Protect Your Future From Child Endangerment Charges
Child Endangerment PC 273(a)
As a former senior Prosecutor, I can tell you that crimes involving children are prosecuted very aggressively. A child endangerment conviction in San Diego can change your life completely. Upon conviction, you could face up to six years in state prison, up to a $10,000 fine and loss of child custody.
California’s all-encompassing child endangerment laws not only cover physical pain and suffering but mental suffering as well. Parents and legal guardians are often accused of child endangerment. If you or a loved one is facing a child endangerment charge, contact the Law Offices of Mark Deniz at 858-751-4384 to review your case and fight the charges against you
What is Child Endangerment? – California Penal Code Section 273a
Under California Penal Code Section 273a, it is illegal to do any of the following:
- Cause or permit a child to suffer unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering;
- Willfully cause or permit a child in your care to be injured; or
- Willfully cause or permit a child to be placed in a dangerous situation.
“Willfully” means willingly or on purpose. It does not necessarily mean that you specifically intended to break the law or cause any harm.
“Unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering” means pain or suffering that is not reasonably necessary or excessive under the circumstances.
Examples of a “dangerous situation” include, but are not limited to:
- Leaving dangerous weapons, including loaded guns and knives, within a child’s reach;
- Negligently leaving a child with a person whom you know has a history of abusive behavior; or
- Failing to get medical treatment for a sick or injured child.
Unlike the crime of child abuse, child endangerment does not require that a child suffer an actual injury. In essence, any unjustifiable physical or mental harm to a child may result in a child endangerment charge.
What Must the Prosecution Prove for a Child Endangerment Conviction?
To prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of violating child endangerment or child neglect laws, the prosecution must prove that:
- You did one of the following:
- Willfully inflicted unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering on a child;
- Willfully caused or permitted a child to suffer unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering;
- Caused or permitted a child in your care or custody to be injured; or
- Caused or permitted a child in your custody to be placed in a dangerous situation.
- You acted under circumstances that were likely to produce great bodily injury or death
- You were criminally negligent. You can be found to be criminally negligent if:
- You acted in a reckless way that created a high risk of death or great bodily injury; and
- A reasonable person would have known that acting that way would probably result in harm to another person.
- You did not act reasonably while disciplining the child.
What are the Defenses to a Child Endangerment PC 273(a)
There are many viable defenses to a child endangerment charge. An experienced attorney can review your case to provide the strongest possible defense to the charges you are facing. Defenses include, but are not limited to:
In San Diego, a parent is permitted to discipline his/her child, as long as the disciplinary act is reasonable. “Reasonableness” is determined by the following factors:
- Whether the punishment was warranted; and
- Whether the punishment was excessive under the circumstances. The jury will review the circumstances of your case to determine whether the disciplinary act constitutes reasonable discipline.
For example, a jury will likely conclude that the use of a large wooden stick to beat a child is unreasonable, whereas the act of spanking a child with an open hand may be determined to be reasonable.
The Child’s Age
The victim in a child endangerment case must be under the age of 18. You cannot be convicted of child endangerment if the victim is 18 years old or older.
The Act Was Not Willful
If your actions were not done on purpose, you cannot be convicted of child endangerment. For example, if a parent’s violent ex-partner took a baby without the parent’s consent, said parent is not guilty of violating child endangerment laws because the parent did not willfully place the baby in a dangerous situation.
There Was No Criminal Negligence
Criminal negligence must be proven for a child endangerment conviction. However, if the action on which a child endangerment charge is based was due to ordinary carelessness, inattention or a mistake in judgment, then the act is not criminally negligent, regardless of the consequences.
False Accusations/Wrongful Arrests
Many child endangerment charges stem from contentious divorce and custody battles. False accusations and wrongful arrests can result when:
- A child makes up a false allegation for one of many possible reasons
- Spouses, partners, ex-spouses, ex-partners, and in-laws make false allegations driven by jealousy, anger, revenge, or to attempt to gain an advantage in a child custody matter
In San Diego, certain groups of professionals including doctors, teachers, social workers, nurses, school administrators, and clergy are required by law to report any suspected instances of child endangerment, abuse, or neglect. As a result, they may jump to conclusions and make accusations against you without knowing the full extent of the circumstances involved. If you or a loved one is facing a child endangerment charge, contact the Law Offices of Mark Deniz at 858-751-4384 to review your case and fight the charges against you
Child Endangerment FAQs
How old must a child be to be left at home alone?
It depends on the situation. California law does not specifically define when a child under the age of 18 may be left at home alone. However, if the parent is criminally negligent in leaving the child home alone and the child suffers physical pain or mental suffering, the parent may be charged for child endangerment.
My child was injured while a friend/relative/neighbor was watching them. Can I be charged with child endangerment?
In most cases, the answer would be no. If you leave your child in the care of a neighbor or family member and the child is injured, you cannot be found criminally responsible. However, you could be found to be criminally negligent if you knowingly left your child in the care of a convicted sex offender, and your child was molested.
I have firearms in my home. Does this constitute child endangerment?
Owning firearms and keeping them in your home where children live does not necessarily constitute child endangerment. However, if the child is injured by a firearm in your home, the likelihood of a child endangerment charge will increase.
Does a Child Endangerment Conviction Count as a “Strike” on My Criminal Record?
A felony child endangerment conviction that actually resulted in great bodily injury or death to a child (instead of creating risk) counts as a “strike” under California’s Three Strikes Law.
If you or a loved one is facing a child endangerment charge, it is critical that you speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney. Prior to opening the law firm, Attorney Mark Deniz was a deputy district attorney for almost 10 years with an intimate knowledge of the various consequences a DUI conviction may cause. Mark Deniz will aggressively defend your case by exploring every angle and argument to ensure you have the best defense possible. Contact the Law Offices of Mark Deniz at 858-751-4384 to get the ball rolling.