Child Endangerment | California Penal Code Section 273a PC

California Penal Code Section 273a PC titled “child endangerment” and known as the child abuse criminal statute makes it a felony for an individual to inflict physical or mental harm upon a child who is under 18 years of age that can cause the child to suffer great bodily harm or death. Also, Penal Code 273a makes it a misdemeanor for a person to inflict mental or physical harm upon a child who is under the age of 18 that causes the child to suffer without posing a risk of great bodily harm or death. This applies to parents of children, as well as persons who are in care or custody of a child.

This criminal statute can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. Typically, where the mental or physical abuse did not pose a risk of great bodily harm or death to the child, the prosecution brings misdemeanor child endangerment charges.

However, if the child endangerment causes a risk of great bodily harm or death to the child, the prosecution brings felony charges against the defendant. If the prosecution convicts the defendant of misdemeanor child abuse, he faces up to 12 months in jail. However, if the prosecution convicts the defendant of felony child abuse, the defendant faces up to four years in California State Prison.

Text of Child Endangerment Under California Penal Code Section 273a PC

According to California Penal Code Section 273a, 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.

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.”

Convicting a Person of Child Endangerment (Child Abuse)

For the prosecution to convict a person of child endangerment, it must prove a number of elements beyond a reasonable doubt. If the prosecution fails to prove even one element, it will not be able to convict the defendant of child abuse.

The prosecution must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • The defendant willfully inflicted unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering upon a child, or
  • The defendant willfully permitted a child to suffer unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering

AND

  • The defendant intended to inflict harm upon the child or the defendant acted with criminal negligence

AND

  • The defendant was not disciplining his child in a reasonable manner

Note: For the purposes of the term “child,” it refers to any person under the age of 18. The term unjustifiable means unreasonable taking into account all of the facts and circumstances. Criminal negligence is a term of art, which means that the parent, guardian, or person in custody of the child acted in a reckless way that caused the child to suffer emotion or physical harm. This means that the defendant’s negligence goes being careless, inattention, or a momentary lapse in judgment.

Examples of Conduct That Amounts to Child Abuse/Child Endangerment

Jenna has an abusive boyfriend; he often slaps her and her 7-year-old child. Still, Jenna needs to work, so she often leaves the child with her boyfriend. One night, hey boyfriend hits her son so hard that he loses consciousness and is taken to the hospital. The boyfriend can be charged with battery and domestic violence, but Jenna can be charged with child endangerment because she left her child with a man, she knows has physically abused him in the past. This conduct amounts to criminal negligence on her behalf.

Marsha is a busy lady she works two shifts and is out of her home most of the time working. One day she leaves her 12 years old and 5-year-old at home while she goes grocery shopping. The 12-year-old attempts to make some French toast and ends up burning the home down. The 5-year-old is injured in the fire. Marsha is unlikely to be charged with, nor convicted of child endangerment because although her conduct may have been careless, it does not amount to criminal negligence.

Penalties for Persons Convicted of Child Endangerment

Child endangerment can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. Here are the penalties for both scenarios:

Misdemeanor

  • Conviction of a misdemeanor offense
  • Up to 12 months in jail
  • A fine of up to $1000
  • Placement on informal probation for four years
  • Completion of a child abuse program
  • Possible restraining order-ordering the abuser to stay away from the child

Felony

  • Conviction of a felony offense
  • Two years, four years, or six years in California State Prison
  • A fine of up to $10,000
  • Completion of a child abuse program
  • Placement on formal felony probation

Defenses to Child Endangerment

If you have been charged with child endangerment or child abuse, there are a number of defenses that your criminal defense attorney can make to defend you and keep you from going to jail or prison. The following list is some of the defenses that may apply to your case; however, to know which exact defenses apply to your case, you should contact an experienced defense lawyer at The H Law Group.

Here are some of the defenses that your attorney may use to defend you:

  • The defendant did not act intentionally, nor did he act with criminal negligence
  • The defendant was reasonably disciplining her child – California law allows parents spank their child, discipline them with a belt or paddle, confining them to their bedroom, and sending their child to sleep without providing them with dinner

Note: More defenses may apply to your case, the only way to know is to schedule a meeting with one of our experienced criminal defense attorneys who will go over the facts of your case to determine the applicable defense.

Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney

If you or a loved one has been charged with child endangerment under penal code section 273a, you should immediately contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to defend you and keep you from going to jail. At The H Law Group, our attorneys have the knowledge and experience necessary to achieve the best possible outcome for you.

At the outset of every case, one of our attorneys will go over the facts of your case to determine whether a dismissal is possible. If the attorney believes that a dismissal is possible, he will communicate this to the prosecution. However, if the prosecution refuses to dismiss your case, we will do all that we can to negotiate the best possible plea deal for you. Schedule your free consultation today by filling out the contact form below or by calling us at 1 (213) 370-0404.

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