Proposal to let parents be fined for kids’ crimes heads to TN governor’s desk

A proposal that would allow parents to be fined for their children’s criminal offenses is headed to Tennessee Governor Bill Lee’s desk for approval.

The Republican-dominated House on Monday approved allowing a judge to impose fines of up to $1,000 on the parent or legal guardian of a child who commits a second criminal offense. The Legislature voted 72-24 to send the bill to the governor, after previously securing support from the Republican-controlled Senate as well.

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Supporters say the proposal is needed to hold families accountable for their children’s actions. But Democratic lawmakers warned that the bill unfairly targets working parents who have limited means and may be burdened with fines they may not be able to pay.

The Tennessee State Capitol on January 8, 2020 in Nashville, Tennessee. Tennessee House and Senate Republicans both plan to provide more than $1 billion worth of new tax aid to businesses on Friday, March 29, 2024. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

“We’re not going to solve this problem by criminalizing parents who are doing their best,” said Democratic Rep. John Ray Clemons.

The law, known as the Parental Responsibility Act, allows judges to order parents to pay restitution for law enforcement costs associated with responding to and investigating their children’s criminal offenses, but it is not mandatory. If parents or legal guardians are unable to pay, a judge may order them to perform community service in their place.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. John Gillespie, said the bill’s sponsor “was simply to create a mechanism for judges to exercise and to better hold these parents accountable.” Stated.


During the bill’s consideration, Gillespie said he was assured by state officials that the bill would not apply to foster parents. Democrats questioned that stance and asked Republicans to make a last-minute adjustment to explicitly exempt foster care families, but Gillespie refused.

Lee, a Republican, has not publicly said whether he supports the bill.