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Chris T., JD
Chris T., JD, Lawyer
Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 4823
Experience:  I have assisted many customers and clients with their family law questions and I'm experienced in family law litigation.
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I bought a 17-year old child in my neighborhood a cell phone

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I bought a 17-year old child in my neighborhood a cell phone because I was worried she was being locked in her room and I was genuinely afraid she might hurt herself or be hurt by her parents. Many of the other moms in the neighborhood have been concerned about her too. I spoke to her principal, who also was worried and to Job & Family Services. I don't know if JFS opened a file or not. Apparently she used the cell phone to text a 19-year old boy. The parents (one of which is a police officer) found the phone and gave it to my husband cut into pieces. Later that child apparently met the boy somewhere. The parents are now threatening to have me charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Is this really possible? Do I have to at least have to have recklessly done something?

texlawyer :

Good evening. I'll be assisting you with your question.

texlawyer :

In order to be guilty of a crime, you must intend to commit that crime.

texlawyer :

In your case, that means that you must have given her the phone with the knowledge that she would use it for some illegal purpose.

texlawyer :

It sounds like you gave her the phone for legitimate (even commendable) purposes, she just misused it. It sounds like the parents are just upset that you embarrassed them when you took steps to protect their daughter, and now they are just trying to take it out on you by making threats.

Customer:

In Ohio, that does not seem to be the case all of the time. I looked at a case online State v. Moody from 2004 that seemed to say recklessness, but it seems later cases may call it "strict liability."

texlawyer :

The strict liability or recklessness goes to knowledge of the age of the child.

texlawyer :

In other words, simply claiming you thought the child was older than they actually were is not a defense.

texlawyer :

In any event, giving a 17 year old a cell phone is not reckless.

texlawyer :

What State v. Moody means is that while you may not have had the specific intent that the child do something illegal, a defendant's actions must be reckless. That would be like if a parent gave their 13 year old the keys to the car and the child got into a wreck. The adult may not have had the intent for the child to do something dangerous, but clearly giving a 13 year old a car would be reckless.

Customer:

I don't understand. The law is Ohio 2919.24. It just says aid, abet, cause, encourage or contribute to becoming an unruly or delinquent child. There seems to be some debate in ohio about which laws are strict liability and which aren't. My worry is that I may have somehow aided her in being "unruly." Looking online, the case that scared me enough to contact you is State v. Johnson, 2010-Ohio-6301. I think it says it is strict liability unless the law says different?

texlawyer :

From State v. Moody: "The culpable mental state of recklessness applies to the offense of contributing to the unruliness or delinquency of a child"..."The fact the statute contains the phrase 'No person shall' does not mean that it is a strict liability offense." The strict liability part applies to knowledge of the age of the child.

texlawyer :

So, the state would have to prove that it was somehow reckless for you to give her a cell phone. Given the facts as you've described them, I can't see any way they could prove that.

Customer:

do you think any of that has changed since 2004?

texlawyer :

No. That is fairly standard across the country. To impose strict liability would be extremely strange. That would mean that if you gave a 16 a pencil and he poked his eye out with it, the person who gave him the pencil would be guilty of a crime. No court would construe that law in that way. Recklessness or negligence is the standard culpable mental state. There may be situations where the act is so obviously harmful to the child that it is construed to be per se reckless (e.g. giving a child alcohol, etc.). Based on what you've said, you don't have anything to worry about.

Customer:

thank you! now i can sleep!

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