CRS 18-6-701 - Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor - Colorado Law

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“Contributing to the delinquency of a minor” — Is it a crime in Colorado?

Top Denver criminal defense attorney explains the Colorado crime of ‘contributing to the delinquency of a minor.’ Learn more about Colorado Legal Defense Gro…


CRS 18-6-701
is the Colorado law that prohibits contributing to the delinquency of a minor. This includes helping or urging children under 18 years old to break the law or to defy court orders. Defendants can be convicted even if they did not realize the child was under 18. It also does not matter if the child did not end up committing a crime. 

Examples

  • Furnishing alcohol or drugs to a minor
  • Keeping a child home from school for no reason ("truancy")
  • Paying a child to deliver drugs

18-6-701 CRS states that "any person who induces, aids, or encourages a child to violate any federal or state law, municipal or county ordinance, or court order commits contributing to the delinquency of a minor."

Penalties

Violating this section a class 4 felony in Colorado. The punishment is: 

  • 2 - 6  years in prison, and/or
  • $2,000 - $500,000 in fines

Teachers and school district employees risk losing their licenses and jobs as well.

Defenses:

Defendants can fight the charges by arguing that:

  1. The charge is based on false accusations; or
  2. The defendant's behavior fell short of contributing to delinquency; or
  3. The child was at least 18 years old; or
  4. The child acted outside of the defendant's control

Below our Denver criminal defense attorneys discuss:

Also see our related articles on giving cigarettes to a minor (CRS 18-13-121) and permitting an unauthorized minor to drive (CRS 42–2–139).

Teen boy in handcuffs after an adult encouraged him to steal in violation of CRS 18-6-701.
Helping a child break the law is prosecuted as a class 4 felony in Colorado.

1. What is contributing to the delinquency of a minor in Colorado?

People violate CRS 18-6-701 by trying to get children under 18 to break the law. It does not matter whether the defendant uses forceful or gentle methods. Everything from paying a child to threatening a child is illegal if the defendant's purpose is to get the child to commit a crime.

Example: Jenny is angry at her neighbor for playing loud music. Jenny sees a young teen walking by and stops her. Jenny tells the teen, "I'll let you swim in my pool if you spray graffiti on my neighbor's fence." Here, Jenny is violating this section. The teen is under 18. And Jenny is inducing the child to deface property with graffiti, which county law forbids.

In the above example, Jenny faces criminal prosecution even if the teen says no. Simply the act of goading a child to be delinquent is enough to violate the statute. Whether the child acts delinquent is irrelevant.1

Also see our article on furnishing alcohol to a minor (CRS 44-3-901).

2. What are the penalties under CRS 18-6-701?

Contributing to the delinquency of a minor is a class 4 felony in Colorado. The sentence includes:

Colorado School District employees or licensed teachers face additional punishment. The court will report the offense to the Colorado Department of Education if the defendant:

These employees may then lose their licenses and/or their jobs.2

Police cuffing a child who shoplifted at the direction of his parent.
CRS 18-6-701 prohibits inducing minors to commit a crime in Colorado.

3. What are common defenses?

Colorado defendants can fight contributing to child delinquency charges. Four potential defenses include:

  1. The defendant was falsely accused.
  2. The defendant did not encourage criminal behavior.
  3. The child was 18 or older.
  4. The child acted on his/her own.

3.1. The defendant was falsely accused.

There are many scenarios where people get falsely accused of violating CRS 18-6-701. Examples include:

  • Angry children trying to get a parent or teacher in trouble.
  • Vengeful exes trying to gain the upper-hand in child-custody disputes.
  • Doctors or social workers who report an adult to the police based on a child's fabrications

In these cases, defense attorneys would launch a thorough investigation. They would gather any relevant eyewitness accounts, video surveillance, text messages, emails, and voicemails. If the D.A. sees it has insufficient evidence to sustain a guilty verdict, the case should be dismissed.

3.2. The defendant did not encourage criminal behavior.

Merely setting a poor example for a child is not contributing to delinquency. Perhaps the defendant's lawful behavior was just misconstrued as criminal.

Example: It is summer. Bill lets his 9-year-old son watch TV all day. Bill's neighbor is concerned and calls the police. The neighbor believes Bill's son will become a delinquent. But Bill is not breaking any law by letting his child watch TV. So the police should not arrest Bill.

If Bill in the above example told the child to steal cable, then Bill could face charges.

3.3. The child was 18 or older.

CRS 18-6-701 charges apply only when the child was under 18 at the time. Young adults often look younger than they are. And many still live with their parents even though they are 18 or older. Sometimes police make arrests not realizing that the child is legally an adult.

The best way to prove age is by producing a birth certificate and/or a driver's license. Once the D.A. sees no children were involved, the case should be dismissed.3

3.4. The child acted on his or her own.

Most children who break the law act independently. No adult induced them to be delinquent. Unless prosecutors can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant encouraged the child's criminality, the charges should not be sustained.

Receptionists waiting for your call.
Call our Denver criminal defense attorneys. 303-222-0330. We offer free consultations.

Call Us For Help . . .

Arrested in Colorado? Contact our Denver criminal defense attorneys. We will fight to get your charges reduced or dismissed.

Call (303) 222-0330. Or fill out the form on this page. Consultations are free.

In California? Learn about contributing to the delinquency of a minor (PC 272).

In Nevada? Learn about contributing to the delinquency of a minor (NRS 201.110).


Legal References

  1. CRS 18-6-701; People v. Miller, 830 P.2d 1092 (Colo. App. 1991). Note that giving marijuana to a minor is a separate offense under CRS 18-18-406; See People v. Graybeal, 155 P.3d 614 (Colo. App. 2007). 
  2. CRS 18-6-701.
  3. People v. Hastings, 983 P.2d 78 (Colo. App. 1999).

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