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Child Endangerment

California Penal Code 273 (a) defined the crime of child endangerment, in which protect the children from any time of conduct that could lead them to a physical pain or mental suffering. This offense focusing on the conduct of the defendant, if you put a children in any type of dangerous or permit to cause injured to the children that you have the duty to care, you could be face a child endangerment punishment.
Also, it is important to establish that the statute typified different conducts that could lead a person to face a charge of child endangerment, from producing great bodily harm or death to a child, inflicts unjustifiable physical or mental pain, to permit a child to suffer.
Although felony child abuse can occur in wide variety of situations, two threshold considerations govern all types of conduct prohibited by this section:  the conduct must be willful and it must be committed under circumstances or conditions likely to produce great bodily harm or death;  absent either of these elements there can be no violation of this section. People v. Odom (App. 2 Dist. 1991) 277 Cal.Rptr. 265, 226 Cal.App.3d 1028

For a defendant to be guilty of offense of causing child pain and suffering, his conduct must be willful and it must be committed under circumstances likely to produce great bodily harm or death. People v. Clair (App. 1 Dist. 2011) 129 Cal.Rptr.3d 35, 197 Cal.App.4th 949

The crime of child endangerment and child abuse, could be similar, however, on a child endangerment charge, the child does not need to suffer an actual injury, unlike child abuse, in which the main issue is whether the defendant inflicted physical harm to the child.

Examples of child endangerment:

  • Leaving a 2 years old child inside the car for 2 hours, without any window open.
  • Letting a child play with a shotgun.
  • Giving more medicine than necessary to a sick child.
  • Babysitter that failed to provide medical care when the children is sick.
  • Teacher that inflicts excessive punishment to the students.

The statute established the legal definition of child endangerment, the law revolves around the elements of the crime. In order for someone being convicted of child endangerment, the prosecution must prove into court, the following facts and elements:

1. The defendant willfully inflicted unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering on a child.
2. The defendant acted negligently and willfully caused or permitted a child to suffer unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering. 
3. The defendant acted negligently and caused or permitted a child in your care or custody to be injured.
4. The defendant acted negligently and caused or permitted a child in your custody to be placed in a dangerous situation.
5. The defendant did not act while reasonably disciplining the child.6

Let's explain in details those elements of child endangerment for better comprehension. These conditions are essential for someone being convicted of this crime, if the prosecution does not prove these elements, a person should not be convicted of child endangerment. San Diego Criminal Attorney will work to prove the innocence of its clients.

Willfully

The first element that prosecution needs to prove to initiate the child endangerment charges is that there was a willful action of the defendant. A person is acting in a willful way, when the intention is to do something on purpose, when there is no intent to hurt someone, gain advantage or break the law.1
The evidence necessary to proof, is that the person, the defendant, willfully committed a conduct that by its nature will probably directly result in injury to another person. The prosecution, in a child endangerment case, does not need to prove a specific intent to inflict a specific harm. However, it must show that the defendant intentionally engaged in an act that would produce detrimental consequences.
Since this offense is a general intent crime, it requires an intentional act and knowledge of facts sufficient to lead a reasonable person to realize that the act by its nature will probably and directly result in the application of physical force against another.
Additionally, the term of act wilfully is when the defendant does the touching willingly or purposely, however it does not mean that the individual intent to act an unlawful conduct or hurt someone else.

Example:
Lindsay is a single mom that has her 2 year-old daughter. Since Lindsay has to work everyday, she leaves her child with her neighbor, Alice. One day, Lindsay picked her daughter up from the neighbor's house and notice that her kid had bruise and a broken wrist. However, Lindsay still leaves her kid with the neighbor, since he does not have an option. Her daughter was fatally injured one day by the neighbor.
In this case, Lindsay could be convicted of child endangerment, even if she did not intent to injure her daughter, she willfully allowed her neighbor to take care of the child.
Unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering

The prosecution must prove that the child's pain or the mental occurred out of an unjustifiable conduct or unnecessary, in a way that a prudent person would not act in an excessive manner.
In California, "unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering is pain or suffering that is not reasonably necessary or is excessive under the circumstances." CALCRIM 821

Example: Stephanie is a mother of a 12 year-old girl, her daughter never listen to her. One day, the daughter went to the pool to play with her friends, while the daughter was going back home, Stephanie told her to go straight to the shower as soon as she goes back. Since the daughter never listen to the mom, she arrived home and started to play playstation and did not take the shower. When Stephanie arrived home, she was so furious with the daughter that she got her belt and started to hit the daughter.
In this case, Stephanie committed an unjustifiable physical pain on her daughter, in which she could be liable of child endangerment.


CALCRIM 915 – Simple Assault (Pen. Code, § 240). (“Someone commits an act willfully when he or she does it willingly or on purpose. It is not required that he or she intend to break the law, hurt someone else, or gain any advantage.

People v. Williams (2001) 26 C.4th 779, 787, 111 C.R.2d 114, 29 P.3d 197, infra, § 44

Unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering

The prosecution must prove that the child's pain or the mental occurred out of an unjustifiable conduct or unnecessary, in a way that a prudent person would not act in an excessive manner.
In California, "unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering is pain or suffering that is not reasonably necessary or is excessive under the circumstances." CALCRIM 821

Example: Stephanie is a mother of a 12 year-old girl, her daughter never listen to her. One day, the daughter went to the pool to play with her friends, while the daughter was going back home, Stephanie told her to go straight to the shower as soon as she goes back. Since the daughter never listen to the mom, she arrived home and started to play playstation and did not take the shower. When Stephanie arrived home, she was so furious with the daughter that she got her belt and started to hit the daughter.
In this case, Stephanie committed an unjustifiable physical pain on her daughter, in which she could be liable of child endangerment.

Criminal negligence

Under California rules, criminal negligence is defined a failure to provide a duty of care, when a reasonable person in the similar circumstance would have engaged in a different behaviour than you did. If you did not take care of the child, or acted with reckless, when you a duty of care, you could be guilty of child endangerment, under the negligence theory. In others words, someone is going to be "criminal negligent when he/she caused or permitted the child to suffer or be injured or be endangered".
However, even if the defendant have been negligent to the child, but the negligence was not the reason why the child was in danger and if a reasonable person in the similar conditions would not be able to foreseen the harm that arose from the action, the defendant could not be guilty of criminal negligence.

Furthermore, a criminal negligence involves more than ordinary care or inattention, a person acted with negligence when:
1. The defendant acted in reckless way that is a gross departure from the way an ordinarily careful person would act in the same situation.
2. The defendant's acts amount to disregard for human life or indifference to the consequences of his or her acts. CALCRIM 821

Examples:

  • Nanny that did not provide medical treatment to a sick baby.
  • A mother that leaves her son inside of a locked car.
  • A Man who takes his 3 year-old to surf in the ocean at night.
  • A mother who is high on drugs, brings her 4 year-old to a nightclub.
  • A father who left his shotgun in a visible and unsafe place.
  • A babysitter who allows a 6 year-old to have contact with chemical substances.

Penalties

The punishment for a child endangerment usually is treated as a misdemeanor in California. However, the defendant could face either misdemeanor or a felony conviction, if the child faced a risk of great bodily harm or death. This is called wobbler in California, the prosecution has an option to charge the defendant with either misdemeanor or felony.

A misdemeanor is punishable by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000) or by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding one year, or misdemeanor probation for minimum 4 year, or the fine, imprisonment and probation.

However, if someone was charged as a felony, the penalties could be aggravated depending on the facts of the case, a felony is punishable by a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000) or by imprisonment in county jail not from two (2) years to four (4) years, and a felony probation for a minimum of four years, or both fine, imprisonment and the probation.
Moreover, if the child suffered a great bodily injury, the defendant could face an additionally an imprisonment from three (3) to six (6) years. And if the child died as a consequence of the child endangerment, the defendant could face an additional four (4) years in prison, plus charges of murder or manslaughter.

Three strikes law

In California there is an aggravate rule that it is called three strikes law, in which the judge has discretion to determine to increase or diminish the conviction depending on the defendant's record. For instance, if a defendant receive a "strike" on his record, by that is convicted with a felony and then after a while he receives another sentence with felony, the judge could give twice of the regular sentence in the conviction. And if the defendant gets three "strikes", he or she might give a 25 years of imprisonment in a California State prison.
Legal Defense

A child endangerment is serious offense in California Law, meaning a person could carries severe penalties from this offense, if a person is convicted with this type of crime, the conviction is going to be on the person's criminal records. If you are looking for a job and the employer does a criminal background check and there is a domestic violence offense register, it is likely that the employer won't hire someone with a misdemeanor or felony background. If you have been charged with this offense, you should promptly look for a Lawyer. San Diego Criminal Attorney has a great deal of success defending our clients and we can help you build legal defenses that it could be use to contest these types of charges. If you would like more information, please contact our successful staff to help you with your legal problems.

To contest the charges of child endangerment, San Diego Criminal Attorney would be able to use the following legal defenses:

  • Lack of willfully

Sometimes the actions of the defendant were accidental or misunderstanding by the children. Under this type of defense, it is essential that the defense attorney and the prosecution get the entire facts of the accident. If you have been charged with assault make sure you contact an attorney immediately. San Diego Criminal Attorney can help you build a strong defense, if you did not act willfully.

  • Wrongfully accused

Under the rules of Californa Law, it is too easy for a victim falsely accuse another of committing this crime, sometimes the cause of action is out of anger, revenge or jealousy. However, San Diego Criminal Attorney know how to protect its clients from wrongfully accusations. If this is your case, contact an attorney promptly.

  • Right to discipline

In California, as explained above, the parents have full authority with their children. So, you have a right to discipline and spanking your kid, so long as the physical discipline is not reasonable, unnecessary or excessive. If the conduct of physical discipline was by means of discipline and reasonable, you could have a defense on your case. To defense those types of injustice, San Diego Criminal Attorney has experience in building strong defense for its clients, if that was your case, please contact your team and we can help you to diminish your charges or even dismiss the case.

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