“Can my children go to jail for missing school or running away or doing other things that they shouldn’t do?”
Question: I have two boys, ages 12 and 8. They are always getting into trouble, and when I try to explain the law to them, they actually tell me that they can’t go to jail if they get into trouble and that there’s nothing I can do to force them to attend school or stay at home at night. My older boy has even taken my car out while I’ve been asleep. I really don’t know how to argue with them. Can my children go to jail for missing school or running away or doing other things that they shouldn’t do?
Answer: A 12-year-old could be placed on probation or sent to juvenile detention for repeatedly skipping school or for running away. A “child” as found in the Juvenile Code is anyone who is 10 years of age or older, but under 17. A child who is 17 in the State of Texas is treated as an adult if they commit a crime. A child who is under the age of 10 in Texas is considered “unable” to commit a crime and is not culpable for criminal act; however, the state does have an interest in the well being of all children within Texas, and a child younger than 10 could be removed from his or her home because of that type of conduct.
The Family Code in Texas, Title 3, contains the Juvenile Justice Code, and its purpose is to provide for the protection of the public and public safety, promote the concept of punishment for criminal acts, to remove the taint of criminality from children committing certain unlawful acts, to provide treatment, training, and rehabilitation that emphasizes the accountability and responsibility of both the parent and the child for the child’s conduct, to provide for the care, the protection, and the wholesome moral, mental, and physical development of children and to protect the welfare of the community and to control the commission of unlawful acts by children.
Types of unlawful acts of a child include acts that are not crimes if committed by an adult, such as truancy, running away from home, failure to attend school, a violation of standards of student conduct, a violation of a juvenile curfew ordinance or order, a violation of a provision of the Alcoholic Beverage Code applicable to minors only, or some motor vehicle traffic violations.
Unlawful acts also include delinquent behavior by the child. Delinquent conduct is conduct, other than a traffic offense, that violates a penal law of Texas or of the United States, punishable by imprisonment or by confinement in jail, or conduct that violates the Alcoholic Beverage Code, relating to driving under the influence of alcohol by a minor.
Conduct indicating a need for supervision is conduct, other than a traffic offense, that violates the penal laws of Texas of the grade of misdemeanor that are punishable by fine only, the absence of a child on 10 or more days, or parts of days, within a six-month period in the same school year, or on three or more days or parts of days within a four-week period from school, the voluntary absence of a child from the child’s home without the consent of the child’s parent or guardian for a substantial length of time or without intent to return, conduct prohibited by city ordinance or by state law involving the inhalation of the fumes or vapors of paint and other protective coatings or glue and other adhesives and the volatile chemicals itemized in Section 485.001, Health and Safety Code and an act that violates a school district’s student conduct code for which the child has been expelled under.
The reason that the law regarding juveniles who commit crimes or other unlawful acts is found within the Texas Family Code is so that the process a child might find themselves in has a more “family” feel than the criminal process in a truly criminal court, but that certainly does not mean that a child could not enter the legal system for unlawful acts. The “system” is full of juveniles that are either on probation, in detention or even in jail because of their conduct. Parents may also face the system for their failure to control their children.
This article is meant for informational purposes only and not as a substitute for sound legal advice. Direct questions to Ask the Lawyer to firstname.lastname@example.org or via the Dalhart Texan’s facebook page.