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Kids Dancing In the Streets = Jail Bird Blues

July 4, 2016

Be careful the next time you make your child prodigy (Little Johnny) perform his jazz flute solo in the local music hall, festival, or even the next homecoming parade, as you may be in violation of the W.Va. Code 61-8-25. Take a look for yourself:

§61-8-25. Requiring children to beg, sing or play musical instruments in streets; penalty.

Any person, having the care, custody, or control, lawful or unlawful, of any minor child under the age of eighteen years, who shall use such minor, or apprentice, give away, let out, hire or otherwise dispose of, such minor child to any person, for the purposes of singing, playing on musical instruments, begging, or for any mendicant business whatsoever in the streets, roads, or other highways of this state, and any person who shall take, receive, hire, employ, use or have in custody, any minor for the vocation, occupation, calling, service or purpose of singing, playing upon musical instruments, or begging upon the streets, roads or other highways of this state, or for any mendicant business whatever, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not less than five nor more than one hundred dollars.§ion=25#08

Okay, so maybe the title of this article is a strict reading of the statute, but we still think the law is a little antiquated and it is within the realm of possibility that an overzealous prosecutor could pull this rabbit out of his hat in the right set of circumstances. This is just one example of a law that needs to be cleaned or updated from the books in West Virginia. If you actually read the full version of the statute, you'll see that it is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not less than $5 nor more than $100 dollars. Some would argue that the punishment is far too lax and merely a slap on the wrist. One suggestion would be to bring the penalty more in line with a criminal sanction (jail) instead of a nuisance penalty ($5-$100) that would truly serve the purpose of protecting children from exploitation.

I know that I can't help but imagine a whole set of parents "paraded" into magistrate court for forcing Little Johnny and Little Suzie to play jazz flute in the High School marching band against their will. At least if they read this article they make think twice about forcing a dose of school spirit onto Little Johnny.

The takeaway. If you find yourself being charged by the State of West Virginia for violating this criminal statute or some other criminal statute with a more severe penalty, then give us a call. We're more than willing to listen in a free consultation and defend you throughout the criminal process. Call us at 304-752-7715 to speak about your criminal matter today.

-- Authored by Steven S. Wolfe, Esq.

* This article was written to highlight the unusual application of an otherwise meaningful law that was intended to protect the welfare of children from forced servitude and panhandling. We do not make light of the legitimate cases prosecuted that protect child welfare.*