California Child Endangerment Laws
Under California Penal Code 273a, child endangerment occurs when:
- One is responsible for causing or permitting a child to suffer an unjustifiable amount of mental or physical suffering
- One willfully causes/allows a child that is under their care to be injured
- One willfully causes/allows a child to be put into dangerous situations.
In places like Visalia, a conviction of child endangerment does not legally require that the child in question suffered from an actual injury. As a result, it is unfortunately far too easy and far too common for innocent people to be prosecuted in a criminal court for these charges.
Some behavior that might lead to criminal charges for child endangerment includes:
- Negligently leaving a child under the care of a babysitter whom you know has a history of abusive behavior;
- Leaving dangerous weapons like a knife or loaded gun at home, within reach of the child; and
- Failing to get a sick child the medical treatment they require
If you've been arrested or accused, contact our Visalia child endangerment attorney at Martens & Brusseau Law Corporation.
Penalties for Child Endangerment
If the circumstances under which you are charged with child endangerment involve great bodily harm, death, or the risk of either, then the offense would be a wobbler. This means that if convicted, it can be either a felony or a misdemeanor. If there was not a great risk of bodily harm or death to the child in question, then the charge would be a misdemeanor.
If convicted of a misdemeanor, the penalties can include up to one year in county jail. If convicted of a felony, the penalties can include two, four, or six years in a California state prison.
Legal Defenses for Child Endangerment
If you are facing charges of child endangerment, you should seek the help of a qualified Visalia child endangerment attorney. A professional lawyer will be able to help you defend yourself.
In the case of child endangerment, there are a few legal defenses you can use.
- The alleged “endangerment” did not take place intentionally.
- As a parent, you were acting within your rights to discipline the child.
- You were falsely accused of child endangerment.
- You were not the individual responsible for the child, or who caused the endangerment to the child.
With a skilled criminal defense attorney, you can utilize one of these common legal defenses. An experienced defense lawyer can present the defense on your behalf, in order to avoid a conviction.
Willfulness is an important element in a child endangerment case, regardless of whether you were charged with not preventing your child from being in a dangerous situation, putting the child in a dangerous situation, or causing actual injury to the child.
By contending that the act was not willful, you are stating that you did not do something on purpose and therefore the courts should not hold you criminally responsible for the act in question.
For example: if a mother left her child with a qualified babysitter, and the violent boyfriend came and took the child from the babysitter without informing the mother, then the mother is not guilty of child endangerment as a result of any injury suffered during that time because she did not willfully put the child into a dangerous situation.
By that token, if the child sustained an injury on accident, or they placed themselves in a dangerous situation without your approval or your knowledge, then you did not willfully contribute to their injury. Accidents happen and kids do get hurt from time to time. Even the best parents in the world cannot stop this from happening. Unfortunately, the current criminal liability in California requires more.
One of the elements in the child endangerment laws is that the actions must not have been a reasonable means of discipline. Parents have a legal right to discipline their children using reasonable corporal punishment, such as spanking. If you hire an experienced criminal defense attorney, they can present the case that your alleged behavior was a justified means of discipline.
There are many instances wherein a charge of child endangerment stemmed from a wrongful arrest or false accusations. This might occur if the child often makes up stories, or embellishes stories. It might also happen if the police suspect the child suffered harm and were zealous in their arrest. False allegations can also arise based on angry or revenge-driven assertions made by ex-spouses, current spouses, in-laws, or even the child. In many cases, the spouses or ex-spouses are attempting to gain control in a custody or divorce battle.
Professional Representation for Your Unique Case
Working with a seasoned defense attorney will mean getting to the truth. Only a highly trained defense lawyer will know how to properly interview witnesses, gather all of the facts, assess the motives, and present your case. No matter your charge, it is imperative that you seek the help of a qualified criminal defense attorney immediately.
Contact the Visalia child endangerment defense lawyer at the Martens & Brusseau Law Corporation if you have been charged or are being investigated for any criminal offense.