Legal Dictionary

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Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor

In general, Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor refers to the crime of an adult inducing, enticing, or encouraging a minor to break the law. Examples include: encouraging a minor to shoplift; furnishing alcohol to a minor; and encouraging a minor to engage in sex.

California has a precise legal definition for this crime in Penal Code section 272(a). It defines Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor as:

  • Any person (adult or minor) who commits an act, or
  • Fails to perform a duty imposed by law
  • That causes or encourages a minor (person under 18 years old) to become or continue to be a dependent child or a delinquent child.

A delinquent child is a juvenile who violates the law by committing a crime. A dependent child is a child from an unfit home, victim of sexual or physical abuse, lacks parental supervision, or is physically dangerous to the public. The crime of Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor punishes those persons who act with general criminal intent or criminal negligence. General criminal intent requires a person to commit the prohibited act or failed to do the required act but must do so intentionally or on purpose. Criminal negligence involves more than ordinary carelessness, in attention, or mistake in judgment. Criminal negligence means to act in a way that creates a high risk of death or bodily injury and a reasonable person would have known that acting in that way would create a risk.

The crime of Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor is prosecuted in California as a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in the county jail and a fine of $2500. Minors Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor can also be prosecuted under this law (Penal Code section 272).

Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor can also be charged against an adult stranger over 21 years of age or older who contacts or communicates with a minor under 14 years of age (who reasonably should have known that the minor was under 14 years of age), to persuade and lure or transport the minor away from a location known by the minor's parents or custodian to be a place where the minor is located with the intent to avoid consent of the minor's parents or legal guardian and without their express consent. Penal Code section 272(b). This crime can be prosecuted as an infraction, punishable by a fine only, or a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in county jail and a fine.

There are a number of legal defenses available to anyone charged with this crime such as false accusations, mistake of age, and consent. If you or someone you know is facing charges of Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor, consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney to learn about your rights, defenses, and any and all legal options.