5 Ways Being a 'Cool Dad' Can Get Illegal

By Andrew Chow, Esq. on June 14, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A father's day with the kids can become criminal if a dad's not too careful. The urge to show your children that you're a cool dad must be balanced by making sure they're safe at all times.

Some recent "bad dads" in the news have called attention to potential legal consequences when watching children on your own. Here are five scenarios in which a father could face criminal charges:

  1. Leaving kids alone in a car. Not just dads, but moms also get in trouble for leaving kids unattended in a car while running errands. This is explicitly illegal in 15 states, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. You can also get arrested for child endangerment, and your kids could be removed from your custody while authorities investigate.

  2. Motor-vehicle horseplay. Moving vehicles are dangerous, so dads should refrain from any horseplay that involves a child hanging out a moving car's window, or sitting on a car's hood, trunk, or roof. This has led to the recent arrest of dads in Texas and Indiana.

  3. Driving home (drunk) from sporting events. Taking kids to a ballgame is a common way for fathers to spend the day with children. But if a dad is caught driving drunk on his way home, and children are in the car, he could face harsher penalties in 41 states and the District of Columbia, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

  4. Teen parties. Teenagers get into all sorts of trouble, and can take dads down with them. If kids hold a party where underage drinking or illegal drug use takes place, a chaperoning father could be held liable and charged with contributing to the delinquency of minors.

  5. Spanking and corporal punishment. In general, it's OK to spank a child, but the force must be reasonable and appropriate. One parent's idea of appropriate, however, can appear abusive to others -- for example, the California father arrested for belt-whipping his stepson during a game of catch.

Because state laws are different, it's best to consult a local defense attorney if for some reason a father's day with the kids ends in a legal ordeal.

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