man with Handcuffed
Closeup of an handcuffed person. Vignetting in the corners.

If you or someone you know has been charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, don’t make the mistake of thinking it is a small issue.

In some states, this is a felony charge and in the states where it is still a misdemeanor, the judges continue to take it seriously.

First Glance

Each state designs its own laws about what actions constitute contributing to the delinquency of a minor (CDM), however, in most cases, any time you assist, encourage or facilitate a minor to commit a crime, you are contributing to that minor’s delinquency.

Some examples of CDM include:

  • Purchasing alcoholic beverages for minors
  • Allowing minors to use illegal drugs or drink alcohol while in your presence
  • Having a minor help you commit a crime (shoplifting, burglary, drug sales, etc.)
  • Assisting a minor in driving a vehicle without having a license or permit
  • Providing a fake ID so a minor can enter a bar or other adult only establishment
  • Furnishing illegal drugs to a minor
  • Accompanying a minor while the minor commits a criminal act
  • Persuading a minor to commit a crime

The first CDM crime statute was created in the state of Colorado in 1903. Today, every state has a similar criminal statute established, with individualized guidelines.

Who Can Be Charged

In some states, the CDM law is reserved for parents, guardians or other adults who at the time of the crime had custody and control of the minor. In other states, it can be any adult who contributes to a minor committing a crime and because the word “contributing” can be subjective, a judge or jury have some latitude in determining whether you, in fact, committed the crime of CDM.

In fact, in some states, the minor doesn’t even have to commit an actual crime, but merely think about doing it and you can be charged. For example, a minor starts asking friends where he can buy some burglary tools and is caught after getting the tools, but prior to committing a burglary.

Now, he tells the police that you told him about burglary tools, how they are used and suggested that he buy some and break into the local HVAC company and steal copper. You can, in some case, catch a CDM charge if the police believe it.

Exceptions To The CDM Law

Approximately 40 states have exceptions to the law, especially in relation to alcohol. Some examples include the consumption of alcohol for the following purposes:

  • Government research (working undercover in a sting or participating in a medical study) – 4 states
  • Parental consent at home – 6 states
  • Religious reasons (such as taking communion at church) – 25 states
  • Parental permission when the minor is with parents at a restaurant that serves alcohol – 11 states
  • Medical reasons (Alcohol within medications) – 16 states
  • Culinary purposes (Cooking with alcohol while in culinary school)- 7 states

The CDM law of the state in which the act took place is followed, regardless of where you live or the minor in question lives.

Falsely Accused

It can happen. A kid gets caught with drugs or alcohol or committing a crime and in an effort to get out of trouble chooses to lie and say an adult was involved. Naturally, authorities want to know which adult and you might find the finger pointed at you.

This can be a scary scenario as well because you are in the position of having to prove the minor is lying.

The good news is with today’s technology, store security cameras, and witnesses to your whereabouts at the time can help prove your innocence.

Felony Or Misdemeanor

When you are charged with CDM, the level of the charge depends on the state that charges you. Colorado deems it a felony, whereas, Tennessee makes it a misdemeanor.

  • Misdemeanor – a conviction typically carries a year or less in jail or on probation and some court costs and fines. You might also
  • Felony – a conviction of a felony is more serious than a misdemeanor conviction and carries lifelong implications including having a more difficult time finding a job, not being able to work in certain professions and being sent to a state prison, not a county jail.


In many states,  including California, you can be charged with Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor if you are legally responsible to see that a child under 16 attends school and you fail to do so.

Some jurisdictions, such as Ohio, arm the school districts and juvenile courts by allowing parents to be jailed for CDM if their minors have more than five unexcused absences and other measures to change the minor’s attendance have been unsuccessful.

Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor is a serious charge. A conviction can interfere with your future employment, social life, and volunteering opportunities. It can hurt your chances of becoming a foster parent, working in a school, volunteering at a children’s group home and many other things.