In Florida, contributing to the delinquency or dependency of a child can be either a misdemeanor or a felony. The offense is very broad, and can be used to prosecute a wide variety of actions. A 22-year-old man who impregnates a 15-year-old girl, an adult who serves alcohol to someone under the age of 18, and a parent who fails to send his or her child to school for an extended period of time could all be charged with contributing to the delinquency or dependency of a child.
Under Florida Statute 827.04, any person is guilty of this offense if they:
- “Commit any act which causes, tends to cause, encourages or contributes to a child becoming delinquent or dependent child or a child in need of services; or
- Induce or endeavor to induce, by act, threat, command, or persuasion, a child to commit or perform any act, follow any course of conduct, or lie 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.”
Making Sense of the Statute
You’re probably wondering what some of these terms mean. For the purposes of this statute, a child is a person under the age of 18. If you’re wondering what is meant by “delinquent,” Florida Statute 984.03 defines a delinquent act 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.”
984.03 defines a child in need of services as a child who has been found by a 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.
- To be habitually truant from school, while subject to compulsory school attendance, despite reasonable efforts to remedy the situation…and through voluntary participation by the child’s parents or legal custodians and by the child in family mediation, services, and treatment offered by the Department of Juvenile Justice or the Department of Children and Families; 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.”
Contributing to the delinquency or dependency of a child is generally a first degree misdemeanor. However, in the event that someone 21 years of age or older impregnates a child under the age of 16, the offense is a third degree felony.
What to Do If You’ve Been Charged
A misdemeanor may not sound like it would carry a heavy sentence, but being convicted of a first-degree misdemeanor like contributing to the delinquency of dependency of a child could land you in jail for up to a year. If you’re facing this charge, you should seek legal counsel before it’s too late. You can reach Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney Mark S. Lowry by phone or by email for a consultation on your case.