Can Ohio Parents be Held Responsible for Juvenile Crimes?

April 24, 2019

Being a parent is one of the hardest jobs in the world. It can be especially hard when your child makes poor decisions that lead them down the wrong path. While many parents think they are free from the consequences of their child’s actions, that isn’t always the case.

Most states, including Ohio, have something called parental responsibility laws in place. When a minor causes personal injury or property damage to others, a parent may be held financially accountable for their actions. The reasoning behind such a law is simple. It’s a parent’s legal obligation and duty to properly care for and supervise their children to prevent these types of juvenile crimes from ever being committed. Not to mention, a minor usually doesn’t have the financial means or resources to compensate a victim for damages.

In Ohio, parents and guardians can be held legally responsible for several types of juvenile crimes and offenses:

Property damage and theft

Under section code 3109.09, if a minor child willfully damages property belonging to another, then their parent or guardian can be held liable for up to $10,000, plus reimbursement of the claimant’s costs of having to take the matter to court. This law applies to property damage as well as theft.

If the judgment arises from a school related incident, then the court may order the parent to perform community service instead of making a full payment on the judgment. The number of community service hours required would be specified by the court.

Personal injury due to assault

In Ohio, when a minor child maliciously or willfully assaults someone by force, resulting in bodily harm, the parent of the minor will be held liable to the victim. As is the case with property damage. There is a liability limit of $10,000, including court costs.

Minor’s driving

In Ohio, if a minor is applying for a driver’s license or permit, a parent or guardian’s signature is required. The adult signing the application can also become financially responsible should the minor commit any acts of negligence, or willful misconduct, while driving a vehicle. The minor and the adult are both considered jointly liable. The only way to avoid such liability is if the adult who signed the application can provide proof of automobile insurance, covering the minor child.

Vandalism, desecration, or ethnic intimidation

When a minor child commits willful acts of vandalism, desecration, or ethnic intimidation, the victim can seek recovery from the minor’s parents for up to $15,000, including reimbursement of court and attorney related fees.


Parents who are aware that their child behaves in a dangerous or reckless manner, but fail to take steps to prevent their child from causing harm to others, can still be held liable under Ohio’s non-statutory, common law rules. This can happen even when the parental responsibility laws don’t apply. Common law in Ohio requires parents to take reasonable steps and precautions in order to prevent their child from causing foreseeable harm to others.

These parental laws were never set up with the sole purpose of punishing the parent or guardian. Rather, they were established to encourage more parental involvement, supervision, and control over their child’s activities and whereabouts. These laws were established in hopes to prevent these types of crimes from ever occurring in the first place. While your teen may complain about it now, they will thank you for protecting them from making tragic decisions with life long consequences later. We’re experienced with juvenile laws in Ohio, and we’re on your side. Contact us today for a free consultation.