Sec 273(a) of the California Penal Code criminalizes the act of child endangerment. This crime is committed when a parent or older individual places a child in a dangerous situation or allows a child to be placed in a dangerous situation without taking precautions in order to protect the child.

Even if the child suffers no actual injury, the act that places the child in a dangerous situation is sufficient to be prosecuted under this crime. This crime is a wobbler meaning that this crime can be prosecuted either as a misdemeanor or a felony offense.

The following are important aspects of the crime:

1) Infliction upon a child or allowing another person to inflict unjustified physical pain or mental suffering;
2) Allowing the child or health of the child to suffer injury;
3) Cause or allow the child to be placed in a situation where their body is endangered;

The following are the elements of the crime:

a) The accused inflicted unjustified physical pain or mental suffering upon a child or any individual under eighteen (18) years of age;
b) The accused willfully caused or negligently permitted a child to suffer unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering;
c) The accused had care or control of a child and:
a. Willfully caused or willfully and as a result of criminal negligence permitted the child’s person or health to be injured;
b. Willfully caused or willfully and as a result of criminal negligence permitted the child to be placed in a situation where his or her person or health may have been endangered;

The following are the penalties imposable for conviction of the crime and as a wobbler, the crime can be prosecuted either as a misdemeanor or a felony offense. The operative factor would be the determination if the child was placed in a situation that the child can suffer great bodily injury. The following are the penalties:

For misdemeanor child endangerment:
a) Informal probation of at least four (4) years;
b) Incarceration of up to one (1) year in county jail;
c) Payment of fines of up to $1,000;
d) Issuance of a protective order against the accused to prevent further acts of violence upon the victim, including a stay away order;
e) Attendance in a child abuser’s counseling program;
f) If the crime was found to be done under the influence of a controlled substance or alcohol, then abstention during probation including random testing;

For felony child endangerment:
a) Minimum of four (4) years of formal probation;
b) Between two (2) to six (6) years in state prison;
c) Payment of fine of up to $10,000;
d) All the other misdemeanor penalties aside from imprisonment and fine;
e) If crime resulted in great bodily injury or harm on the victim, then an additional jail time between three (3) to six (6) years in prison;
f) Registration of a strike under the California Three Strikes Law;
g) If death occurred, due to child abuse or criminal negligence, then an additional four (4) years in prison;

The crime of child endangerment is a serious offense in California. Should you be or know anyone undergoing this process, do reach out to the lawyers at the Law Offices of Ramiro J. Lluis for a free consultation today.