Definition of Contributing to Child Delinquency
The offense of “contributing to child delinquency” is defined under Section 827.04, Florida Statutes. Under the law, any person who:
- Commits any act which causes, tends to cause, encourages, or contributes to a child becoming a delinquent or dependent child or a child in need of services; or
- Induces or endeavors to induce, by act, threat, command, or persuasion, a child to commit or perform any act, follow any course of conduct, or live in a manner that causes or tends to cause such child to become or to remain a dependent or delinquent child or a child in need of services
commits a misdemeanor of the first degree, as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083 [Florida Statutes].
To prove the crime of contributing to child/minor delinquency in Florida, the prosecution must establish any one of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The defendant knowingly engaged in a course of conduct, which caused, tended to cause or encourage, or contributed to the victim/child to become a delinquent or child in need of services; or
- The defendant, by act, threat, command, or persuasion, induced or endeavored to induce the child/victim to perform any act, follow any course of conduct, or live so as to cause or tend to cause the child/victim to become a dependent child, remain a dependent child, become a delinquent child, remain a delinquent child, become a child in need of services, or remain a child in need of services.
A “delinquent act” is defined as “a violation of any law of this state, the United States, or any other state which is a misdemeanor or a felony or a violation of a county or municipal ordinance which would be punishable by incarceration if the violation were committed by an adult.” Fla. Stat. §984.03(55) (2012).
Under Section 984.03(9), Florida Statutes, a “child in need of services” means a child found by the court:
- To have persistently run away from the child’s parents or legal custodians despite reasonable efforts of the child, the parents or legal custodians, and appropriate agencies to remedy the conditions contributing to the behavior. Reasonable efforts shall include voluntary participation by the child’s parents or legal custodians and the child in family mediation, services, and treatment offered by the Department of Juvenile Justice or the Department of Children and Family Services; or
- To be habitually truant from school, while subject to compulsory school attendance, despite reasonable efforts to remedy the situation; or
- To have persistently disobeyed the reasonable and lawful demands of the child’s parents or legal custodians, and to be beyond their control despite efforts by the child’s parents or legal custodians and appropriate agencies to remedy the conditions contributing to the behavior. Reasonable efforts may include such things as good faith participation in family or individual counseling.
The term “dependent” child is defined in Section 39.01(15), Florida Statutes. A child found to be dependent means a child who is found by the court:
- To have been abandoned, abused, or neglected by the child’s parent or parents or legal custodians;
- To have been surrendered to the department, the former Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services, or a licensed child-placing agency for purpose of adoption;
- To have been voluntarily placed with a licensed child-caring agency, a licensed child-placing agency, an adult relative, the department, or the former Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services, after which placement, under the requirements of this chapter, a case plan has expired and the parent or parents or legal custodians have failed to substantially comply with the requirements of the plan;
- To have been voluntarily placed with a licensed child-placing agency for the purposes of subsequent adoption, and a parent or parents have signed a consent pursuant to the Florida Rules of Juvenile Procedure;
- To have no parent or legal custodians capable of providing supervision and care;
- To be at substantial risk of imminent abuse, abandonment, or neglect by the parent or parents or legal custodians; or
- To have been sexually exploited and to have no parent, legal custodian, or responsible adult relative currently known and capable of providing the necessary and appropriate supervision and care.
Penalties for Child Delinquency
In Florida, contributing to child delinquency is classified as a first degree misdemeanor, with penalties of up to one year in jail or twelve months of probation. Additional penalties may include fines, court costs, restitution awards, community service, supervision by the Department of Children and Families, and other court-ordered sanctions.
There are multiple defenses available under Florida law to contest a charge of Contributing to Child Delinquency / Dependency / Child in Need of Services. Where the accused is charged with “knowingly” contributing to the delinquency, a lack of knowledge may serve as a complete defense to the charge. Lack of causation may serve as another defense if the accused’s actions did not actually induce, tend to induce, cause, or tend to cause the alleged delinquency or dependency or need for services. There may also be factual disagreements about the defendant’s conduct, and legal reasons the child would not be classified as delinquent, dependent, or as a child in need of services.
If you have been accused of Contributing to the Delinquency of a Child or Contributing to Child Dependency or Need of Services in Palm Beach County, Florida, you may have defenses available to contest the charge or to minimize potential penalties. Contact our West Palm Beach Criminal Lawyer today for a free consultation.