Is parental liability relevant in a statutory rape case?

by Paula
(Sandpoint, Idaho, U.S.A.)

My son had a myspace page and he was "friended" by a girl who had her age posted as 19 next to her picture. He "friended" her back.

Now I know that on myspace you have to check the box agreeing to terms and conditions and if you are 14 or under your page is private. She got around that by having a fraudulent birthdate and then went so far as to set up her page where there was a little box at the bottom that said she was 14. The box was not visible. It would only pop-up if you clicked and dragged the mouse down the page. Something no one would think to do, nor did my son.

Long story short...She met him in person, had sex twice (the second time by her sneaking into his college dorm, going into his room while he slept and waking him up by putting her hand under his blankets). She was on juvenile probation for unrelated incidents and when she told her counselor what she was up to it was reported to her father who took her to the police station to file a report.

The police called my son in and questioned him about her. He freely admitted that he had sex with her because he thought she was 19. It wasn't until the police informed him of her real age that he knew, and went into shock.

Three days later on April 26, 2010 he was arrested for felony rape and the prosecutor added on charges of lewd and lascivious behavior, and sexual abuse of a minor to the charges.

He was in such despair he attempted suicide in August, and was air-lifted to Mercy hospital in Spokane. He currently has incurred approximately $85,000 in medical bills which he cannot pay. He has no medical insurance. As well as that he was unable to finish his second semester and now owes the university about $5,000 with no credit received.

He had adamantly refused to take the plea bargain of pleading guilty to one count of felony rape, because he had not raped her and did not want to be on the sex offender registry.

He fought for seven months and just finally gave up and the day before the trial to everyone's surprise he took the plea. I believe he was just worn out and scared. His sentence was 2-5yrs with a six month rider and probation to be determined at the review set for May 9th.

He had never had trouble with the law, is a good kid, worked hard to get into college, with plans to go into the military. Now all his hopes and dreams have been destroyed.

In the taped interview with the police officer, the girl says her mother had caught her sneaking out of the house a month before and did nothing. I'm pretty sure there must be a curfew if you're on probation as a juvenile. This happened before the second time they had sex and she snuck into his dorm room.

And to top it off her parents have still allowed her to have her myspace page, and although she has changed it around she has her age posted as twenty. Most of her "friends" are young men from between the ages of 18-25 and I believe it will just be a matter of time before another young man is in my sons position.

So my question is: Can the parents of a minor child be held liable for her actions that caused harm? Is there anything that can be done? Thank you.

Visitor Question:
Disclaimer: Information provided in our response is NOT formal legal advice. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Under no circumstances should the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site be relied upon when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Our response does NOT create an attorney-client relationship. Always get a formal case review from a licensed attorney in your area.

ANSWER for "Is parental liability relevant in a statutory rape case?":

There are some statutes (and states) that allow a minor's parents to be financially responsible for the acts of their children such as trespass, truancy and destruction of property (tagging, etc.), however statutory rape is not among them.

The crime with which your son was charged is a strict liability one, meaning that there are really no defenses. It's surprising that your defense attorney or public defender did not explain this. But, in sum, what this means is that if a person over 18 has sex with a minor, they are guilty without regard to whether they KNEW or SHOULD HAVE KNOWN the age of the minor.

The fact that she posted her age as older happens on social networking sites every day sadly. It creates a scenario whereby adults (typically young men) will make the mistake of having sex with a girl who has flat out lied about her age.

When they are called on this behavior, they have no defense. While her conduct may be perceived as egregious, your son's conduct was actually against the law and was more than likely raised to a felony because of her age. It was enhanced by the lewd and lascivious charge due to her young age as well.

Because what he did was actually a crime, you do not have a cause of action against her parents. In fact, they may have a cause of action against your son.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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