Harming a child or allowing a child to come to harm can be a criminal offense in California. Child endangerment makes it a crime to cause a child to suffer harm or permitting a child to be placed in a harmful situation. A conviction for child endangerment can result in prison time and fines. If you have been charged with child endangerment, talk to your experienced East Bay criminal defense attorney to understand your rights.
Child Endangerment Charge in California
Under California Penal Code §273a, it is a criminal offense of child endangerment “under circumstances or conditions likely to produce great bodily harm or death, willfully causes or permits any child to suffer, or inflicts thereon unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering, or having the care or custody of any child, willfully causes or permits the person or health of that child to be injured, or willfully causes or permits that child to be placed in a situation where his or her person or health is endangered.”
This makes it a crime to intentionally cause a child physical or mental harm. However, it is also a crime for someone who has care or custody of a child to permit the child to be placed in a dangerous situation, even if the child does not suffer a physical injury.
When someone else causes injury to a child, the parent or caretaker may be held responsible if they allowed the child to be put in harm's way. For example, if a parent left their child in the care of a teenage babysitter who they knew had a problem with drugs and alcohol, and the child was injured when the babysitter got into a drunk driving accident, the parent could face child endangerment charges.
Child Endangerment Penalties in California
The penalties for child endangerment depend on the situation, including the potential for the child to suffer great bodily harm. Child endangerment can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor.
Where the harm to a child is not likely to produce great bodily harm or death, child endangerment may be a misdemeanor. A conviction for misdemeanor child endangerment may result in up to a year in the county jail.
Child endangerment can be a felony where the circumstances are likely to produce great bodily harm or death. A felony conviction for child endangerment can result in up to 6 years in prison. Amy felony conviction can make it more difficult to find a job in the future and limit a person's rights to hold office or own a firearm.
Child Endangerment Penalties in California
Any conviction for child endangerment carries certain minimum conditions of probation. This includes:
- A mandatory minimum probationary period of 48 months (4 years)
- A criminal court protective order protecting the victim (minor) from further acts of violence or threats, including a possible residence exclusion or stay-away conditions
- Successful completion of an approved child abuser's treatment program
The child abuser's treatment counseling program must be approved by the probation department and meet specific criteria. The defendant has to produce documentation of enrollment in the program within 30 days of enrollment and provide quarterly progress reports.
enThe defendant must also pay all reasonable fees associated with the counseling program. The terms of probation will not be lifted until all fees have been paid in full. However, the court can approve reduced or waived counseling fees based on the defendant's ability to pay.
If the defendant committed the acts involving child endangerment while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, probation may include a restriction on drug and alcohol use. Under probation, the defendant may be subject to random drug and alcohol testing by the defendant's probation officer.
Driving Under the Influence and Child Endangerment
If you are arrested for Driving Under the Influence and have a child in the car, you can be charged with child
endangerment. A conviction with this enhancement can increase potential jail time and fines.
Posting Videos of Child Endangerment
Many people make videos showing their children in funny situations and post them online to Facebook or Youtube. However, some of these videos may appear to place the children in dangerous situations. Even if the child is not in any actual danger, people watching the videos may report them to the police which could lead to criminal charges of child endangerment.
If a viewer flags a video showing a child in a potentially dangerous situation or notifies law enforcement, the video itself could be used as evidence against the individuals in court.
Child Endangerment and Child Custody
A conviction of child endangerment could have an impact on a parent's child custody rights. Family courts consider a number of factors in determining child custody in California, based on the best interests of the child. This includes a parent's history of child abuse, neglect, or child endangerment. A conviction for child endangerment could result in a parent's loss of custody of their children.
As part of probation for a child endangerment conviction, a parent may be required to stay away from the child, move out of their residence, or avoid contact with their child if the court determines it is necessary to protect the child.
Defenses to Child Endangerment Charges
There may be a number of legal defenses available to charges of child endangerment. Many reported cases of child endangerment are misunderstandings or exaggerated reports that involved no danger of injury to the child.
Unfortunately for many people falsely accused, false reports of child endangerment involve custody disputes. An ex-spouse or partner may falsely accuse the other person of placing the child in danger in order to get custody of the child. Someone may even intentionally injure or harm the child and try and blame the injury on the other person.
East Bay Criminal Defense Attorney
Lynn Gorelick has more than 30 years of criminal defense experience defending her clients facing criminal charges, including child endangerment. She understands how to approach the individual facts of each case for the greatest chance of success, keeping her clients out of jail and keeping a clean record. Whether you are arrested in Fremont, Richmond or anywhere else in Contra Costa County or Alameda County, contact Lynn Gorelick.