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Are parents liable for a child's DUI?

Although Indiana has one of the lowest DUI rates in the country, there is still a sizable number of people who lose their lives each year as a result of drunk driving. In 2014, approximately 239 people died on Indiana roadways in alcohol-related crashes.

Driving under the influence of alcohol is dangerous for anyone, but it is particularly dangerous for people under the age of 21. A child can face numerous consequences, including everything from losing college scholarships to facing jail time. However, there are some circumstances where the parents can face penalties as well for the actions of the child. These situations have their limits, and a parent's liability ultimately comes down to specific circumstance. 

Civil liability

In the event a child younger than 18 causes any kind of property damage, the parents will be liable. This is in accordance with the family car doctrine, which states that whomever owns the family car is liable for any damage that car does. This means if a drunk teenager gets in a car accident, then the parents are liable to the other driver in repairing any damages. The parents will not face any jail time on behalf of the child, but they can certainly face a lawsuit in a civil trial. 

Criminal liability

It is extremely rare for parents to face any criminal consequences for a child who commits a DUI. Most of the time, parents can only face criminal liability if they are directly responsible for the criminal activity committed by the child. However, if parents supplied the child with alcohol beforehand, then they could face heavier consequences. Perhaps the parents did not see the harm in allowing the teenager to have a couple beers with dinner but then that teen drove later. Even if the parents do not hold any criminal liability, they will still be on the line for covering all of the costs of hiring legal counsel for the teen as well as any treatment fees. 

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Todd L. Sallee, Attorney at Law

155 East Market Street, Suite 450
Indianapolis, IN 46204

Phone: 317-643-5507
Fax: 317-630-4824
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