In California, child neglect is defined as failure to provide your child with the physical necessities. Child neglect is not a crime that you should take seriously. The State of California seeks to protect the interests of minors and imposes harsh punishment to individuals who put children at risk. If you are charged with child neglect, you risk facing time in jail and paying hefty fumes. Additionally, you can lose your rights over the child to the state, which could be very devastating.
Child neglect charges can be challenging to navigate. Therefore, seeking legal insight is crucial as you proceed with the case. At Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, we will offer you the legal guidance you need to build a strong defense and avoid a conviction or have your charges reduced. We serve clients requiring legal guidance and representation in Riverside, CA.
Overview of Child Neglect
Child neglect or failure to provide is a situation that arises when there is a visible pattern of failure to provide for the basic needs of a child. According to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services, child neglect is an overwhelming omission and is considered a form of child abuse. The issue of child neglect is addressed under California Penal Code 270, and a violation of this law can result in serious legal consequences.
In California, Neglect is divided into two categories:
- General Neglect. General Neglect involves a failure to provide for the adequate basic needs of the minor without the likelihood of threats or physical injury to the child.
- Severe Neglect. You can be charged with failure to protect the minor from severe cases of malnutrition or failure to thrive.
Child neglect falls under child abuse that needs mandated reporting. The following individuals have a responsibility to detect and report signs of Neglect in children:
- Teachers’ aides
- Employees of child day facility or licensed care
- Employees at group homes
- Nurses, physicians, and psychologists
- Religious leaders
- Employees trained to detect child abuse
The mandated reporters will report the issues to the Department of Children and Family Issues, investigate the matter and notify you of child neglect’s criminal charges.
Determining the liable party of child neglect can be a tricky situation. Often, we think of the child’s caretaker since they are legally obliged to provide what they need and protect them. However, changes in caregivers could cause a swift change in the mental and physical performance of the child.
When you face charges for violating California PC 270, the burden of proof lies on the prosecution. Before you face a conviction, the prosecutor must prove the following elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt:
You are a Parent of a Minor Child
California laws regarding child neglect follow the strict definition of a parent and a child. For this statute, a child is any individual under eighteen years. Additionally, an unborn child is protected by these laws. You are considered a parent if you have a legal obligation or other responsibilities towards the child. You may be charged with child neglect if you share any of the following relationships with the alleged victim:
- You are the child’s biological father or mother.
- You are the husband of a woman who conceives through artificial insemination. Even if you were not involved in the procedures, signing consent makes you a parent to the child.
- An adoptive parent
- A foster care parent
You are considered the child’s parent regardless of whether you are married to the other parent. The only parent exempt from this statute is the court terminates one whose legal rights over the child. Your rights can be terminated if you are found unfit to be in the child’s life or you give the child up for adoption. Before the prosecution can secure a conviction against you, it must be clear that you are the child’s parent.
You Failed to Provide the Child with the Necessities
California law defines physical necessities as adequate or appropriate food, shelter, clothing, and medical care. Under CPC 270, medical care could be substituted with remedial care. Remedial care, in this case, is healthcare treatment done through religious performances like prayer. Therefore, you cannot be charged with child neglect if you take your child to a religious healer instead of the hospital. Countless signs could indicate that a child has been neglected. Some of these behaviors are what causes mandated reporters to report possible Neglect:
- Frequent hunger and signs of hoarding in the child
- Small body weight and height for a child’s age
- Illnesses and injuries that appear to be untreated or ignored
- Clothing that is poorly fitting, dirty, or inappropriate for the weather
- Hygiene that is noticeably and consistently poor
- Inadequate supervision and educational Neglect evidenced by frequent absenteeism in school
- Frequent display of strong emotions such as frustration and anger
You acted willfully and Without a Lawful Excuse.
Domestic violence laws in California require a certain level of intent so you can be held liable for criminal activity. You can only be found guilty of child abuse under PC 270 if you acted purposively. If your unlawful actions were accidental or negligent, you could not be convicted of this offense.
Additionally, the prosecution must prove that you did not have a lawful justification to act in the way you did. One of the justifications acceptable under this statute is the lack of enough income to cater to the child’s needs. For example, if you lose your job and are evicted from your apartment, you cannot be charged with child neglect for failing to provide appropriate housing for your child.
However, it is essential to understand that you are required to prioritize your child’s necessities. Therefore, if you spend your money on luxury and unreasonable things at the expense of your child’s basic needs, you can face an arrest and charges for violating Penal Code 270.
All the above elements of crime contain issues that serve as a critical point for investigation and negotiation throughout the prosecution. If one of the elements is not sufficiently supported, the prosecutor’s case could be weak, and your attorney can use this to seek a reduction or dismissal of your charges.
Penalties for Child Neglect
In California, child neglect is a wobbler. Depending on your criminal history and other case factors, the prosecutor can charge the crime as a felony or a misdemeanor. If you contact an attorney immediately after the arrest, they can convince the prosecutor to file misdemeanor charges. As a misdemeanor, child neglect is punishable by a jail sentence of up to one year and fines of up to $2,000
If you have a past conviction for child neglect and received a notice of adjudication, you could be charged with a felony could neglect. A felony conviction under CPC 270 attracts a one-year prison sentence and fines not exceeding $2,000. Although felony convictions are rare, the consequences of the conviction could impact your life long after serving prison time.
In California, convicted felons lose their rights to purchase, use or own a firearm. Additionally, finding meaningful employment or a place to live could be challenging with the felony conviction on your record. When determining the punishment for your conviction, the court will consider your income and ability to care for the child.
Sometimes, the court will sentence you to probation as an alternative. Facing a probation sentence allows you to serve part of your sentence out of jail. Probation can either be formal or informal, depending on the nature of your conviction. However, it is essential to understand that probation is not available for all defendants. If you feel it would be right for you, your attorney can negotiate with the prosecutor to place you on probation instead of sending you to jail.
While on probation for child neglect, the court imposes some conditions that you must follow. Some of the most common conditions of probation for this crime are mandatory attendance to counseling sessions and avoiding drugs. Failure to comply with the probation conditions could result in revocation of your probation and reinstatement of the jail sentence.
Can I Lose my Child After PC 270 Charges?
A conviction for child neglect will indicate that the court has found sufficient evidence that you have neglected your child. In this case, California’s Chile Protective Services can remove the child from your home. The law allows the child’s removal if you have neglected them by failing to provide adequate food, shelter, clothing, supervision, and medical care.
However, before the CPS results take away your child, they will attempt to support the child’s needs while at your home. If these attempts are futile and the child cannot remain at home, foster care placement will be arranged.
Legal Defense against California Penal Code 270
The potential punishment for child neglect in California is quite severe. Fortunately, you can employ many legal defenses to fight the charges. After reviewing the specific facts of your case, your attorney will devise a strategy aimed at a dismissal of the charges, have your charges reduced, or suffer less severe penalties. Some of the common defenses against PC 270 include:
Child neglect is a form of child abuse, and most child abuse cases stem from significant family problems. There are many reasons why you could be falsely accused of child neglect. One of the most common sources of child neglect allegations is bitter divorce and child custody issues. Your ex-spouse could accuse you of neglecting your child so that they can have the upper hand in family court. Regardless of the source of the false accusations, your attorney can investigate the facts and bring the lies to light.
No Willful Act
One of the essential elements that a prosecutor must prove before establishing your guilt under CPC 270 is that you acted willfully. A willful act is that which is done on purpose. If you did not intend to deny the child the necessities, you could argue that you did not act willfully.
In most cases, cases of child neglect reach the police officers or the prosecutors when another person reports potential child abuse. While some of these reporters are performing their duty to identify and report Neglect, they could be mistaken. Since the mandated reporters risk facing criminal charges for a failure to report, they may feel the pressure to make a report even when the reasons to do so are not substantial. This results in many cases of child neglect stemming from a mistake of facts. With the guidance of a competent attorney, you can build an evidence-based defense and highlight the mistaken facts.
You are not the Child-Parent
You are only guilty of child neglect if you are a parent of the alleged victim. This includes legal parents, foster care parents, adoptive parents, and other individuals who hold themselves as parents. If you are not a parent to a child, you have no legal obligation to care for them or provide for their needs. By proving that you are not a parent, you can reduce your child neglect charges.
You had a Lawful Excuse.
Your actions of failing to provide a child with their necessities constitute. Neglect is you did not have a lawful excuse. One of the most common lawful justifications accepted in this case is the lack of the financial capacity to provide the particular item. If you failed to provide the child with what they needed because you could not earn enough to do so, you could not be convicted for child neglect.
Can I Be Charged with Child Neglect if I do not Have custody?
Yes. As a parent, you can be held liable for Neglect whether or not you have child custody rights. In California, custody is divided into:
- Physical custody. The issue of physical custody stipulates where the child will live. Sometimes, the court could award joint custody to both parents.
- Legal custody. This type of custody involves the right and responsibility to make a crucial decision about the child’s education, health, and overall welfare.
After a divorce or separation, the court may deny you both physical and legal custody of a child. However, if the child fails to receive proper care and necessities, you can be charged with Neglect, and not having custody will not be accepted as a defense.
Offenses Related to Child Neglect in California
Child neglect is one of the many crimes that fall under domestic abuse. The following are some offenses that could be charged together with or instead of child neglect:
California PC 273a defines child endangerment as willfully exposing a minor to an unreasonable risk of harm. If your failure to supervise your child puts them at significant risk of harm, you can be charged with child neglect and Child endangerment. When you ace charges for child endangerment, the prosecution must establish these elements:
- You willfully inflicted mental suffering or pain on a minor
- You willfully permitted a child to suffer unjustifiable pain
- While under your care, you cause a minors health to be injured
- You permitted a child to be put in danger or risk of harm
- When you acted, you were not disciplining the child
If your case involves the risk of severe bodily injury on a minor, you will be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony. Child endangerment is punishable by up to six months in county jail, informal probation, or a $1,000 fine as a misdemeanor. On the other hand, a felony will result in up to six years in state prison, felony probation, and a fine not exceeding $10,000. Additionally, a felony conviction under this statute is a strike under California Three Strikes Law. If the effects of your abuse resulted in the death of a child, you could face an additional four years in prison.
Under California PC 273, child abuse is the act of inflicting cruel punishment on a child. If the allegedly neglected child shows signs of injury, you could be charged with child abuse instead of Neglect. To prove your guilt under PC 273, the prosecution must prove the elements beyond a reasonable doubt
- You willfully inflicted inhuman punishment or injury on a child
- Your actions resulted in a traumatic condition
- When you acted, you were not reasonably disciplining the minor
Child abuse charges can be challenging to fight, especially with child neglect or domestic violence history. Therefore, seeking legal guidance is the wisest decision you can make in such a situation.
Child abuse is a wobbler, and the prosecutor can file misdemeanor or felony charges. The circumstances surrounding your case and your criminal history could affect the nature of your charges. Minor instances of child abuse resulting in misdemeanor charges. A conviction for a misdemeanor will attract a one-year jail sentence, $6,000 in fines, and summary probation.
Under the following circumstances, the prosecutor can charge you with felony child abuse:
- You are a repeat offender. California law is often stringent on repeat offenders. Having prior convictions for child abuse, Neglect, or related crimes may indicate your lack of respect for the justice system. Therefore, the prosecutor could file felony charges against you.
- You caused severe injury to the child. Child abuse could range from mental to emotional to physical abuse. If you face charges for abusive behavior that resulted in injuries for the minor, you risk facing felony charges.
A felony conviction under PC 273 is punishable by a prison sentence of up to six years and fines not exceeding $6,000. If you have a prior conviction for child abuse within the last ten years, your jail sentence could be increased by up to four years.
Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor
You can be arrested and charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor if you entice, induce, or encourage a minor to break the law. Any adult who commits an act or fails to perform their duty, causing a minor to be a delinquent or a dependent, will be found guilty under CPC 272. For this statute, a delinquent is a minor who constantly breaks the law, while a dependent is a child who is unfit to remain in their home.
If your Neglect resulted in a child’s dependency or delinquency, you could be charged with both child neglect and contributing to a child’s delinquency. In California, Penal Code 272 is a misdemeanor punishable by a year in jail and a fine of up to $2500.
Failure to Supervise a Childs School Attendance
Failure to provide reasonable supervision and enforcement of your child’s school attendance is a crime under California law. Failure to supervise a child’s school attendance is addressed under California Penal Code 270.1 and has the following elements:
- You are a parent or a guardian of a child six years or older.
- Your child was subject to mandatory and full-time school attendance.
- You failed to supervise the child’s school attendance reasonably. By reviewing the facts of your case, the judge will determine whether or not you provided the necessary suspicion.
- Your child was a chronic truant.
Violation of California PC 270.1 is a misdemeanor, and a conviction will attract a jail sentence of up to one year and fines amounting to $2,000.
Find a Skilled Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
Failure to provide your child with their needs could attract an arrest and charges for child neglect. There are many ways through which child abuse could be reported. Some individuals in the community are mandated to spot and report signs of abuse in children. Child neglect is charged under California Penal Code 270, and a conviction will result in serious and life-changing consequences. In addition to spending time in jail and serving probation, you risk losing custody of your child if you are convicted for this offense.
Fortunately, not all allegations for child neglect resulted in a conviction. With the guidance of a competent attorney, you can fight the charges to avoid jail time, preserve your reputation and keep your children. At Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, we help you bring strong arguments against your case to achieve the best possible outcome. Contact us today at 951-946-6366 if you are battling criminal charges for child neglect in Riverside, CA.