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California Child Endangerment Attorney

Child Endangerment

California law is extremely strict when it comes to protecting children; as it should be. Children are the most vulnerable members of our society and deserve our care, consideration, and protection. Although endangering the welfare of a child may or may not amount to child abuse, it is still a serious charge that could carry severe penalties pursuant to a conviction.

There are many situations and incidents that may lead to criminal prosecution in the form of child endangerment charges being filed. However, in many of these situations, accusations are based on miscommunication where the defendant had absolutely no control over the situation or outright false accusations. Unfortunately, this often does not stop the prosecuting agency from moving forward with their case. To combat such charges, you need an aggressive and understanding defense attorney on your side.

At the Law Offices of Daniel E. Kann, we know that it is of the utmost importance that individuals charged with child endangerment crimes not suffer wrongful convictions and that their rights be protected at all costs. If you are a parent or caregiver who has been charged with child endangerment, please contact an experienced Santa Clarita criminal defense lawyer at the Law Offices of Daniel E. Kann to better understand your legal rights and options.

California Child Endangerment Laws

Under California Penal Code Section 273a(a): "Any person 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 having the care or custody of any child, 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, shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or in the state prison for two, four, or six years."

If these same circumstances are true, but occur in conditions that were not likely to produce harm to the child, the defendant will be charged with misdemeanor child endangerment instead of a felony.

However, if the child endangerment or child abuse leads to the child's death, it is considered a felony and the defendant can be charged with a number of different crimes such as Penal Code Section 273ab, Assault Resulting in Death, Comatose State, or Paralysis of a Child Under 8 and the defendant could face 25 years to life in a state prison. If the abuse or endangerment results in death, the defendant can also be charged with murder under Penal Code Section 187.

What the Prosecutor Must Prove

In order to convict an individual of child endangerment, the prosecutor must prove that:

  • The defendant willfully inflicted "unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering" on a child;
  • The defendant caused the pain and suffering as a result of criminal negligence; and;
  • The incident involving the child happened under the defendant's watch.

For example, a parent who entrusts his or her child to someone who is known to them to be reckless, negligent, or violent can be charged with child endangerment. Allowing a child to have access to dangerous objects, weapons, or drugs can also lead to a child endangerment charge. Behavior exhibited towards or in the presence of a child, such as reckless driving, dangerous home conditions, and illegal drug possession, use, and sale, can lead to child endangerment charges. In California, another common example of child endangerment is the act of a parent or caregiver leaving a young child unattended and alone in a hot car.

The Punishment

Child Endangerment under Penal Code Section 273(a) is a wobbler, meaning that it can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. Charged as a misdemeanor, child endangerment can carry up to one year in county jail. Charged as a felony, child endangerment can be punished by two years, four years, or six years in state prison.

Child Endangerment Probation

Due to the serious nature of child endangerment and the strict penalties associated with the crime under California law, probation for those who have been found guilty of the act contains several unique conditions. If probation is granted, under California Penal Code Section 273a(c), child endangerment probation includes:

  • A mandatory minimum period of probation of 48 months;
  • A protective order shielding the victim from further violent acts or threats, which may include residence exclusions or stay-away conditions;
  • A minimum of one year in an approved child abuser's treatment counseling program; and
  • If the offense was committed while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, the defendant must abstain from such substances during probation and can be subjected to random drug testing.

However, some or all of these conditions may be dropped if it is found that they would not be in the best interests of justice.

Effective Defenses

The act was not willful, i.e.; it was unintentional.

The parent exercised their right to discipline their child, i.e.; they employed "reasonable" corporal punishment such as spanking without causing injury to the child.

The defendant was falsely accused, i.e.; the child or someone else made up the story.

The child was injured or somehow endangered but the defendant was not culpable. This could occur where the defendant left the child with a third party whom the defendant had no reason to believe would harm or endanger the child.

Seeking Quality Legal Representation

The charges and penalties for child endangerment often depend on the circumstances of the case and extent of injury or harm caused to the child, but almost all charges can lead to time spent in prison or jail leaving a person separated from one's family. Often, being convicted of child endangerment hurts one's personal relationships and the trust a person has built with their spouse, children, and other loved ones. Being convicted of child endangerment can also harm a person's career, especially if he or she works in some capacity with children or other dependant people such as the elderly.

If you or a loved one is facing child endangerment charges in Southern California, please contact experienced lawyer Daniel Kann for a free and comprehensive consultation. Mr. Kann will ensure that your legal rights are protected and that your voice is heard. Call the Law Offices of Daniel E. Kann today for a consultation on your case at absolutely no cost.