Children are the most vulnerable members of our society and they deserve our utmost care and protection. As such, the state of California is tough on crimes involving children and offenses like child endangerment are consequently prosecuted aggressively in the California criminal justice system. If you are convicted of child endangerment in Los Angeles, you could face up to six years in state prison, plus up to $10,000 in fines, a loss of child custody rights, and other serious legal consequences. To combat charges of child endangerment in Los Angeles, you need a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney who will protect your legal rights and aggressively advocate on your behalf. Contact Criminal Defense Attorney Los Angeles today if you or a loved one is facing child endangerment charges in Los Angeles.
Affordable Child Endangerment Defense Attorney in Los Angeles
California’s child endangerment law encompasses the more specific crime of child abuse, but is broader in aspect, which means there are a great number of acts that may fall under the umbrella of child endangerment. Due to the serious nature of child endangerment and other crimes involving children, these criminal offenses carry harsh penalties, and our legal team at Criminal Defense Attorney Los Angeles can help guide you through the process of defending yourself against these charges. If you don’t want to go to trial, our defense attorneys can work to minimize the legal consequences arising from your child endangerment charges, possibly by reaching a plea agreement, by reducing the penalties you would otherwise face if convicted at trial, or by pleading guilty to a lesser offense. If you decide to fight the charges at trial, our legal team will hold the prosecution to its burden of proof and ensure that your legal rights are protected throughout the process. Contact our child endangerment defense attorneys today for a free initial consultation.
In the criminal justice system, the term “endangerment” refers to conduct that is wrongful and reckless or wanton, and likely to cause death or serious bodily harm to another person. Child endangerment, then, is a crime of domestic violence directed against children under the age of 18. While any child can be the victim of child endangerment, most cases in Los Angeles involve a child or stepchild of the defendant, a child who lives in the defendant’s home, or the child of a person the defendant has a romantic relationship with. Under California Penal Code § 273(a) PC, it is against the law to do any of the following:
- Cause or permit any child to suffer unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering;
- Willfully cause or permit a child in your care to be placed in a dangerous situation; or
- Willfully cause or permit a child in your care to be injured.
It is important to note that the child in question does not have to suffer any actual injuries for a child endangerment charge to be brought. Penal Code § 273(a) only requires that you willfully caused or permitted a child to be put in a situation where his or her health or safety was at risk. And it’s not only parents who can face child endangerment charges. Other family members or caregivers can be accused of child endangerment, as can teachers, coaches and other professionals whose disciplinary actions may be called into question. Some examples of acts that could result in a charge of child endangerment include: intentionally leaving a child unattended in a hot car for several hours; leaving dangerous weapons, including knives and loaded firearms, within reach of a child; or leaving a child in the care of a person who has a history of abusive behavior. Even if the child suffers no injuries resulting from your actions, you could still be convicted of child endangerment if your actions were reckless.
Conviction for Child Endangerment Penal Code § 273(a) PC
Anyone who intentionally exposes an innocent child to danger, pain or suffering should be punished for their crime. Unfortunately, crimes against children are sensitive and emotionally-charged cases, and accusations of child endangerment are sometimes based on a misunderstanding or miscommunication, when the defendant actually had no control over the situation that resulted in a child’s health or safety being put at risk. In some cases, child endangerment charges are downright false, used by another parent or caregiver as a punishment or to gain the upper hand in divorce proceedings. In order to convict on charges of child endangerment, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant:
- Willfully inflicted unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering on a child;
- Willfully caused or permitted a child to suffer unjustifiable physical pain or suffering and was criminally negligent in doing so;
- Caused or permitted a child in his or her care to be injured and was criminally negligent in doing so; or
- Caused or permitted a child in his or her custody to be placed in a dangerous situation and was criminally negligent in doing so.
Child endangerment is not considered a “specific intent crime” in California, which means the defendant does not have to purposefully place a child in danger to be charged with child endangerment. Acting “willfully” simply means that the defendant committed an intentional act that could have resulted in harm to a child.
How is Child Endangerment Different from Child Abuse?
Because they are both crimes against children, some people believe that child endangerment and child abuse are the same crime and can be used interchangeably. However, these are actually two distinct crimes with their own individual elements and associated criminal penalties pursuant to conviction. The main difference between child endangerment and child abuse is that Penal Code § 273(a) PC child endangerment does not require that the child suffer an actual injury, while Penal Code § 273(d) PC child abuse does.
Penalties for a Child Endangerment Conviction
In the state of California, child endangerment under Penal Code § 273(a) is a “wobbler,” which means it can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony offense, and it is up to the prosecutor to decide which charge best suits your alleged crime. As a felony offense, a child endangerment conviction is punishable by two, four or six years in state prison and up to $10,000 in fines. As a misdemeanor, a child endangerment conviction is punishable by up to six months in county jail and up to $1,000 in fines. If you actually caused the child in question to suffer great bodily injury, you could receive an additional sentence of three to six years in state prison. If the child died as a result of your actions, you could have another four years added to your prison sentence and you could also face manslaughter or murder charges. A felony child endangerment conviction involving great bodily injury or death to a child is considered a “strike” under California’s “Three Strikes” law, which adds significant time to the prison sentences of certain repeat offenders convicted of serious or violent felonies.
Defenses to Child Endangerment Charges
An allegation of child endangerment can be devastating, not just for you, the defendant, but for those around you as well, possibly affecting your friendships and relationships, your custodial rights and even your future job prospects, if you work with children or the elderly. Our knowledgeable defense lawyers at Criminal Defense Attorney Los Angeles have experience defending clients against child endangerment charges in Los Angeles and can help you build a strong defense in your case. Some possible defenses to Los Angeles child endangerment charges include the following:
- The act was not willful, meaning it was unintentional
- There was no criminal negligence
- You were wrongfully accused, meaning the child or someone else lied or was mistaken
- You were exercising your right to reasonably discipline your child
- The child is 18 years or older
Hiring a Qualified Child Endangerment Defense Attorney in Los Angeles
Crimes against children are punished harshly under California law, and while child endangerment may not amount to a child abuse charge, it is still a serious crime and the penalties associated with a child endangerment conviction in Los Angeles can follow you for the rest of your life. The law should protect vulnerable children from harm, but it should also protect parents, caregivers and other individuals who work with and around children from false and damaging accusations of child endangerment. If you or a loved one has been charged with – or is under investigation for – child endangerment in Los Angeles, contact Criminal Defense Attorney Los Angeles today to obtain qualified legal representation. You can feel confident that our criminal defense attorneys will do everything in their power to protect your rights under the law and will fight to get you the best possible outcome in your child endangerment case.