California Penal Code Section 273(a) PC: Child Endangerment

1. Definition and Elements of the Crime

child endangerment

While parents are generally given wide latitude in respects to how they raise and care for their children, there are limits to what a parent can and cannot do. California Penal Code Section 273a PC addresses child endangerment offenses. Child endangerment is considered a domestic violence offense.

To prove that a defendant committed child endangerment, a prosecutor must be able to establish the following elements:

  1. The defendant intentionally inflicted unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering on a child, caused such pain or suffering, or allowed such pain/suffering to occur while the child was in his or her custody.
  2. There were circumstances or condition present likely to produce great bodily harm or death
  3. The defendant was criminally negligent.
  4. The defendant did not act while reasonably disciplining a child.

A child is defined as any person under the age of 18. Unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering is pain or suffering that is not reasonably necessary or is excessive under the circumstances.

Criminal negligence involves more than ordinary carelessness, inattention, or lapse in judgment. Someone acts with criminal negligence when:

  1. He or she acts in a reckless way that is a gross departure from the way an ordinarily careful person would act in the same situation
  2. The person’s act amounts to disregard for human life or indifference to the consequences of his or her acts
  3. AND a reasonable person would have known that acting in that way would naturally and probably result in harm to others.

2. Examples

A woman cares for her infant child and never harms the child. However, after her new boyfriend moves in she notices bruises and injuries on the baby and suspects that the boyfriend is abusing the baby. The woman could be prosecuted for child endangerment because she willfully allowed the child to be in this situation by allowing the boyfriend to live in the home.

Another woman has two children, a five-year-old and a eight-year-old. One afternoon, she leaves them unsupervised for several hours while she leaves the house. The house catches fire and the both children are seriously injured. This woman would not be guilty of child endangerment, because while her actions certainly would be considered bad parenting, leaving the children alone does not amount to criminal negligence.

3. Related Offenses

Other similar or related offenses include:

  1. Child Abuse - California Penal Code Section 273d PC
  2. Child Abuse resulting in a death to a child under 8 - California Penal Code Section 273ab PC

4. Defenses to Child Endangerment

Accusations of child endangerment can often arise in child custody disputes between parents. As a result it is not uncommon that many child endangerment claims are the result of false accusations raised by one parent against the other.

As mentioned above, parents do have a right to use reasonable physical force to punish their children.

5. Penalties

Where there was no risk of great bodily harm or death, child endangerment is a misdemeanor level offense. If convicted, the defendant can be sentenced to up to six months in jail, court fines, and parenting classes.

If the child endangerment involved a risk of great bodily harm or death to the child, the offense is a “wobbler” that can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor. If charged as a felony, the defendant can be sentenced to up to four years in prison. Additionally, if the child dies, a prosecutor may consider filing more serious manslaughter or murder charges.

Convictions for child endangerment can jeopardize professional licenses and could prevent future employment in fields such as education, child care or nursing.

6. Criminal Defense for Child Endangerment Cases

If you have been accused of child endangerment, it is very important that you speak with a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney right away. As a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience, Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut is highly experienced at handling cases of this nature. Mr. Kraut is highly respected by prosecutors and law enforcement as a passionate advocate who fights hard for his clients.

For more information about child endangerment charges, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1480, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.

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