March 5, 2014
Adults in Santa Clarita can face child endangerment charges if they cause or allow a child to suffer unjustifiable pain or suffering. It is also possible to face endangerment charges for permitting a child to be injured or for placing a child in a dangerous situation. It is a complicated law, which does not require the child to suffer an actual injury.
Under California Penal Code Section 273(a), any parent, caregiver, or guardian who “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 … 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” can be charged with child endangerment.
Child endangerment is “a wobbler.” This means that it can escalate from a misdemeanor to a felony depending on the circumstances of the case. While a conviction for misdemeanor child endangerment can result in up to a year in jail, a felony child endangerment conviction can result in two, four, or six years in state prison.
When there is no risk of great bodily injury, the sentence will likely include jail time and a fine of up to $1,000. Additional consequences may include informal probation for at least four years, a protective order preventing the defendant from seeing the child, and mandatory attendance at a one-year child abusers' treatment counseling program.
The harshest penalties are typically reserved for cases in which a child has been put at risk of great bodily harm or even death. Under California law, great bodily injury may include significant or substantial injuries. Exactly what qualifies as “significant” can vary from case to case. Therefore, it is common for people charged with child endangerment to face unnecessarily harsh punishment.
Possible legal defenses in child endangerment cases include proving that the endangerment did not occur, the defendant was acting within his or her rights as a parent to discipline the child, or the defendant was not responsible for the child. Defendants would be well advised to consider all of their options before making any legal decisions. An experienced Santa Clarita criminal defense lawyer can help you craft a defense that could help keep you out of jail and clear your name.