Akron, OH asked in Family Law and Juvenile Law for Ohio

Q: Can my 12 year old kid walk on the sidewalk alone? About 2 miles is the farthest

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1 Lawyer Answer
Matthew Williams
Matthew Williams
  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Cleveland, OH
  • Licensed in Ohio

A: This stuff has become super subjective. I’ve seen folks charged with child endangerment in some really questionable circumstances.

An officer encountering the child is likely to take a bunch of stuff into consideration. What’s the neighborhood like? And I’m not just talking about rich or poor, high crime or low. Is it a residential community or an industrial area? Are there lots of people around or is it relatively abandoned? How articulate and capable does the child appear? How familiar is the child with the area? Does he have a phone? - bike? Is he accompanied by friends? Know your number and address? Are there dangerous road crossings in the course? What’s the destination? If something happens to this kid after I talked to him, will I be blamed for not intervening?

All that stuff is going through their heads and they are trying to decide whether you, the parent, has made a reasonable decision to let him go by himself. It’s not an easy thing.

Bottom line, we are in an era of heightened scrutiny of this sort of stuff. Parents who make reasonable decisions to allow their kids some freedom are getting lumped in with dudes who leave babies in cars.

If you can avoid it, I wouldn’t let a 12 year old walk or bike anywhere outside my sight totally alone and anywhere outside a safe, slow traffic, residential area with friends, or in areas with lots of people around like on the way to school in the morning. I’d want to be sure the child has a phone and knows who to call in case of trouble and that he is capable of telling an officer where he is, where he lives, where he is going, who he is meeting, why, what to do if there is trouble, and doing so without appearing incompetent. But none of that is “legal advice” because legally what is it is not legal is not currently clear.

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