California law is strict when it comes to children affairs. Remember, children are the most vulnerable members of society. Thus, they deserve protection, consideration, and care. Child endangerment is a serious crime with harsh penalties, including hefty fines and lengthy jail terms. You may face conviction under various circumstances.
Prosecutors are always under pressure to aggressively prosecute criminals with offenses against minors, making the cases prone to rash judgments. A conviction for the crime might attract significant impacts on your life. So, you want to work closely with your criminal defense attorney as soon as the police arrest you. Remember winning your case could depend on the time you inform your criminal defense attorney.
At Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, we represent guardians, parents, or anyone accused of child endangerment. We build solid defenses to ensure you receive the best legal representation. Thus don’t hesitate to call or contact us as soon as the police arrest you over a suspicious child endangerment case in Riverside, CA. Contacting us earlier will give us enough time to gather evidence, review your case and build a strong defense.
Overview of Child Endangerment
As mentioned above, children are the most vulnerable members of the community. That’s why the law will take special note when protecting them from exposure to a dangerous environment that might trigger harm and injuries to them. Child endangerment laws are outlined under California PC 273a. The statutes also require the other members of the society to play a role in caring for the children. It means a passer-by may report you when they feel your actions pose a risk to a child's life. Also, other groups of professionals must report cases of child endangerment.
Thus many people face conviction for the crime due to its strict laws. To skip conviction for the crime, you must understand the elements of the crime, penalties, and punishments. When you face conviction, the first thing you want to do is contact your criminal defense attorney and abstain from providing information about the circumstance or answering questions about the case unless your criminal defense attorney directs you.
The Legal Meaning of Child Endangerment
As per the California penal code 273, the crime involves exposing a child to harsh or dangerous conditions or allowing someone else to expose a child to similar situations without taking any legal action to defend them from obtaining injuries. Punishing a child is not considered child endangerment in many situations. However, when a parent administers extreme punishment where unwanted, then the event becomes a child endangerment. For example, when you as a parent spank your child with your hand, the court will not consider the case as endangerment. However, when you spank the child using a heavy object that might attract severe injuries, the situation becomes a crime.
Primarily, child endangerment involves imposing physical or mental pain on a minor. The court must prove you intended to commit the crime. The nature of the injuries sustained will also play a great part in determining your intentions on the child. Acts that may constitute the basis of abusing the child include pushing, burning, slapping, choking, shaking, tossing, and striking the child.
Example: A parent leaving their children with someone known to be negligent, reckless, or violent will attract child endangerment charges. Also, when you allow your child to access deadly weapons like drugs and weapons, you will face charges for the crime. Again, behavior or acts exhibited in the presence or towards a child-like possession of illegal drugs, sale or use, dangerous home conditions, reckless driving will all attract child endangerment charges. Lastly, another common example of the crime will involve parents or caregivers leaving their children alone or unattended in a hot vehicle.
Elements of Child Endangerment
The law uses harsh-sounding language, which might be misleading, such asin terming the behavior as cruel, inhumane punishment, or traumatic. Before you face the conviction, however, the prosecution team has the task of proving the elements of the crime. Remember, when the prosecutor fails to prove the elements of the crime, you will then not face conviction. The elements are:
You were involved in any of the following:
- Intentionally authorize or cause a child under your care to sustain injuries.
- You intentionally imposed unjustifiable psychological or physical pain on the alleged child.
- Authorize or cause a child to endure unwarrantable psychological suffering or physical pain.
- Willfully impose untenable mental suffering or physical pain on your child.
The prosecution team has the task to prove your actions imposed permitted or inflicted a child to undergo suffering. But the fact your acts were willful doesn’t mean you had a certain intent to inflict the suffering. Unjustifiable pain is considered as excess pain under unnecessary conditions.
You Were Negligent of Your Acts
A behavior is considered criminally negligent when it's aggravated, reckless or gross in a manner against common sense. Then the court may find you negligent when you act differently than a reasonable person could have under similar situations. The court presumes you might have known your actions would hurt someone else. A good example of criminal negligence is when you, as a parent, leave your child in an environment full of flammable gasses.
While Disciplining the Child, You Didn’t Act Reasonably
The law allows you as a child to reasonably punish your child. Also, it allows you to conduct corporal punishment on them. However, the key term here is “reasonable” and is evaluated by whether your punishment was excess or warranted under the situation. For example, the court would consider it reasonable to spank your child but unreasonable to use metal to punish them. So, the judge will consider and evaluate the situation which attracted the allegation and decide whether the discipline was reasonable. Ensure your attorney is keen on how the prosecutor proves the elements of the crime. Remember, they will use the prosecutor's weakness to build a defense.
The Potential Penalties for Child Endangerment in California
When you face charges for committing child endangerment in California, the punishment and penalties will vary depending on the nature of the case. When the case involves significant body injuries, the court will consider it as a wobble. It means you will face either a felony or misdemeanor charge. When the court considers it a misdemeanor, you will face the following penalties:
- A fine not exceeding $1,000.
- Remain in a county jail for at least six months.
- Serve informal probation.
Alternatively, when the court considers your case as a felony, you will face the following penalties:
- A fine not exceeding $10,000.
- A strike under the state's three-strike laws.
- Serve a felony probation.
- Remain in state prison for a period between two and six years.
Sentencing Enhancement for Child Endangerment
When the child suffers serious injuries, the court will impose sentence enhancement under California PC 12022.7:
- When your actions lead to the death of the child, you will face additional four years.
- When you impose significant body injuries on your child, you will serve an additional of between three and six years on your sentence.
Child Endangerment Probation in California
Due to the severity and the nature of the crime, the probation for child endangerment comes with unique conditions/terms. When the court grants you probation, the probation term will come with the following conditions:
- Serving mandatory probation for four years
- Attending a counseling program for 12 months
- A protective order to shield the alleged victim from violent behaviors, which include staying away condition or residence exclusion
When you committed the crime while impaired or under the influence of drugs, you will have to abstain from the substances during the probation. Also, the probation experts will conduct random drug testing. The court will also drop certain conditions when they are not in the best interest of justice. When the court grants you probation, ensure you observe the conditions of the probation. Failure to observe the conditions will attract additional punishments.
The Potential Defenses for Child Endangerment
Defending a case for child endangerment might be a challenging process, especially when it includes testimony from the alleged child. It might even seem next to impossible when the media jumps into the case. However, the state’s law allows you to fight the charge by using various potential defenses provided you used reasonable punishment to discipline the child. Your behavior won’t be against the law when your criminal defense attorney can convince the court, prosecution team, or the jury the punishment is reasonable. The success of your case will depend on the criminal defense attorney you choose. A skilled attorney is best for the best outcomes of your case. The attorney will challenge the court by using the following defenses:
Lack of Intent
You will not face conviction for the crime when it's open. You had no intent to commit the crime. Thus the prosecution team must prove you willfully acted towards the crime. Willful means you acted intentionally and with knowledge of the potential outcomes. It doesn’t only mean you had the purpose of causing harm but also that you committed the act that attracted the harm. So, your skilled criminal defense lawyer will argue you didn’t have the willfulness to cause the injury; however, you accidentally committed the crime.
For example, when your ex-partner picks up your child and they end up sustaining harm, you will not become responsible for the acts. Thus the court will consider dropping your charges. Remember to discuss the situation of your case openly with your criminal defense attorney as early as possible.
No Criminal Negligence Evidence
The prosecution team then must prove your negligence towards the child. A mistake in judgment, inattention, or carelessness will not equate to child endangerment in California. It means they must show you acted in disregard to human life. However, your criminal defense attorney might argue that no one is perfect and that you were not negligent towards the child. Remember, you will not face conviction for the crime when the prosecution team cannot prove your negligence behavior. Thus the judge will consider either reducing the charge or dropping the case.
As discussed above, the law allows every parent in California to punish their children reasonably. The corporal or discipline here includes the punishment you impose to the physical or body punishment. However, you don't violate the law when your criminal defense attorney can convince the court your actions were reasonable. Also, the defense attorney may convince the court your actions were warranted and you did not use excess punishment. Upon doing so, the jury will consider dropping the case or reducing the charge.
Another common defense for child endangerment is false accusations. The charge for the crime may arise as a result of debatable battles from custody. Most events for false allegations may arise due to the following:
- Your child makes a false accusation or statement against you.
- Spouse, ex-spouse, or your in-laws make a false statement because of anger, revenge, or jealousy.
The state’s law requires a group of professionals to report any issue on child abuse, neglect, or endangerment; failure to report will attract misdemeanor charges. The professionals include clergy, social workers, school administrators, doctors, and nurses. Ensure you work closely with your competent criminal defense attorney. The attorney will challenge the validity of the allegations against you since the professionals might conclude without examining or evaluating the initial circumstance. The court may consider reducing your charges or dropping them when the police wrongly arrest you without reading your Miranda rights.
The Age of the Alleged Child
As per California laws, a victim of child endangerment must be aged below 18 years. Thus when the alleged victim is aged above 18 years, you will not face the charges for child endangerment. However, you may face a different charge. Thus you need to investigate the age of the victim through the help of your criminal defense attorney. Ensure the victim provides their identifying information for you to know their respective ages and whether they are proper candidates for child endangerment.
Sometimes the child might die because of an easily treatable disease or illness. As a parent, you may seek an exemption to child abuse by arguing the death occurred due to religious beliefs. The defense will allow you to escape the charges for child endangerment since the court will either drop the case or reduce the charges.
The Injury Occurred Due to Something Else and Not Child Endangerment
You would not face charges unless the harm occurred as a result of gross carelessness or recklessness. For instance, an accident may include punishing the child while they are on a bike and then fall and sustain severe injuries. When the child suffers harm due to an accident, you may use the defense to fight the charge for child endangerment. Thus the court will drop the charges.
Other Related Offenses to Child Endangerment
Child endangerment in California is charged alongside other crimes. The crimes are charged similarly as child endangerment. However, their penalties will differ due to the nature and the facts surrounding each crime. Remember, every crime is unique. They include:
Involuntary Manslaughter – Penal Code 192b
Involuntary manslaughter involves the unintentional killing of another person while engaging in a crime considered not a severe felony. Before you face conviction for the crime, the prosecution team must prove the elements of the crime. The elements include:
- You engaged in the offense with criminal negligence.
- You conducted an infraction, misdemeanor, or a legal act performed illegally.
- Your behavior caused the death of another person.
The courts in California consider involuntary manslaughter as a felony offense. Thus when you face charges for the crime, you will serve a probation term, pay a fine not exceeding $10,000, and remain in jail for up to 4 years. Speak with your criminal defense attorney immediately after your arrest to convince the court to reduce or drop the charges.
Fortunately, you may fight the charges for involuntary manslaughter. It would be best to work closely with your criminal defense attorney to help you build a strong defense to challenge the prosecutor's evidence. The potential defenses for the crime include:
- You committed the crime while acting under self-defense.
- The death occurred by accident.
- You were falsely accused or arrested.
- The prosecutor's evidence was insufficient.
Child Abuse – California PC 273
Child abuse involves imposing physical injury or cruel punishment on a child aged below 18 years. The injury might be serious or minor-attracted by direct application of excessive force. So, it means your acts were intentional and not by accident. Thus one of the key elements of the crime is willful. So, the prosecutor must prove you willfully aced to cause the injuries or harm to the child.
The crime is a wobble in California, so you will either face felony or misdemeanor charges. You will remain behind bars for 12 months for a misdemeanor or pay a fine not exceeding $6,000. Alternatively, when a felony, you will remain behind bars for six years or pay a fine not exceeding $6,000.
Fortunately, you may fight the charges for child abuse. But you want to hire a competent criminal defense attorney to help you gather strong evidence and build a defense to challenge the court. Thus the attorney may use any of the following common defenses to fight the charge:
- The injury or harm occurred accidentally.
- As a parent, you exercised reasonable discipline.
- The victim falsely accused you.
- The alleged accident did not occur as a result of child abuse.
Failure to Provide Child Necessities – California PC 270
Under penal code 20, as a parent, you are responsible for providing basic needs for your child. So, failing to do so is violating the state. The necessities include shelter, medicine, food, and clothing. Before facing conviction for the offense, the prosecutor has the task of proving all the elements of the crime. The elements include:
- You are the parent of the alleged child.
- You failed to provide the child’s necessities willfully.
- You did not provide for the alleged child.
The criminal courts in California consider the crime as a misdemeanor. Thus it's opposed to infractions or felony charges. Neglecting your children in California is punishable by a fine not exceeding $2,000 and a 12 months jail term.
The good news is the law allows you to fight the charge. However, fighting the charges alone might be a challenging process. That’s why it’s recommended you seek legal help from a skilled criminal defense attorney to help you fight the charge. The attorney may use the following defenses:
- You were subject to false accusations.
- You had a lawful excuse.
- You had no willful act.
Lewd Acts With a Minor
When the case of child endangerment involves the improper touching of the minor with sexual purposes or involves exposure of the child to sexual content, you will face additional charges for lewd behavior with the child. The punishment and penalties you will face will depend on the age between you and the child, the child's age, and your duty towards the child, for instance, a parent or caregiver.
Contact a Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
A conviction for child endangerment is a serious offense that might result in losing your parental rights, among other penalties. For instance, you will pay hectic fines and remain behind bars for a long period. It's paramount you inform your criminal defense attorney. The attorney understands the California children laws and will offer you legal advice.
If you face a child endangerment charge, contact a seasonal defense attorney right away. At Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, we have extensive experience protecting parents facing child endangerment charges in Riverside, CA. We will build a strong defense to challenge the prosecutor's evidence and ensure you obtain the best possible outcome of your case. Contact us at 951-946-6366 and speak with our skilled attorneys for a free consultation.