If you find yourself facing charges of child endangerment in California, you could be in danger of suffering serious, life-changing consequences upon a conviction. With the aid of an experienced defense attorney, however, with well-seasoned skills in this practice area, your chances of a favorable outcome are greatly increased.
At The Law Office of David J. Givot, we have successfully defended numerous clients against the charge of child endangerment over the years. Attorney David J. Givot and his team have developed the expertise to build a strong case against these charges and, where appropriate, to negotiate for the most advantageous plea possible.
To learn more or for a free legal consultation, contact David J. Givot 24/7 at 888-293-0396.
How Does California Define "Child Endangerment?"
Child endangerment is defined and criminalized in Section 273a of the California Penal Code. It is considered a subset of the crime of domestic violence but differs greatly from many other domestic violence crimes. It also differs from the crime of child abuse in that it does not necessarily involve bodily injury to a child and in that there was no actual intention to inflict such injury.
Child endangerment means that you caused a child to suffer physically or psychologically or at least put that child in a dangerous situation where such injury was very likely to have occurred.
What Must the Prosecution Prove?
To gain a conviction on the charge of child endangerment, the prosecutor must prove beyond reasonable doubt that you did at least one of the following:
- Willfully inflicted "unjustifiable" physical/psychological pain on a child.
- Out of criminal negligence, caused or allowed a child to suffer physically or mentally.
- Out of criminal negligence, caused or allowed a child under your care to be put into a dangerous situation where injury was likely to take place.
The above applies to PC 273a(a), but under PC 273a(b), you must also have acted in a manner that was likely to result in extreme bodily injury or the death of the child. The former can be either a misdemeanor or felony, while the latter is always a felony.
To further explain the elements of the crime, we should mention the following:
- "Willfully" need not mean that the results (possibly an injury) were intended nor that you knew your actions were illegal. It only means you intentionally did the act in question.
- "Unjustifiable" pain means anything beyond what is necessary or reasonable in a particular circumstance. Thus, ordinary "justifiable" disciplinary measures are not child endangerment.
- "Criminal negligence" is distinguished from "ordinary negligence." It involves unreasonable actions that show reckless disregard for the life and safety of the child.
PC 273a can be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony. The main determining factor on which charge is filed is whether the child was put in danger of "great bodily harm" or only a lesser degree of danger. While the child's actually suffering harm or not is not technically the basis of the distinction, if a child is greatly harmed, it will be obvious that such danger existed. Then the question will only be if that harm was reasonably foreseeable.
When charged as a misdemeanor, child endangerment is punishable by:
- A maximum of 6 months in jail.
- A maximum fine of $1,000.
- Informal probation for up to 4 years.
Note that the probationary terms will typically include a protective/restraining order to avoid contact with the child, mandatory attendance at a child abuse treatment program for at least 12 months, and if drugs/alcohol were involved, abstinence from drugs/alcohol during probation along with randomized BAC/drug tests.
When charged as a felony, due to there having been a high risk of severe bodily injury or death to the child, the punishment can include:
- 2 to 4 years in state prison.
- A maximum fine of $10,000.
- At least 4 years of formal probation.
- An additional 3 to 6 years in prison if great bodily harm was actually inflicted on the child.
- An additional 4 years in prison if the child died as a result of the endangerment, along with possible manslaughter/murder charges being filed.
- If the child actually suffered great bodily injury, it is a "strike" on your record under California's "Three Strikes Law."
Those who are granted probation in place of jail/prison time may be able to get the charge of child endangerment ultimately expunged from their record, but this can be denied if you violate the terms of your probation. On the other hand, those who fully fulfill their probationary terms for the first 1 or 2 years sometimes are allowed to have the probationary period end early.
Common Defense Strategies
At The Law Office of David J. Givot, we utilize the most effective, proven legal defense strategies in defending against the charge of child endangerment. We know how to effectively pursue these defenses and challenge the prosecution's evidence, as well as how to match each case with the most appropriate defense.
Here are some of the most common defense strategies we routinely employ in these types of cases:
- Lack of "willfulness:" If the act that led to the child's being in danger or to an actual injury or death was purely accidental, you are innocent of the crime of child endangerment. Many accidents are unavoidable and unforseeable as flowing from an act you may have done innocently.
- Parental rights: Parents in California have legal protection of their inherent right to discipline their children by all reasonable methods. Many forms of corporal punishment are protected under California law and must not be construed as child endangerment or as child abuse.
- Mistaken identity: Due to California's mandatory child endangerment/abuse reporting laws and to the tendency of many to jump to quick conclusion about who may be the guilty party, there are many people accused of this crime when, in fact, someone else is the perpetrator.
- False accusation: In many cases, child endangerment allegations are fabricated or a charge is made on a mere suspicion when no such acts ever took place. Additionally, vengeful people sometimes purposefully make false accusations against someone against whom they are holding a grudge. If this is the case, a good defense attorney will have the tools and experience to get to the bottom of it.
Three related offenses that are sometimes charged along with or in place of PC 273a (child endangerment) are as follows:
- Child abuse (PC 273d): Child abuse is a charge that requires actual physical harm to have occurred (whether serious or slight), while child endangerment only requires that physical/mental harm was likely to occur. Many, however, find themselves facing both charges simultaneously. Child abuse can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. As a misdemeanor, it can get you up to a year in jail; as a felony, it is punishable by 2 to 6 years in prison.
- Lewd acts with a minor (PC 288): Those who endanger or harm a child specifically by touching them in a sexual manner are guilty of this crime, which can be charged along with PC 273a (child endangerment). The child must have been 14 years old or younger or 15 or younger if the perpetrator was at least 10 years older. Another way this charge could tie into a child endangerment case is if the defendant knowingly left a child with a known child molester.
- DUI with child endangerment: If you get a DUI and a child was in the vehicle with you during the incident, you could be facing a DUI with sentencing enhancements for child endangerment or you could simply have both DUI and child endangerment filed against you as separate charges.
Contact Us Today
At The Law Office of David J. Givot, we have successfully defended numerous clients in the Coachella Valley region and other parts of California against the charge of child endangerment. David J. Givot knows how to win your case and will apply all of his legal expertise and his full energy to winning it.
For a free legal consultation with David J. Givot, contact us anytime 24/7/365 by calling 888-293-0396.