For many bored teens and children in Mississippi, going out and vandalizing someone’s property might sound like a good time. Unfortunately, these acts may result in serious legal consequences. If your child is a minor, you may be liable for damages if they vandalize someone else’s property. Although this might seem unfair, the state must ensure that people are compensated for damage done to their houses, cars, or livestock. Since a child typically does not have the financial means to compensate a property owner for these damages, the responsibility falls instead on the parents.
When am I Liable for My Child’s Vandalism?
There are a number of situations in which you may be held liable for your child’s property damage and vandalism. According to Mississippi Code section 93-13-2, parents are held liable when their children “maliciously or willfully” damage another person’s property.
Vandalism is handled slightly differently. In addition to the penalties for property damage, you may also be liable for specific acts of vandalism committed by your child, such as graffiti.
What are the Penalties if I am Liable?
Under Mississippi law, parents could be held liable for up to $5,000 of property damages. Note that this does not include bodily injury or pain and suffering. As for vandalism, you may be held liable for the cost of repairs/cleaning, plus a fine of up to $500. A slightly antiquated part of this vandalism statute includes an interesting footnote; parents can potentially spend up to six months behind bars because of their children’s offenses. However, this is only enforced when there is overwhelming evidence that the parent knew about the child’s activities and did nothing to prevent them.
When am I Not Liable?
There are a number of ways to prove that you are not liable for your child’s actions. First of all, it will almost certainly have to be proven that you were negligent in some way, and that you acted in a way that directly allowed the property damage or vandalism to occur. The rules surrounding negligence are clearly defined in Mississippi.
For a judge to hold parents accountable for arson committed by a child, they need to see that the parents contributed directly to the child’s malicious actions. For example, a negligent parent might have given their child matches to play with, even though this parent knew of their child’s fascination with fire.
The age of the child is also taken into account by Mississippi judges. If they are of an age where they can participate in adult activities and realistically take responsibility for their own actions, the parent is unlikely to be held liable. Finally, you are never liable if you have had your custody rights taken away by Mississippi courts on a prior occasion.
Getting Legal Help
If you are facing a lawsuit as a result of your child’s vandalism, it is important to seek legal assistance right away. With a qualified, experienced attorney by your side, you can ensure that your legal consequences are mitigated. Contact Vic Carmody Jr., P.A. today, and we can help you move forward efficiently.