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Michigan Court: Parents Can Share Criminal Responsibility for Child’s Gun Crimes

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Michigan Court: Parents Can Share Criminal Responsibility for Child’s Gun Crimes

Michigan Court: Parents Can Share Criminal Responsibility for Child’s Gun Crimes

by Van Den Heuvel Law Office

In a landmark decision, the Michigan court has found Jennifer Crumbley guilty of four counts of involuntary manslaughter for the murders committed by her son, Ethan Crumbley, at Oxford High School. This verdict brings to light the legal responsibilities of parents in preventing their children from committing gun crimes. Ethan, who was 15 at the time of the mass shooting, has already been sentenced to life in prison. The case against Jennifer Crumbley centered on her failure to heed clear warnings about her son’s potential for violence. Meanwhile, Ethan’s father, James Crumbley, still faces charges of involuntary manslaughter.

Thought Provoking Questions:

  • Legal Precedent: This is a case where the parent, Jennifer Crumbley, is being criminally charged in connection with her son, Ethan’s original crime. While no one can dispute Ethan’s horrific crime of multiple murders, the question for the Jury was—should his mother be held responsible for his crime? Obviously, the Jury concluded that she should share in the blame and in the criminal consequences. How will this legal precedent change parental responsibility for their children’s crimes going forward?
  • Parental Responsibility:  How will this legal precedent impact parental responsibility for their children’s crimes?   If a parent can be held responsible for the actions of their child, in what other scenarios might a similar verdict apply? Could, for instance, a parent be charged with manslaughter if their 16 year old child borrows a parent’s car and subsequently engages in “road rage” resulting in death? Guns may be only the beginning; kitchen knives or even cars can be lethal weapons.
  • Parental Notice: How will the interplay between increasing privacy standards for children as young as 12 or 13 whose doctors and school counselors may be precluded from sharing mental health or other concerns with the child’s parents juxtaposed with this legal precedent of criminal responsibility shake out?

This case may be an outlier as parents have not traditionally been held criminally liable for the actions of their children. However, it does also highlight the evolving legal landscape regarding gun safety and parental responsibility. For more on this topic see;

https://www.npr.org/2024/02/07/1229723108/michigan-court-rules-parents-can-share-criminal-responsibility-for-childs-gun-cr

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