Should a Parent Be Guilty of Their Child’s Offenses Unless Proven Innocent?

Davenport, Iowa apparently thinks so. The City has a local ordinance that holds a parent accountable if their child breaks the law or causes a third party harm.

Accordingly, the ordinance imposes punishments for their children’s infractions on parents.

Parental punishments progress with each succeeding infraction, from a mere warning, to attending mandatory parenting classes at a parent’s expense, to monetary fines starting at $750.

As written, the ordinance requires an “accused” parent to prove that the parent has not been negligent in supervising their child. Failing that, if the City deems the parent responsible, the punishment stands.

Son is arrested for having “pot” and violating the local curfew.

The City of Davenport “punishes” Mother.

Mother takes the matter to court.

At trial, the court rules in Mother’s favor, and awards Mother significant attorney’s fees.

The City of Davenport appeals.

Iowa’s highest court then holds that some of Davenport’s ordinance is unconstitutional, because it deprives parents of due process.

In particular, the court strikes the ordinance provision that relieves the government of having to prove that the parent was negligent and, as written, unconstitutionally shifts the burden of proof to a parent to prove that they were not negligent.

And the appellate court upholds Mother’s victory at trial.

Otherwise, the ordinance stands though and the court approves, conceptually, holding parents accountable for their children’s misdeeds.

But now the law will require the government to put on affirmative proof of the parent’s negligence and, presumably, that that negligence “caused” the child’s misconduct. So, the ordinance no longer stacks the deck in favor of government … and, arguably, now stacks the deck in favor of parents.

Read more in this [Davenport, IO] Quad-City Times news article: Parental responsibility law takes hit from Iowa court and this Des Moines / Ames WOI-DT 5 ABC TV news article: Parts of Parental Responsibility Law Struck Down.