of a man on female
  • Fellatio, which means oral sex that involves a female on a male
  • Annillingus, which means oral sex involving mouth to anus
  • Anal intercourse
  • Animate and inanimate sexual penetration. This act includes vaginal or anal fingering or penetration with another object

Factors that Contribute to Juvenile Delinquency

It is recommended to learn a few factors associated with juvenile delinquency to determine whether they weigh in your case. Some of the factors that contribute to misconduct in a minor include:

Poor School Attendance

Poor school attendance is one of the significant factors that contribute to delinquency in children. A school does not only provide a place to learn or grow but also offers a structured routine that can help kids accomplish their goals every day. These routines include completing various tasks, attending school, getting prepared, and many other options.

If kids do not follow this kind of routine, it is hard for them to establish good habits. As a result, they end up becoming delinquents since they did not learn a couple of things that can help them live a good life. In most cases, such kids do not agree with social norms and do anything as they please.

Poor Education Standards

The kind of school that a child attends also has a significant impact on the type of behavior that one will develop. A kid who attends overcrowded or underfunded schools lacks discipline or order. The kind of chaos that they experience makes them delinquent, and if the parent does not realize this, the behavior might grow worse.

Peer Pressure

Peer pressure from direct acquaintances can also be a great contributor to delinquency in children. Kids usually feel pressured to do what other children are doing to be accepted by their peers. If the actions are not entirely pleasing, the child might turn out to be a delinquent.

The best way to handle such a situation is taking note of the kind of friends that your child is involved with and instill confidence to do the right thing.

Violence at Home

Kids who are subjected to violence at home usually turn out to be violent in real life. Such kids typically end up with a don’t care attitude and care less about getting into trouble. If the situation is not handled early enough, the kids might turn out to be criminals in the future.

Violent Social Circles

The kind of neighborhood that a child is living in also contributes to the delinquency of a kid. This kind of living is usually described as “street survival,” and kids try to join gangs as a way of identifying themselves in their neighborhood. Parents can deal with the delinquency of their children if they get them off such an area.

Socioeconomic Factors

Similarly to violent social circles, kids raised in a poor neighborhood have high chances of turning out delinquent in the future. Most of them feel that they have to be violent or commit some sort of crime to prosper. Therefore, theft and crimes are common with them, which is considered as petty theft. The only way to help such kids is to provide enough needs and support to help them understand that a life of crime is not the way to go.

Lack of Moral Guidance

Parents and other adult influences play the most significant role in discouraging delinquency. However, if they fail to meet this requirement, they play substantial blame in the kind of behavior that their kids have adopted.

The only way to turn around such a situation is caring and supporting your child to influence his or her actions positively. You should also be an excellent example by upholding moral uprightness.

Substance Abuse

Substance abuse in homes is another contributing factor in delinquency in minors. If the child is exposed to substance abuse, drugs become a necessity to them and turn out to be addicts even in the future. Others become too dependent on the substance, ending up committing crimes to sustain their habits.

Such children require treatment and counseling since these actions are deteriorating, and dependents cannot consider their self-worth.

Penalties for Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor in Virginia

If you are 18 years or older and contribute to the delinquency of a minor, you will be charged with a class 1 misdemeanor. Some of the examples of crimes that add to this kind of penalties include having sex with your 17 years girlfriend, whereas you are at the age of 18 or more. Penalties that results from such an offense include:

  • Imprisonment for a maximum of a year
  • Fines that can reach up to $2,500
  • Both imprisonment and fines

Penalties Related to Juvenile Delinquency

There are a couple of penalties that come as a result of juvenile delinquency. This depends on the severity of the offense that the child has done. The sentences are as follows: 

  • Allow the child to remain with his or her parents, but subject to certain conditions and limitations that the court have ordered
  • Order the parent of the child to participate in programs that have terms and conditions that are designed to rehabilitate the child and his or her parent
  • Defer disposition for a certain period depending on the severity of the offense and the child's criminal history. During this time, the court might decide to dismiss the case if the child exhibits good behavior during the period in which the disposition has differed. The court might also recommend the child to participate in a boot camp
  • If the child does not make a guilty plea to the court, the court might grant a postponement of the case and subject the minor into terms and conditions designed for rehabilitation. If the minor take heed of the conditions, the court might discharge the case
  • Impose a curfew on the juvenile and ask him or her to surrender his or her driver’s license, which will be held in custody during the curfew period
  • Restitution to the aggrieved party for damages or losses incurred through the offense for which the minor was found to be delinquent
  • Transfer legal custody to a relative who has satisfied the court over his or her eligibility, the local board of social service, or a child welfare service.

Youth Diversion Program

The Virginia laws allow juvenile courts to divert necessary juvenile cases to alternative programs. This is common with minor misdemeanor cases that can be solved informally. Intake into these programs is considered to avoid the formal court process. A minor is considered eligible for the program if:

  • There is evidence that he or she has committed a crime
  • The charge is eligible
  • The juvenile takes the responsibility of the actions

Once the above aspects have been proved, the intake officer will visit the juvenile's family to gather information through a thorough interview process. The intake officer will administer two assessments which are referred to as: 

  • Youth Assessment Screening Instrument (YASI), meant to determine the likelihood of the child to commit another crime
  • Global Assessment of Individual Needs- Short Screen (GAIN-SS), meant to identify any mental condition that the minor might be experiencing, such as anxiety, depression, and potential substance abuse.

After the assessment, the intake officer will recommend the family to enroll their child to a treatment program. Once the child completes the diversion program, he or she will not be eligible for any criminal convictions. Some of the program that the child can be enrolled to are:

  • Monitored diversion program
  • Unofficial counseling
  • Community services or core value courses
  • Other diversion programs that might be available

Please note, if the child fails to complete the sanctions, the intake officer might file a petition. The staff in charge of the programs might also file the petition, which revives the formal court process.

Legal Defenses for Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor in Virginia

If you decide to hire a criminal attorney, he or she will use relevant legal defenses to win your case or have your charges reduced. Here are a couple of legal defenses that your attorney can use.

False Accusation

It is common to find people who are wrongly accused, especially in cases that involve minors. People might focus on accusing you falsely to get back to you due to something that you did to them. Such people might have the intention of imprisoning you, manipulating you, or destroying your reputation.

If you have been falsely accused, your attorney should take the necessary investigation and gather information to disapprove the evidence presented against you. If one manages to disapprove of the consideration, the court might decide to dismiss your case.

Did Not Recognize that the Child was a Minor

Most of this situation involves teenagers who appear as adults or act like adults. Such people can reasonably make you believe that they are adults and end up making you guilty of contributing to delinquency.

The kind of defense that you can use is claiming that the offense that you are accused of committing is only considered since the person in question was a minor. For instance, if you are charged with furnishing alcohol or cigarettes to the child, such an action becomes offensive just because the person who involved a minor. However, being accused of actions such as involving the child in criminal activities carries more weight that makes the convictions credible.

Inability to Control the Child

Most prosecutors consider this kind of charges based on the responsibilities that parents have on their kids. They accuse them of being negligent of their parental duties leading to the delinquency of their kids.

However, if the parents acted reasonably but were unable to control their children's behavior, such an accusation does not carry much weight in your prosecution. Some of the factors that might result from the child’s misconduct include mental disorder or subjection to a non-custodial parent.

Mistake of Facts

Sometimes your action can be honest but end up being mistaken to be offensive. Also, you might be associated with some behaviors that your child or a kid under your custody displays, which in the real sense, is a mistake.

However, if you acted out of ignorance of the law, this does not stand as a reasonable defense. For instance, if you are accused of serving alcohol to a kid, such a fact does not excuse you from the charges at hand.

Entrapment

In most cases, a trap happens when a police officer or any other person in authority forces you to do criminal activity. In this case, you must prove that there were cases of harassment, coercion, or threats that led to your criminal actions. A good example of this kind of situation is when a police officer entraps you into abandoning your child due to constant threats to arrest or shoot you.

Involuntary Intoxication

Some children are quite mischievous to the point of intoxicating their parents to indulge in criminal activity. This is common in households with alcoholic parents. Your kids might take advantage of your alcoholism and decide to intoxicate you to hold a party or engage in other forms of criminal activity.

Involving alcohol in defense is not usually a good option, but in this case, it can help in reducing your charges.

Unconsciousness

As a parent, your children might decide to engage in criminal activities while you are unconscious. You might be excused from the actions if the crime was committed when you were asleep, suffering from an illness or involuntary intoxication.

Please note, if your unconsciousness resulted from voluntary intoxication, you might not be excused from the criminal activity since the court assumes that you are aware of the consequences of your actions.

Crimes Related to VA. Code 18.2 -371 Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor

There are a couple of crimes that are related to VA. Code 18.2 – 371 and are probably charged along with or with this offense. Some of these crimes include:

VA. Code 18.2-371.1 Abuse and Neglect of Children

Under this Virginia code, it is unlawfully for a person with the responsibility of taking care of a child under 18 years to willfully omits or refuses to give the necessary care to the child, which causes serious injuries or death of the child. Such a person is guilty of a Class 4 felony according to the Virginia laws.

Some of the aspects that define abuse or neglect of the child include:

  • Severe burns and cuts
  • Fracture
  • Mutilation
  • Internal Injuries

Since this crime is considered a Class 4 felony, it is punishable by imprisonment for two to ten years and a fine that does not exceed $ 100,000.

VA. Code 18.2-63 Carnal Knowledge of Child between 13 to 15 Years Old

Under VA. Code 18.2-63 it is unlawful to engage in sexual intercourse with a child who is between the ages of thirteen and fifteen. Such an offense is considered a Class 4 felony under Virginia laws.

However, any sexual intercourse of a child between thirteen years or fifteen and an accused who is three years or older is a Class 6 felony. If the consenting minor is less than three years younger, the accused is guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor.

Please note, the actual birth dates of the accused and the minor are considered to determine whether they are three years older or younger.

The penalties that come along depends on the Class of offense that one falls in. For a Class 4 felony, the penalties that apply include two to ten years of imprisonment and a maximum of $ 100,000 fine.

In Virginia, a Class 6 felony is considered a wobbler. Therefore, one can be accused of a felony or a misdemeanor. For a felony, one can face one to five years of imprisonment, while a misdemeanor carries a maximum of one year of imprisonment and fine that can amount to $ 2,500.

Finally, if you are charged with a Class 4 misdemeanor, the possible punishment includes a fine that can reach a maximum of $ 250.

Find a Virginia Criminal Attorney Near Me

There are a lot of complicated aspects that one has to consider in a case that involves a contribution to juvenile delinquency. That’s why it is crucial to seek professional legal involvement to help you win the case or have the charges reduced. Not all criminal attorneys who present themselves as eligible are good enough for your selection. You should find a criminal attorney who is committed and have to experience this kind of case. Virginia Criminal Attorney has the best criminal attorney within Fairfax, VA, and Northern Virginia who can help in this kind of case. Contact us at 703-718-5533 to schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys.