San Diego Criminal Attorney is a premier law firm with top rated experience in the field of criminal defense. The law firm serves clients located in and around San Diego. The firm's attorneys have an established background in criminal defense and a reputation for defending clients accused of child endangerment. Various accusations relate to child endangerment. Notable of these accusations include willingly exposing a child to suffering, pain or danger. Such an act which exposes a child to an imminent threat of injury, death, mental harm, and emotional torture is equivalent to six years of imprisonment.
Before hiring a child endangerment lawyer, the accused can be torn between whom to choose from a plethora of law firms. The answer lies within the ability of the attorney to review a case and come up with the most persuasive defense argument. Although crimes against children in the United States are prosecuted with extreme aggression, a perfect defense against child endangerment charges could be based upon whether the act was willful, if any criminal negligence was proven, whether the child was below eighteen years of age, and whether a warranted punishment against the accused was reasonable.
What Constitutes Child Endangerment Under California Law?
California State laws, under penal code 273a, categorizes child endangerment as a wobbler. A wobbler is an offense that can be charged as a felony or as a misdemeanor. The code punishes someone who, responsibly, exposes a child under the age of eighteen years to physical or emotional injury, death or mental prejudice. Sometimes child endangerment is also termed as child abuse. However, you should not confuse child endangerment with the penal code 273d. This is because the latter stands for child abuse laws which differ widely from child endangerment.
The simplest way to distinguish between both is to say 273a penal code punishes the possibility of physical or mental injury, whereas 273d punishes actual bodily harm. Further, the offense of child endangerment is punished either as a misdemeanor or as a felony in all jurisdictions under California law.
An impeccable anecdote to child endangerment can be illustrated from the real-life situations below;
- Leaving a child or a minor under the care of a babysitter with a record of abusive behavior.
- Refusing to seek medical attention for a sick child. At varying circumstances and as a matter of fact, sometimes a parent may seek ‘faith healing' as provided by the ‘child neglect law ‘under penal code 270. The provision, however, remains invaluable and subject to charges where the minor is very sick and at the risk of death.
When Is Child Endangerment Considered a Felony?
Felony child endangerment is an offense enhanced by aggravating factors. For the charges to be elevated from just a regular child endangerment case to a felony, the court considers two factors. Among the two aggravating factors, the first lies within ‘intention' or intent. The penal code states that given the act was out of intent, it would be considered a felony. However, where the action is a result of reckless or negligence, it is usually viewed as a misdemeanor.
The extent of risk influences the second aggravating factor. The higher the risk, the more extreme the charges become. Where the child endangerment seems to cause greater body injury or harm, California law requires the charges to be elevated. The second factors also take into consideration, whether the child suffered any mental destruction as a result of the endangerment. It is also important to note that on most occasions, the risk of physical injury is not required. The law statute also presumes some of the dangers. An instant of such an occasion would happen where an adult consumes controlled and intoxicating substance while with a child. In such a case, the law presumes the minor was exposed to some risk or danger. Coming up with a concise yet strong defensive proof against such an action would require attorneys well versed with criminal defense.
What is a Suitable Defense Strategy for a Child Endangerment Felony?
Most attorneys will take advantage of an exception provided for reasonable discipline.
Reasonable when it comes to the case of child endangerment, will entail all aspects surrounding the risk. The main disadvantage of utilizing the reasonable discipline is suitable when a child is placed under a very high risk. To forge a better and more complacent defensive theory would entail negating the extent of risk elements. A good example would involve a defendant who can prove that his/her conduct was reckless. Proving so would ensure that the accused obtains a reduction of the charges. For instance, the reduction would be from a felony to a misdemeanor.
It is, therefore, possible to alleviate the risk element by presenting a testimony that proves the risk would not possibly result to bodily harm. Reasonable evidence that would back up such an assertion should entail the action taken to protect the child. The actions could be establishing parenting restrictions that the child could not have followed or the use of safety devices.
What Determines the Type of Child Endangerment Punishment in California?
Analyzing the circumstances surrounding an act of child endangerment is important while categorizing the appropriate form of punishment. The following steps are therefore applicable and relate to all state laws.
- What is the endangering action or situation? Some situations are considered as child endangerment and with varying degrees. For instance, it is an endangering activity to expose a kid to drug or illegal transactions, having unsecured weapons or firearms in the same place as the child, failure to secure children while driving a vehicle, engaging in sexual activity under the child's presence, or driving an automobile under the influence alcohol with a child inside.
- Potential of Causing Harm. Child endangerment laws specify actions that would lead to actual harm of the child are punishable. Note that it is not mandatory that one causes actual injury on the child. Exposing the child to such a situation that is risky to their mental, physical, or emotional welfare is categorized as a criminal offense and therefore punishable. Another punishable offense on child endangerment is where the actions of a caretaker resulted in the child's physical injury.
- Was the Action Intentional or Negligence? The circumstances surrounding the act could be analyzed to show proof whether the accused knew or should have realized the impending danger exposed to the child. To obtain the appropriate punishment, therefore, depending on whether the act was out of intention or a reckless action; the prosecutor applies a theory of ‘reasonable standards' earlier mentioned as a reasonable discipline. The reasonable standard insinuates that despite the accused not knowledgeable of whether his/her actions would cause harm, reasonable people present during the action would have understood the action could cause damage.
- Mistake and Recklessness. The prosecutor should maintain that the accused did more than a mistake to be convicted of child endangerment. To convict a felony, the child's caretaker must expose the child to a situation that is more likely to cause harm than not. A situation is therefore not to be considered as risky if it does not possess any potential to harm a child. A good example is leaving a child in a vehicle, while the engine is running within a duration of up to thirty minutes. A situation similar to this cannot, thus, be ruled as an act of child endangerment.
Child Endangerment Penalties
Punishment for child endangerment is initiated depending on whether the child endangerment was a felony or a misdemeanor. Under penal code 273a of California State Laws, the penalties for child endangerment are;
- Up to one year of jail imprisonment where the case was a misdemeanor or a fine of 1000 dollars;
- If charged as a felony, penalty for child endangerment would entail up to two, three, four, or five years of imprisonment in a California State Prison. The equivalent would be a fine of up to 10,000 dollars;
- Judges could also file probation for a child endangerment crime. California State probations usually last up to a year and require the sentenced person to report to a probation officer. Other actions that entail a probation term include reporting to counseling activities, refrain from further illegal activities and failure to violate terms of the probation.
- The judges can also strip parents of their parental rights. Where a parent or a guardian has been convicted of child endangerment, the parent may stripe off their parental obligations and rights. When such a situation occurs, the child may remain under the caretaking of the other parent. The court may also assign a legal guardian where there is no other parent. California laws also have a provision where the child may be placed under the child service agency until the court has approved a new guardian.
Attorneys claim that there are no higher stakes than those associated with a child abuse case. Profoundly no other cases have so much difficulty in defending or prosecuting as compared to cases involving endangerment of children welfare. Whether an accused is guilty or not, child endangerment cases have a history of unspeakable emotion, lack of reasonable thinking, and littered with a mess – acts which sometimes are full of life-changing stigmas and legal minefields. For instance, these scenarios can lead to stigmas to the victims; a father is accused of sexually abusing a daughter, foster mothers beating up their children, or a boyfriend physically abusing his girlfriend's son.
Challenges involving this case begins from the selection of a jury. A resume background is checked during screening to shortlist jurors. The jurors must have prior knowledge of dealing with criminal defense cases and understand that a caregiver with no previous criminal record could harm a child. Since most accused plead not guilty, the jurors must have a consistent belief that these parents could physically torture their children, sexually abuse them or even take away their lives.
It is even more challenging to handle the stigma that comes with such accusations. Defendants, therefore, find it difficult to withstand such juries to the extent that when asked what is better between allegations of murder and sexually abusing a child, the answer mostly rests at murder. A high percentage of state prosecutors lament the stakes associated with such cases. An anecdote to how grim and abhorrent these cases happen to be during the selection of the jury. The interviewee would ask the sitting jury whether they would love their children to fall under the hands of such a person (a person accused of instigating child endangerment). The answer is always no. It is an undeniable aspect that the defendant will always be thought of as a dangerous person – a criminal that should always be watched.
Legal Complications Involved in the Prosecution of Child Endangerment Charges
Child endangerment cases involving a felony are hard to handle, especially where a fatal physical injury was inflicted or was a proximate cause to death. For instance, in a case involving disposing of a minor in a bin, confessions, and witnesses to such cases are scarce to come by. Jurors and prosecutors also lack a faithful establishment of what happened. Upon a reasonable discipline, of course, the jury may establish the defendant as guilty. The stakes, however, to understand what happened or the cause of the action will always remain impossible. Some of the bound questions when it comes to such cases include: did the accused pick up an object and hit the child, physically stomped the kid, or picked up the kid and threw him/her away? Unlike homicide cases that involve weapon attacks, gunshots, or stab wounds, endangering the welfare of a child may not leave behind traces of testimony. In homicide cases, prosecutors have the upper hand in ruling out the case. In case of endangerment or physical abuse where there are no gunshots, defense attorneys are quick to defend that the wounds might have been a pre-existing condition.
Rolling the Dice during Child Endangerment Trials
Defendants accused of Child endangerment find it an advantage to roll the dice during their trials. It is a specific benefit especially to those accused of sexually defiling children. Rolling the dice has a direct relaxation to the defendant's case in the sense that they are willing to accept any sentence by the jury. For instance, the provision for ten years deferred adjudication probation to sexual assault is possible. Although it is more of a simplified manner of avoiding a jury’s sentence of sexual defiling, the adjudication probation is one of the most challenging sentences. The jury files a sex offender caseload, upon which the defendant is expected to register as a sexual offender. The registration translates that the accused is willing to live their whole life labeled as a sexual offender. The discouraging part of it is that a slight mistake like being drunk along with a minor would call for the maximum sexual offender sentence.
Taking a chance comes into play where the defendant is hesitant to obtain the adjudication probation. The defendant goes for the trial and takes chances on whether to go ahead with on probation, prison, or a death sentence.
Child endangerment offenders will never testify guilty unless proven guilty by the jury. Enough evidence may be available to back up the accuser's testimony. However, the offenders will never admit their wrong. Sometimes children as young as the age of four would be put on the stand. The prosecutors will have them testify against the defendant who in most cases happens to be someone they know very well. Child abuse prosecutors in California claim that in most cases. Abused children will not report abuse immediately, and trauma may proceed to months or even years. Since it is prohibited to play forensic investigative records in court; the minor plaintiff usually takes the stand while the defendant sits. The minor details the background of the assault, therefore in a way that does not perpetuate fear.
Furthermore, it is essential as the defendant to understand that child endangerment is considered a serious crime. Especially when charged as a felony, the penalties are far violent on the accused. It means that if convicted of a felony, the chance of escaping with the act under the pretension of not guilty is near impossible, especially without an appropriate defense attorney to take advantage of the gaps. It is possible to testify the act as unintentional but arguing out a claim like this without a well-versed attorney is challenging.
How Do I Find a Criminal Defense Attorney for Child Endangerment Near Me?
If accused of child endangerment in San Diego and surrounding areas, our San Diego Criminal Lawyer will help mount a vigorous criminal defense strategy to help contest the case. It can be a devastating time if accused of child endangerment. Rest assured that our law firm has a historical background of navigating all aspects of child endangerment cases. Please call us at 619-880-5474 and speak to one of our experienced legal experts for assistance.