California Penal Code Section 273(a): The courts designed Child Endangerment laws to punish individuals who put children in harm’s way. Many individuals sometimes refer to child endangerment as child abuse, but these are two separate charges that have different penalties. However, both child endangerment and child abuse are considered domestic violence in Los Angeles. As such, individuals convicted of child endangerment can face harsh penalties, including fines and jail time.
It is important to treat child endangerment charges seriously. Learning more about the definition of child endangerment and the penalties for this charge is important if you need to build a defense for PC 273(a). Simmrin Law Group can provide you with professional legal advice after a child endangerment allegation.
Defining the Act of Child Endangerment
Child endangerment occurs if someone:
- Intentionally inflicts physical pain or mental suffering
- Causes physical pain or mental suffering
- Allows physical pain or mental suffering to occur
In order for child endangerment charges to apply, the pain or suffering a child experiences must be unjustifiable. Actions considered a part of reasonable discipline do not qualify as child endangerment.
Individuals in Los Angeles must behave in a criminally negligent way to get convicted of child endangerment. Criminal negligence involves:
- Acting recklessly and in a way ordinary people would not act
- Showing disregard for the lives of others
- Showing indifference to possible consequences
If an individual does something a reasonable person knows is dangerous to others, they could display criminal negligence. Any act of criminal negligence can lead to child endangerment charges.
Examples of Child Endangerment in California
To better understand what the law considers child endangerment, we have provided examples. Examples of child endangerment include:
- A minor is left alone for a long time while the parents are away from home or at work.
- An adult leaves a minor with a caregiver known to exhibit abusive behavior.
- An adult leaves a dangerous weapon or device where the child could harm themselves or others. Dangerous weapons, which include knives or loaded firearms, should not be placed where children can reach them.
- The adult fails to get medical treatment for a child when needed.
- The adult leaves a child alone inside a motor vehicle, especially if weather conditions can harm the child, such as extreme heat or cold.
- An adult operates a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol while a child is a passenger.
- The adult allows a minor to consume drugs or alcohol.
- The adult does not use the car seat properly or follow car seat safety protocols.
Child endangerment charges can result from acts the adult makes and the adult failing to act. In addition, adults acting negligently can cause them to receive child endangerment charges.
Penalties for PC 273(a): Child Endangerment
Individuals convicted of child endangerment may be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the situation.
Misdemeanor child endangerment occurs if a child does not face a high risk of death or bodily harm. Convictions for misdemeanor child endangerment can lead to:
- Up to $1,000 in fines
- Up to 1 year of jail time
- Parenting classes
More serious cases of child endangerment can put children at risk for severe harm or even death. The courts can use felony charges for these cases. A felony child endangerment conviction can result in:
- Up to $10,000 in fines
- Up to six years of prison time
The most serious instances of child endangerment can result in death. Individuals who cause the death of a child could face far more serious charges, including murder. California may sentence individuals to life in prison or even the death penalty for a murder conviction. Getting help right away is very important if you are facing these charges.
Crimes Related to Child Endangerment
When someone faces child endangerment charges, they could also be charged with related crimes. The related crimes someone can be charged for will vary according to the circumstances. These crimes include:
- Failure to provide child care for a minor child (California Code, Penal Code – PEN § 270)
- Child abuse (California Code, Penal Code – PEN § 273d)
- If the child is under age 8 and the child abuse results in death (California Code, Penal Code – PEN § 273ab)
- If the child dies as a result of the adult committing an act or neglecting to act, it puts the child in harm’s way. Also known as involuntary manslaughter. (California Code, Penal Code – PEN § 192)
Regardless of the charges you face, our defense attorney can defend your freedom and help you seek clearance of any charges regarding the endangerment of a child.
Understanding Child Endangerment Defenses
Child endangerment charges do not have to be accepted. There are legal defenses that may be able to help individuals charged with PC 273(a). You can find out which defenses might work for you by contacting a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer today.
Some common examples of defenses against child endangerment charges include arguing:
You Were Falsely Accused
Many accusations of child endangerment are made during divorce proceedings. Some parents try to win custody of their children by making false claims against their former spouse. A criminal defense lawyer may be able to help you beat these accusations.
You Did Not Use Unreasonable Force
Parents in California are legally allowed to physically discipline their children. A lawyer could argue that you did not endanger your child when carrying out disciplinary action.
The Endangerment was Accidental
Child endangerment involves intentional actions that harm a child. If a child is harmed by accident or acts outside of your control, you might be able to argue against child endangerment charges.
Lack of Proof
Based on the circumstances of the crime, the proof needed can vary. For example, the proof needed in a child endangerment case can include the following:
- The defendant knowingly acted in a way where it is highly likely the child could sustain a physical injury. The adult also knew the act could negatively impact the child’s emotional or moral well-being.
- The defendant knew their action or lack of action could put the child in danger. The danger could include anything that seriously harms the child or causes their death.
- The defendant must have assumed responsibility for the child during the time of the act, or they committed a lack of action. The child must also fall under the required age of a minor.
A defense attorney can help to show the plaintiff does not have the evidence needed to prove that you endangered a child.
Getting Help With Child Endangerment Charges
The penalties associated with California Penal Code Section 273(a): Child Endangerment can be incredibly harsh. Beating a child endangerment accusation can be difficult without professional legal support on your side. Fortunately, you can start getting the legal advice you need right now with a FREE case evaluation from Simmrin Law Group.
Learn more about how a criminal defense lawyer can protect you from child endangerment charges by contacting our firm or filling out our online contact form.