Most people think of the crime of child endangerment as an act of physical harm done to a child. However, there are situations where you could be charged with a crime even though you never actually touched the alleged victim. You could be charged with child endangerment if you put your child into a “dangerous situation.”
For example, what if you left your child in the care of a family member or close friend and your child was injured while in his or her care? Could you face charges of child endangerment?
Child Endangerment in California (PC 273a)
Under California Penal Code Section 273a, you could be convicted of the crime of child endangerment if you:
- 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
Child endangerment is a wobbler offense, which means it is up to the prosecution to determine whether to charge you with a misdemeanor or a felony. Misdemeanor child endangerment is punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of $1,000. A felony conviction carries a sentence of up to six years in state prison and a $10,000 fine.
In order to convict you of child endangerment, the prosecution must prove that you were “criminally negligent.” This means you acted in a reckless way that created a risk for the child to suffer great bodily injury or death, and that a reasonable person would have known that the act could result in harm to the child.
Criminal negligence is the key to whether you could face child endangerment charges for leaving your child in the care of a family member or friend. If a “reasonable person” would believe that your family member or friend is unfit to take care of your child, you could be charged with child endangerment under PC 273a if your child is injured in that person’s care. This could be the case if your family member or friend has a criminal record or history of violence that you were aware of when you left your child in his or her care.
However, ordinary carelessness or inattention to detail is not enough to prove that your act was criminally negligent. If you made a mistake in judgment or were not aware that your child’s caretaker had a criminal history, your actions do not constitute criminal negligence, and you will not likely be convicted of child endangerment.
Contact the Child Endangerment Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich Today
The crime of child endangerment carries severe penalties, and defending you against these charges requires the guidance of a skilled and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney. At Wallin & Klarich, our criminal lawyers have more than 35 years of experience successfully defending clients facing child endangerment charges. Let us help you now.
With offices in Los Angeles, Orange County, Riverside, San Diego, San Bernardino, Torrance, Victorville and West Covina, you can find a dedicated Wallin & Klarich attorney available near you no matter where you are located.
Call us now at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will be there when you call.