Child endangerment is a criminal offense done by adults who are supposed to be caring for a child (i.e., parents and/or legal guardians) subjects the child to risky conditions or situations that may compromise his/her safety. To discourage people from committing this offense, the state of California enacted Penal Code PC 273a.
California Penal Code PC 273a is the statute that criminalizes the act of child endangerment. It states that:
- (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.
- (b) 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 harm
Great bodily harm or serious physical injury includes bodily injury, which creates a high probability of death, or which causes severe permanent disfigurement or causes a permanent or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ other serious physical harm.
Penalties for Child Endangerment
Depending on the conditions of the case, violating PC273a can lead to either a felony or a misdemeanor charge. Crimes like this are called wobblers. A wobblers offense is a criminal violation that can be tried and charged on different severity. If the endangerment case involves subjecting the child to great bodily harm or risks of death, it will be a felony; anything less is a misdemeanor.
- Serving up to one (1) year in county jail; and/or
- Paying a fine of up to one thousand dollars ($1,000).
- Serving up to two (2) to four (4) years in a California state prison; and/or
- Paying a fine of up to ten thousand dollars ($10,000)
As an alternative to jail, convicted offenders can also be subjected to probation if the court sees it fit. Summary probation for misdemeanor offenders while formal probation for felons. Under probation, the offenders are expected to:
- a mandatory minimum period of probation of 48 months;
- a criminal court protective order protecting the victim from further acts of violence or threats, and, if appropriate, residence exclusion or stay-away conditions;
- a successful completion of no less than one year of a child abuser's treatment counseling program approved by the probation department; or
- Suppose the offense was committed while the defendant was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In that case, the defendant shall abstain from using drugs or alcohol during the probation period and shall be subject to random drug testing by his or her probation officer.
Failure to comply can be grounds for revoking the convict from the probation program. However, the court may waive any of the above minimum conditions of probation upon a finding that the condition would not be in the best interests of justice. The court shall state on the record its reasons for any waiver.
When facing PC 273a charges because of subjecting a child to dangerous circumstances, here are some of the most common defense that the defendant's legal counsel frequently uses:
- The defendant did not intentionally endanger the child;
- The defendant's action is legal and not under the definitions of endangerment; or
- The defendant was falsely accused of committing the act.
Facing criminal charges involving children would significantly tarnish a person's quality of life. Aside from incarceration and paying for damages, due to his/her criminal records, he/she will also have significantly less access to civil and social privileges like employment. To avoid this, the best course of action that the accused can take would be to hire our California-based criminal defense lawyers. They will help lessen, if not dismiss the charges altogether.
- California Penal Code PC 242 – Battery
- California Penal Code PC 270 – Child Neglect
- California Penal Code PC 273 – Child Abuse
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