Child Endangerment/Willful Harm To A Child (Penal Code § 273a)
Child Endangerment or Willful Harm to a Child is best understood as causing or allowing a child in the defendant’s custody or care to suffer unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering or to be placed in a situation where the child’s health is endangered.
Child Endangerment is a “wobbler” and can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on, among other things, the severity of the alleged child endangerment. It is a separate charge from Child Abuse, which may be charged under Penal Code § 273d when a defendant willfully uses violence or force on a child resulting in some visible physical injury.
If you or someone you care about is facing a child endangerment charge, the criminal defense attorneys at the Weinrieb Law Firm can help explain the charges and properly defend against them. We can be reached twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week at (818) 933-6555.
Elements Of A Child Endangerment Charge
The prosecution must prove the following facts to convict a defendant of Child Endangerment:
- Defendant, under conditions likely to cause a child great injury or death, did any of the following:
- Willfully caused or permitted a child to suffer unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering; OR
- Willfully caused or permitted a child in defendant’s custody to have his or her person or health injured; OR
- Willfully caused or permitted a child in defendant’s care to be placed in a situation where the child’s person or health is endangered
** A common example of a Child Endangerment charge occurs when a spouse, knowing that the other spouse is causing serious harm to their child, either allows or does not prevent the spouse from harming the child
Punishment For Child Endangerment
Child Endangerment is a “wobbler” and can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. In deciding whether to file the charge as a misdemeanor or felony, the prosecutor will consider, among other things, the extent of the severity of the alleged endangerment and the defendant’s criminal history. Punishment for Child Endangerment may include:
- Up to one year in county jail
- Minimum 4 years probation
- Minimum one year child abuser’s treatment program, if probation is granted
- Two, four or six years in state prison
Defenses To Child Endangerment Charges
Depending on the particular facts of a case, defenses to a Child Endangerment charge may include the following:
- False Accusations– Children or other adults sometimes falsely accuse a parent or guardian of abuse or endangerment due to anger, prompting by another adult, or for a variety of other reasons
- Accident– Defendant did not deliberately do an act to endanger the child