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What is Considered Child Endangerment in CA?

Child endangerment means willfully exposing a minor under 18 years of age to unjustifiable danger, pain, or suffering. Even if the risk didn’t occur or the child didn’t suffer any harm, a person can still be charged with subjecting the minor to such unreasonable risk. Not only does a conviction result in serious penalties like jail or prison time, but also a criminal record and the loss of your child custody rights.

If you have been arrested for child endangerment in Orange County, look no further than Right Choice Law to protect your rights, reputation, and future. Our Newport Beach child endangerment lawyers have handled thousands of domestic violence cases. We understand how emotionally overwhelming the legal process can be, which is why we are here to help you navigate the complexities of your case while fighting for the best possible results.

To schedule a free consultation, contact us today at (949) 570-5232. Serving clients throughout Orange County.

California Child Endangerment Laws

If a parent or other responsible person endangers the health of a child, that adult can be charged with either Child Endangerment, pursuant to Penal Code section 273a or Child Abuse, pursuant to Penal Code section 273d.

Penal Code section 273a(a) states:

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.

Penal Code section 273a(b) states:

Any person who, under circumstances or conditions other than those 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 may be endangered, is guilty of a misdemeanor.

Great Bodily Injury vs. Death in Child Endangerment Cases

The difference between these two subsections mainly involve whether the circumstances were likely to produce GBI or death. If the circumstances surrounding the child endangerment could have produced GBI or death, then Penal Code section 273a(a), a wobbler, is charged. If the circumstances surrounding the child endangerment could not have produced GBI or death, then Penal Code section 273a(b), a misdemeanor, is charged.

In some cases, child endangerment can be charged against any person, regardless of the relationship with the child. In other cases, child endangerment can only be charged if the defendant has care or custody of the child. Any person who inflicts unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering on a child has violated Penal Code section 273a. However, if a person merely allows a child to suffer unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering OR allows the child to be injured OR causes or allows the child to be placed in a situation where the child’s health may have been endangered, then that person can only be charged with a crime if they have care or custody of the child.

Great bodily injury (aka GBI) means significant or substantial physical injury. It is an injury that is greater than minor or moderate harm.

A child does not need to actually suffer great bodily harm, but if a child does suffer great bodily harm, the jury may consider that fact, along with all other evidence, in deciding whether the defendant committed the offense.

In domestic violence cases where the violence is alleged to have occurred in front of the children, the defendant can be charged with child endangerment.

Dependency Cases in CA

A typical child endangerment case or child abuse case starts with a 911 call, but these cases can also start with a call to the police by a mandatory reporter from a hospital or school. Certain people, such as teachers, doctors and nurses, are required to report suspected child abuse to the police. So, if your child shows up to school with a bruise on his face, the teacher must call the police if child abuse is suspected. In addition to the police, Child Protective Services (CPS) is usually called as well.

If the child is old enough to speak, the child will most likely be interviewed by CPS and/or the police WITHOUT YOU BEING PRESENT OR BEING NOTIFIED.

The police will usually speak with the other parent independently while interviewing you. If the police and/or CPS determine that the child’s safety is at issue, then your child will be taken away from you and placed in a shelter or foster home. In these situations, you must fight in dependency court to have your child back. Dependency cases can take years to resolve. You need to have a Newport Beach child endangerment lawyer that is familiar with dependency court as well as criminal court in order to successfully get your child back as soon as possible, while at the same time dealing with the criminal courts to prevent or minimize criminal penalties.

Possible Consequences for Child Endangerment Conviction in CA

Not only can a child endangerment or child abuse conviction lead to criminal penalties, but it can also have drastic employment, licensing and immigration consequences. A crime of child abuse or child endangerment is considered a crime of moral turpitude. Having a child abuse or child endangerment conviction can prevent a person from finding a job or lead to a person being fired from their current job.

Furthermore, many professions that require licensing from a state board, such as doctors, pharmacists, nurses, lawyers, accountants, contractors, teachers, real estate agents and stock brokers, all require background checks. A professional who has a child abuse or child endangerment conviction on their record risks losing their professional license, or never acquiring it in the first place.

Perhaps the most severe impact of a child abuse or child endangerment conviction involves immigration consequences. Non-citizens who are permanent residents, with green cards, or temporary visitors, with a visa, can be denied admission, denied naturalization or even deported, with a child abuse or child endangerment conviction on their record. In fact, child abuse or child endangerment convictions are considered one of the worst convictions for immigration consequences.

Let Former Prosecutors Fight for You

When facing child endangerment charges, one of the most important decisions you need to make is whether to hire a criminal defense attorney. An experienced lawyer can help people who have made a mistake or exercised poor judgment, and those who have been wrongfully accused.

As former prosecutors, our Newport Beach child endangerment attorneys have a comprehensive understanding of both sides of the courtroom and the necessary trial experience to obtain the most favorable outcomes for our clients. Check out our case results and read our client testimonials to learn more about our knowledgeable and compassionate legal services.

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