Golden Gate University Law Review


Lisa Lockwood


This Comment will examine the legal possibility of imposing parental criminal liability for the crimes committed by the direct acts of their children. Part II of this article will describe the elements required to impose criminal liability, specifically for the convictions of involuntary manslaughter and murder by depraved indifference. These elements are then juxtaposed against those required in civil tort law, which are substantially similar and therefore must apply to hold parents responsible for the deaths of third parties. Next, because parental criminal liability cases have not yet occurred, Part III will investigate cases in which the elements required for criminal conviction were satisfied and that are analogous to situations in which a prosecutor might bring a homicide charge against parents for the criminal acts of their child. Part IV will then explain the reasons for the lack of parental criminal convictions despite the application of a strict legal analysis, the result of which does not preclude a homicide charge for the acts or omissions of a parent. Rather, criminal law suggests that liability may be imposed based on the independent conduct of the parent that ultimately resulted in the death of another, not because of the person's status as parent. Finally, Part V will argue that legislators should develop minimum reasonable standards for parental negligence, and will propose that specific negligent homicide statutes be enacted if parents are to be held liable for their own negligent actions.