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Lawrence D. Gorin
Lawrence D. Gorin, Lawyer.
Category: Legal
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Experience:  30+ years of legal expertise. Informed, knowledgeable, helpful.
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If someone is knowingly harboring a runaway child that is 17

Customer Question

If someone is knowingly harboring a runaway child that is 17 and still in school, what is the punishment for that?
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  Lawrence D. Gorin replied 5 years ago.
ANSWER:
     There is no punishment under Texas law for “harboring” a runaway child that is 17 and still in school, since that does not by itself amount to a criminal offense. So long as the 17 y/o is there voluntarily and is free to leave anytime he or she wishes, without restraint, no legal wrongdoing is occurring.   

     You might want to keep in mind that your child will be 18 in less than 12 months and will at that time become an adult in the eyes of the, free of all parental control. Also, at the age 17, if the child has left your home and is refusing to return, your attempt to force the child to return and stay may very well end up as an exercise in futility. Generally, a 17 y/o who “runs away” from the home of the parents is not committing an legal offense. Indeed, the law does not impose any legal requirement compelling a 17 y/o to reside with his/her parents.

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Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Another attorney has answered the question totally differently than you have. Also, our law enforcement officials say that we have parental control as long as he is 17 years old and still in school. So, your answer totally negates what I've been told by our law enforcement officials concerning his age. The other attorney forwarded me the Texas Penal Code that address Harboring Minors that are under the age of 18.
Expert:  Lawrence D. Gorin replied 5 years ago.
FURTHER ANSWER:
Yes, because the child is not yet age 18, you have what the law describes as “parental control.” And this continues even though he is has left your home and has taken up living at some other location.

Your question related to “harboring” a minor.

     Under Texas Penal Code § 25.06 (“HARBORING RUNAWAY CHILD”), a person commits an offense if he knowingly “harbors” a child and he is criminally negligent about whether the child (1) is younger than 18 years; and (2) is voluntarily absent from the child's home without the consent of the child's parent or guardian for a substantial length of time or without the intent to return.

     It is a defense to prosecution for Harboring a Runaway that the actor was related to the child within the second degree by consanguinity or affinity, as determined under Chapter 573, Government Code. or that the actor notified: a law enforcement agency or a person at the child's home of the presence of the child within 24 hours after discovering that the child was voluntarily absent from home without the consent of the child's parent or guardian.
     The offense under this section is a Class A misdemeanor.

     So, in essence, the harboror (the person doing the harboring) must be “criminally negligent” as to the harboree being under age 18 and must also be “criminally negligent” as to the harboree’s being voluntarily absent from the child's home without the consent of the child's parent or guardian for a substantial length of time or without the intent to return. (If the runaway lies and tells the harboror that he/she has been kicked out of the family home, and is therefore not “voluntary absent,” it may make prosecution and conviction rather difficult.

     A person is “criminally negligent” with respect to circumstances surrounding his conduct or the result of his conduct when he ought to be aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the circumstances exist or the result will occur. The risk must be of such a nature and degree that the failure to perceive it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would exercise under all the circumstances as viewed from the actor's standpoint.

IN ANY EVENT.......in view of the contradictory information you have received from another source, you should NOT “accept” the information that I have provided here and, instead, go with the information that is more to your liking. And I wish you all the best and hope that reunification with your child soon occurs.

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