This article is an in depth, practical discussion of Virginia’s charge of Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor . James Abrenio has been handling Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor cases in Northern Virginia for over a decade, and this article was written to answer some of the most common questions he’s received over that time. The information provided here is meant to be a starting off point to help you discuss your case with your attorney.
What is Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor in Virginia?
Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor is defined by Virginia Code Section 18.2-371. Specifically, the offense is committed by any person 18 years of age or older who:
- Willfully contributes to, encourages, or causes any act, omission, or condition that renders a child delinquent, in need of services, in need of supervision, or abused or neglected; or
- Engages in consensual sexual intercourse or anal intercourse with or performs cunnilingus, fellatio, or anilingus upon or by a child 15 or older not his spouse, child, or grandchild.
The Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor statute raises many questions. Below are some issues to consider. This list is non-exhaustive, and before going to Court, you must consult with an experienced criminal justice attorney to determine your options.
What does “willfully contributes to, encourages, or causes” mean?
Virginia courts have considered what it means to contribute or to encourage. In the case of Bibbs v. Commonwealth, the Court found that if a defendant was a willing participant in a minor’s commission of a crime, that’s enough to contribute to or encourage.
However, in Peace v. Commonwealth, a mother did not contribute to or encourage her son’s delinquency when he persisted to smoke marijuana in the family home over her orders not to.
As you might imagine, there are many different actions that can take place between being a willing participant in a minor’s wrongdoings versus actively instructing a minor not to do something illegal. Therefore, if you’ve been charged, your case must be reviewed by an criminal justice attorney to determine if you’ve ran afoul of the law.
What exactly is “any act, omission or condition that renders a child delinquent, in need of services, in need of supervision, or abused or neglected?
In most instances, Contributing deals with an adult that is involved with a minor’s violation of criminal law. For instances, providing a minor drugs or alcohol, helping them steal property, possess a firearm, commit an assault, etc. Generally speaking when an adult is involved in a minor’s commission of a crime, don’t be surprised of the adult is charged with Contributing.
However, other acts can give rise to a contributing charge. For instance, where a parent allowed a child to be in a particular position to be harmed, he/or she may be guilty of contributing. That’s what happened the case of Kilby v. Commonwealth, where Court upheld a mother’s conviction when her child was sexually abused. Before the abuse occurred, CPS informed the mother that the child was in danger of abuse from family members. In response, the mother denied the danger, and prohibited CPS from monitoring the situation.
What’s clear from Section 18.2-371 is that when an adult engages in sexual relations with a minor over 15 years old, contributing is certainly a charge he or she can and will face. There are also likely additional charges that will be issued. Of course, these issues are non-exhaustive.
What are the consequences of Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor in Virginia?
In Virginia, Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor is a Class I Misdemeanor. A Class I Misdemeanor is any offense for which you can be incarcerated for a period of up to twelve (12) months, receive a fine of up to $2,500.00, or both. While these are maximums, the actual jail time and fine you receive depends on the underlying facts of the case, your record, and other variables.
Given that Contributing to the Delinquency of a minor deals with a minor victim, the Court can impose additional penalties to include no contact with the victim, required counseling and education courses to prevent further actions, and other conditions. Failure to complete any such requirements will obligate you to reappear before the court to answer for you failure to comply.
If you are not a US citizen, a contributing conviction can have serious immigration consequences. If you are an American citizen and have a security clearance, such a conviction can also cause issues. Finally, contributing to the delinquency of a minor carries with it the added stigma attached to such a charge. These consequences are not exhaustive and additional, unforeseen consequences can be caused by a conviction.
If you’ve been charge, you absolutely must consult with a skilled criminal justice attorney. If you have any questions or concerns about the consequences of a contributing conviction, give Abrenio Law a call.
What if the Minor (or his/her parents) doesn’t want you to be prosecuted?
Often times, clients take the position that the minor involved in their case (or their parents) does not wish to have the case prosecuted. Keep in mind that the Commonwealth’s Attorney (known in other states as the District Attorney) represents not just the minor, but the entire community. Therefore, simply because the minor or their family does not wish to proceed with prosecution, that does not mean the case will be dropped.
In fact, many times the Commonwealth’s Attorney will force the case forward despite the parties’ wishes. This is because they are concerned about criminal activities involving minors, given minors’ susceptibility to influence.
If you’ve been charged, the wishes of the minor or her parents are certainly not controlling.
How Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor Progresses through Virginia Courts?
If you’ve never been to court before, you may be a bit unfamiliar with the court system and how your Contributing to the Delinquency will proceed. In Virginia, there are two levels of trial courts – district courts and circuit courts. Typically, Contributing to the Delinquency charges begin before the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court (JDR). JDR deals with many types of cases dealing with family matters or juveniles. Given that Contributing to the Delinquency inherently involves a juvenile, it falls within JDR jurisdiction.
When you are given your JDR trial date, that is the date during which your case will likely either be settled by way of a plea agreement or it will go to trial. In some instances, the case may be “continued,” or postponed. However, you should never assume your trial date will be continued.
During the time prior to trial, your attorney will prepare your case for trial. Preparation includes reviewing the information that you provide to him, gathering evidence as necessary, and obtaining “discovery.” Discovery is evidence that the Commonwealth Attorney is required to provide your attorney prior to trial. In Virginia, discovery is very limited. In fact, the Commonwealth Attorney is only required to provide you statements that you made to law enforcement, your criminal record and “exculpatory” evidence. Exculpatory evidence means evidence that would show your lack of guilt. And it is very limited in Virginia, and depends on the facts of each case.
Also, you should be aware that the Commonwealth Attorney is only required to provide discovery “prior to trial.” In many cases, this means literally prior to trial. While some jurisdictions and CAs are more flexible, often times your attorney will not be able to speak with the CA about your case until the morning of trial.
Let’s assume that you declined the Commonwealth Attorney’s plea agreement offer on your trial date, went to trial, and lost. Virginia provides that you have an automatic right to an appeal “de novo.” When you exercise your appeal, your case will move to the circuit court. When it does so, a new judge will hear your case, and the findings of the JDR court are not relevant. If desired, the circuit court also provides you the option of having your case presented before a jury.
Therefore, the right to appeal provides you an avenue of relief if the district court case did not go