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Is it a Crime to Commit a Crime in Front of a Child?

By Hager & Schwartz, P.A.

January 29, 2020

The Florida government is concerned with the welfare of children and takes actions to protect their best interests. If you commit a crime in front of a child, you are hampering the government’s aims. As such, you could be facing criminal accusations for engaging in this type of conduct, and if you are found guilty, you could be sentenced to jail and/or be fined.

Contributing to the Delinquency of a Child

Engaging in criminal conduct in front of a child puts them at risk of harm or could make it as if such behavior is acceptable. This could potentially lead to the child not receiving the care necessary for their survival or a pattern of delinquent behavior that could lead to a life of crime. Florida Statute § 827.04 explicitly forbids this type of conduct and imposes harsh penalties upon violators.

Under the contributing to the delinquency of a child law, it is illegal to engage in any activity that can lead to a child becoming:

  • Delinquent: Someone who violates laws set by local, state, or federal governments
  • Dependent: A child who, among other things, is abandoned abused, or neglected by their parents or at risk of suffering such consequences
  • In need of services: A child for whom there are currently no legal actions ensuing concerning their welfare or possible delinquency

If you commit a crime in front of a child, you could be charged not only with contributing to the delinquency of a minor but also the underlying offense. For instance, say you take your child to a store and decide to steal merchandise. You could be charged with theft as well as contributing to the delinquency of a child.

Additionally, it’s not just committing a crime in front of a child that could result in charges being levied against you. Looking closely at the statute, you can see that it states that committing "any act" is an offense. Thus, any behavior you engage in that could put a child at risk of becoming delinquent, dependent, or in need of services can result in a misdemeanor charge.

It’s also unlawful for you to make a child engage in an act that would contribute to their delinquency. This means that whether you take action yourself or induce a child to do it – whether by threat, command, or persuasion – you’re committing an offense.

Also, take note that a juvenile court does not have to adjudicate the child delinquent for you to be charged under Florida Statute § 827.04. The fact that you committed any act that can harm a child is enough to prosecute you.

What Are the Consequences of Committing a Crime in Front of a Child?

Contributing to the delinquency of a child is a first-degree misdemeanor. If you’re convicted, you could be sentenced to up to 1 year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.

Keep in mind that if you actually committed a crime in front of a child, you could be charged with that underlying offense. Returning to our earlier example, suppose the item you stole was valued at $800. If you’re found guilty of third-degree grand theft, you could be facing up to 5 years in prison and/or up to $5,000 in fines.

Being convicted of a crime can have detrimental effects on your life, which is why it’s important to fight your charges. At Hager & Schwartz, P.A., our attorneys have experience as former prosecutors and can help defend your case. For effective legal counsel in Miami and the surrounding areas, call us at (305) 330-1360 or contact us online today.