Kids today: Court rules if 12-year-old has no money to pay for cleaning up his graffiti, he can get a paper route or rake leaves

A judge did not abuse his discretion by ordering a 12-year-old to pay to clean up the graffiti he sprayed on neighbors' houses - and then extending the kid's probation when he failed to make any payments - the Massachusetts Appeals Court ruled today.

The court rejected the Easthampton teen's argument that making him pay nearly $1,100 to clean up the graffiti he sprayed around his neighborhood is "punitive" and so contrary to the underlying principle of the state's juvenile justice system, which aims at rehabilitation, rather than punishment. He also argued that both state law and contemporary mores frown on young adolescents getting a job, which he said would have been the only way to get the money.

Balderdash, the appeals court wrote in its ruling:

[W]e also reject the juvenile's suggestion that he should be excused from paying restitution because it is contrary to contemporary mores or even "taboo" to permit a juvenile of twelve to sixteen years to earn money by obtaining a paper route, mowing lawns, raking leaves, shoveling snow, baby-sitting, delivering groceries, or by recycling items upon which a deposit had been paid. As the judge properly noted, there exists statutory permission for children as young as nine years of age to participate in the delivery and sales of newspapers, G.L. c. 149, § 69, and there is no statutory prohibition against the other remunerative pursuits ordinarily associated with childhood listed above.

The court also noted the kid had a savings account with $20 in it at the time and that he made no effort to fork over even that to clean up his mess. And it added that extending his probation when he failed to make any payments was not punishment, but a valuable lesson:

When he extended the period of probation, the judge properly sought to teach the juvenile one of life's primary lessons: he is responsible for the actions he takes. Such an order not only provided an opportunity to build the juvenile's character and integrity, but also to promote his life as a law-abiding citizen. The judge's order had the added benefit of instilling in the juvenile the important values of respect for others (as well as their property) and a basic understanding of the value of work and money.

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    Comments

    What about the parents? Why

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    What about the parents? Why can't they pay the fine for their bratty kid's vandalism?

    The ruling discusses that

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    Apparently, to go after the parents, the neighbors would have to sue; in fact, the kid's lawyer used that as an argument as to why ordering him to make restitution was wrong. The court, however, ruled:

    The judge was not required to have the victims pursue a civil remedy as a condition of restitution or in lieu of restitution.

    I can understand that, from a

    By on

    I can understand that, from a legal standpoint.

    At the same time, if your kid messes up someone else's property, a judge shouldn't even be involved. Pay the restitution or work out an installment scheme, and make your kid do chores, get a job, whatever. Oh, and he's grounded. Forever.

    Did these people actually pay a lawyer to try and get his restitution revoked?

    12 y.o. graffiti appeal case

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    You are right, I did not read it closely. Not GBLS. Having said that, a family member worked for a legal services outfit and I was sometimes surprised at how sometimes when they were representing people for one issue, they might represent them for other incidental things, Mission Creep, if you will. Perhaps it is different now, she has been in private practice for 10+ years.

    exactly

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    Did the 12 year old and his lawyer somehow cook this plan up by themselves or are the parents actively trying to _help_ him avoid owning up to his own actions? yeesh

    Paper route?

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    You have to have a car to do one of those these days.

    Babysit? Well, in some states that would mean the parents would get charged with felony child endangerment for letting someone under 18 watch their kids! No joke - I know a woman who was arrested because she let her 13 year old stay in the car with the sleeping baby on a mild day.

    At least MA rejected that "can't be home alone until you are 15" bullshit, but busybodies abound.

    This kid needs to remain under supervision since his idiot parents aren't up to the task, but society needs to make up its fucking mind about what kids are responsible for and what they aren't allowed to be responsible for before sole responsibility for restitution makes any since for a kid this young. I'm tired of the crap about us believing that kids are fully responsible for bad things, but not responsible enough to be given positive responsibilities.

    I pass kids on my way home

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    I pass kids on my way home from work each day delivering the papers by bike, must be local but it's still a job.

    I haven't either

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    I didn't even think there were "paper routes" anymore, especially for kids. I know a few grown people do it in cars, but do that many people even subscribe to newspapers anymore? What decade does this judge live in? "Delivering groceries"? Like Shaw's or Stop & Shop is gonna hire a 12 year old to schlepp groceries around far and wide. And local convenience stores don't deliver. And should a 12 year old be walking right into strange people's houses anyway? And exactly who is going to hire a 12 year old stranger to babysit? And if they do, THEY'RE the ones that should be arrested.
    Much as I hate to admit it, I'm not sure there really are any jobs for 12 year olds anymore.

    What?

    Is it seriously "taboo" for a kid to get a job before age 16 now? No wonder kids do stupid stuff instead like graffiti the neighbors' houses. If he has too much time on his hands and not enough supervision, even a good kid will find no end of dumb shit to do.

    I'm not saying everyone should be as tough as my parents, but the summer I turned 13, they gave me a choice: get a job or they'd sign me up for a volunteer program. I preferred to get paid for my work so I walked dogs, cleaned pools, trimmed bushes and painted front stoops. My brother didn't hustle enough and got to volunteer at a hospital. Neither of us would have had time to tag private property and even if we had, our parents would have made sure we made the money to pay for the damages.

    Not exactly

    The court said it's not reasonable to excuse the kid from paying because of a social more or taboo against a kid under 16 having a job. That doesn't mean that a child under 16 having a job is the social standard as it seemed to be when I was that age in the early 90s.

    What I want to know is if there is some kind of stigma about a kid having a job now - like, is that something only poor kids do now that there are important things like Facebook and Call of Duty to occupy a kid's non-school hours?

    For the most part, I didn't work summers

    And I would never have thought to go around randomly damaging and destroying other peoples' property. I was just raised better than that.

    For a couple of summers when I was 13 and 14 I had a friend whose parents took extended summer vacations to visit family far away. They had me go over to their house daily, take the mail inside, and water and mow the lawn. (Using a gas-engined power mower, no less. The horror!)

    I think if I were the adult in a similar situation today, I'd worry that the kid would get hurt with the mower, and I'd get sued, and then I'd get in trouble criminally for not having worker's comp insurance. The legal climate around hiring a neighborhood kid for casual domestic labor is a whole lot different these days. Not to mention it's illegal for someone younger than 18 to operate power equipment in the course of employment.

    Hey--

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    The muscles a kid might get after a summer of pushing a reel mower around might result in one of those eighth grade transformations--"wow...Johnny got CUTE!"

    We started working at age 12 or 13--surely this kid can find some kind of way to make money. At least it will give him some kind of common sense idea that maybe his neibors can't all afford to have their houses, fences, mailboxes repainted every time he gets a creative urge.

    Luxury!

    Right. I had to get up in the morning at ten o'clock at night half an hour before I went to bed, drink a cup of sulphuric acid, work twenty-nine hours a day down mill, and pay mill owner for permission to come to work, and when we got home, our Dad and our mother would kill us and dance about on our graves singing Hallelujah

    So...

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    You think what? They should take his iPad away for a couple of days? I'm all for whatever--give the kid some scrubbies and a bottle of Goo-Gone or whether toxic crap they use to take graffiti off. $1200 is nothing--probably less than they spent on the lawyer.

    Well said, Sally!

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    My siblings and I were raised better than the kid who vandalized their neighbors' property, so we never even thought to engage in such crap, but I know that if any of us had done something like that, our parents would've made us go and scrub the graffiti off of our neighbors' property and possibly ground us for awhile, as well.

    I think it's reasonable.

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    I think that asking the kid to pay for cleaning up the graffiti is entirely reasonable. Any parent knows that there is a difference between a "consequence" and a "punishment". Punishments are designed to deter behavior by making the kid feel bad or suffer in some way, and therefore he supposedly won't want to do the bad behavior again. An example is losing a privilege, or standing on the street with a sign around his neck to humiliate him. Unlike a punishment, which can be unrelated to the crime, a consequence is a natural response to the crime. He is to clean up the mess he intentionally made. And a temporary job won't harm him in the least. It would have an end-point and he could go back to being a kid after he paid his debt. But you can be sure he'd learn about responsibility in the process.

    Nice to know we still have

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    Nice to know we still have some common-sense Ward Cleaver-type judges on the bench. Aren't you ashamed, Beaver?

    It's "taboo" for teenagers to work?

    That comes as a surprise to somebody like me, who, upon being told by the program director of his hometown Top 40 radio station at the age of 15 that he was too young to legally be hired for the overnight shift, read the labor laws and found an exemption for people working in broadcast media.

    I got hired and rode a bicycle 7 miles from my house to the station at 1:30 in the morning to make my shift, which paid me $6 an hour. I thought it was the greatest thing in the world. And this was in 1999.

    14 years later, it's not a "contemporary more" for teenagers to have jobs. Unreal.

    Did you actually read article? Apparently not.

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    The court said that was not a valid argument. Did you really have a hard time understanding the tremendously dense legaleeze above (sic) or did you just want an opportunity to cement your image here of "youngest kvetching old-timer ever"?

    Are YOU ignorant?

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    Just because SOMEBODY makes an argument in court, doesn't mean that anyone thinks it's actually true. It's common for lawyers just to throw any argument they can think of at the wall of justice in the hope that one of them sticks and is found to have some legal basis.

    Back when I may or may not

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    Back when I may or may not been a young hoodlum, if you didn't pay the restitution, you did community service to work it off. Seems like a simple enough solution.