Receiving mail that you are accused of suspected child neglect or failure to provide care is a traumatizing experience. You will have several questions about your future, family, what will happen to your child, and your rights. To answer these questions, San Diego Criminal Attorney has prepared an article that discusses Penal Code Section 270 PC in detail as well as what you should do should you find yourself on the wrong side of the law. Our legal team has many years of experience defending the rights of our clients, and we can build a strong case on your behalf.

California Failure to Provide Care Laws

Penal Code Section 270 PC is the law on child neglect. According to this law, if the minor's parent omits, without legal excuse, to furnish necessary food, shelter, medical attendance, clothing, or any other remedial care for their child, they are guilty of a California misdemeanor. The misdemeanor charge carries a fine of $2,000 or a year sentence in county jail, or both.

To be charged with failure to provide care, the prosecutor should establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the parent:

  • Willfully
  • Failed to offer necessities to their minor
  • Without lawful excuse

An Overview of the Elements of the Crime

To comprehend the above legal definition of Penal Code Section 270, here are descriptions of main legal terms and phrases:


The word "necessities" as far as PC 270 is concerned are those which offer a child physical needs. They include:

  • Food
  • Remedial care
  • Shelter
  • Clothing
  • Medical attention

Remedial Care

It could entail spiritual treatment via prayers. Therefore, if you do not believe in conventional medicine, you can use a faith healer for your child. However, this treatment should be offered by an expert from a renowned religious denomination or church.

Should the child fail to get better or is critically ill, you could be charged with either

  • Child endangerment (PC 273a), or
  • Involuntary manslaughter in case the minor passes away (PC 192b)


The term "parent" is broad as far as PC 270 is concerned. You could be a child's parent in either of the situations below:

You are Married to as well as Stays with the Minor's Mother

You are deemed to be a father to a minor your wife bears if:

  • You are not sterile or impotent, and
  • You live with your wife


  • The child was born after an artificial insemination
  • You agreed to the artificial insemination in writing.

So, what happens if you aren't the minor's biological father? You are well-thought-out to the child's father even if your wife had an affair with other men. However, you are not considered the child's father if:

  • You or sometimes your wife files paternity proceedings within two years after childbirth, and
  • The judge determines you are not the father of the minor

You are Divorced from a Person with Whom You Have a Baby

You are a parent despite having no custody rights.

Additionally, the law considers you a child's parent even when:

  • You haven't seen the baby since she/he was born, or
  • You have never met the baby.

It is worth noting; the following doesn't apply:

  • To safely surrendered babies,
  • To minors who were legally given for adoption
  • If the court has declared a child abandoned and somebody else has taken legal responsibility

You Didn't Marry the Minor's Other Parent

You don't require to be dating or married to the child's other parent to be deemed a parent. Per PC 270, a one-night stand could lead to parental responsibilities.

You have Lawfully Assumed Legal Responsibility or Adapted the Minor

The state of California has numerous ways for an individual to assume parental responsibilities. They include lawful responsibility per child abandonment laws as well as adoption.

If you have assumed these responsibilities, you are lawfully obligated to offer necessities to the baby. On the contrary, a court decree could relieve the previous adoptive parents or birth parents of the responsibility.

PC 270 Applies to a Fetus

As the unborn baby's legal father or mother, you are supposed to offer necessities to this child.

Without Excuse and Willfully

When a person is said to have done something willingly or willfully, it means they did it intentionally. It is different from something done recklessly or negligently.

However, when you have a legal excuse for PC 270, you cannot afford to cater to your child's necessities through no fault of your own.

When You Are Liable for Failing to Have Money

You don't have a legitimate excuse for not offering your baby's necessity if:

  • You didn't diligently seek employment, or
  • You unreasonably decided to spend your money to purchase luxuries

According to California Penal Code Section 270 PC, your children should be your priority. And you can't avoid criminal accountability because the other child's parent, an organization like a food bank or church, or another person offered the support.

What Penalties and Consequences Does Violation of PC 270 Carry?

Discussed below are the different penalties you are likely to face if charged with child neglect in California.

Misdemeanor Penalties

Generally, child neglect in California is charged as a California misdemeanor. It carries penalties such as:

  • Summary or misdemeanor probation
  • A maximum of a year in jail
  • A maximum of $2,000 in fine

Felony Charge

Sometimes, failure to provide care is a wobbler. A California wobbler is an offense that could be charged either as a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the prosecution's discretion.

Wobbler penalties are imposed if the court had formerly declared that the accused is the minor's parent. It is common in paternity lawsuits.

A felony is punishable by:

  • One year and an additional one day in state prison, or
  • A maximum of a year in jail
  • $2,000 in fine

Constitutional Restrictions

Notwithstanding the PC 270 wording, many fathers do not get charged with California felony child neglect. California courts have held that the felony consequences break the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution in case the accused has never been found guilty of child neglect.

The courts believe that severe penalties could prevent men from attempting to prove paternity. Also, it could make men pay child support (maybe wrongly) instead of risk being declared the child's father and then accused of felony child neglect.

The consequence is that you are only charged with California felony if:

  • You beforehand lost the paternity case, and
  • You have been previously found guilty of child neglect

How to Beat Penal Code Section 270 PC Charges

Usually, defenses to PC 270 revolve around lawful excuse and absence of willfulness. An experienced defense attorney could also use common defenses.

False Accusations

Unluckily, as a parent, you aren't immune to being falsely accused by your ex.

Maybe the custodial parent wants more money following a divorce. Or your ex-spouse was driven by vengeance or jealousy.

In this case, your experienced attorney should be able to convince the prosecution to drop your charges.

You Couldn't Afford to Offer Necessities to Your Baby

A parent who can't afford to provide the necessities for their baby could have a lawful excuse for failure to provide care charge accusations.

For this defense to work, you must have lacked a financial means that is not caused by your own fault. As previously mentioned, you must put your child's needs first. In other words, you should use reasonable efforts to get employment if you are not disabled.

Your competent criminal defense lawyer could claim that:

  • You were critically ill
  • As a working parent, you only had enough money to offer the necessities
  • As an unemployed parent, you did not get work or enough work irrespective of trying

Some of the wrong reasons for child neglect include:

  • Your spent money to offer your new wife's children necessity
  • You skipped your son's physician's appointment because you wanted to purchase a new car
  • You felt that some jobs are beneath you

You Were Legally Excused from Getting Medical Attention

Not every person believes in conventional medical care. According to child neglect laws, you can first get alternative care for your child like faith healing. It is not illegal provided:

  • Your religious organization or church recognizes the expert
  • The religious organization or church is recognized
  • The minor isn't seriously sick or at the verge of dying

If the life of your child is in danger or becomes critically ill, you are lawfully required to get medical attention irrespective of your religious beliefs. Failure to do so could result in felony charges per child endangerment laws or involuntary manslaughter laws.

You Didn't Act Willfully

You are not responsible for child neglect unless your failure was done on purpose.

In California, neglect isn't well-thought-out to willful if the failure to offer necessities wasn't the accused fault. It could take place if:

  • Through no fault of your own, you couldn't afford to offer the child's needs irrespective of your truthful efforts
  • You didn't recognize that your baby required medical attention

You aren't the Child's Parent

If you are lawfully the minor's parent, you are liable to the child's care. You might not be a child's parent if:

  • The minor was born while his/her mother was married to another person
  • Another person legally adopted the child
  • You are not the child's biological parent, and
  1. The child was not conceived through artificial insemination, or
  2. The baby was conceived through artificial insemination but without your written consent

Mistake of Fact

You could be wrongly accused of PC 270 on the grounds of mistake of fact. That is the case when the so-called mandated reporters see a sign that looks like neglect. Per child abuse and neglect reporting act professionals who are supposed to report suspected abuse include:

  • Social workers
  • Nurses
  • Teachers
  • Doctors
  • Clergy
  • School administrators

If the above category of persons fails to report abuse, they face a misdemeanor. As a result, these people report even the smallest suspicion of child neglect.

You can fight these accusations with proof of care offered to the child or in a non-custodial parent case, an attempt to provide the care.

Are There Offenses that are Charged Alongside or Instead of PC 270?

Discussed below are offenses that are related to PC 270 charges:

Child Abuse

California Penal Code Section 273d is the child abuse code section. Also referred to as to corporal injury on a child, it's illegal to impose brutal punishment or physical harm on a child.

Perfect instances of violation of PC 273d include:

  • Slapping your teenage son for disobeying you and then cutting his face using a ring
  • Spanking a child using a belt and causing bruises

Child abuse is a wobbler. If charged with a misdemeanor, you face:

  • A year in jail
  • A maximum of six thousand dollars in fine

A felony, on the other hand, is punishable by:

  • Up to six thousand dollars in fine
  • A two, four, or six year-jail sentence (plus consecutive four years if you have a previous felony child abuse conviction within ten years)

Child Endangerment

PC 273a is the child endangerment code section. It is different from child abuse in that it doesn't need physical harm or injury.

It is a wobbler to put a child in a condition in which their health could be at risk. A perfect example could be leaving your child with your cocaine-addicted sister while you go to a casino.

Although child endangerment may seem a less severe offense compared to child abuse, it carries the same penalties as Penal Code Section 273d.

Child Stealing (Abduction)

Child abduction (PC 278) is almost similar to kidnapping laws. It takes place when a person takes a child maliciously away from their guardian. Unlike kidnapping, it pays attention to the abducted minor's parent ( this is a different alleged victim).

Violation of PC 278 is a California wobbler. A misdemeanor carries a fine of one thousand dollars and a one-year jail sentence. A felony is punishable by:

  • A two (2), three (3), or four (4)-year jail sentence
  • Ten thousand dollars in fine
  • Reimbursement of both the government's and victim's costs used to find and take the child back

Domestic Violence

Domestic violence laws are designed to punish the mistreatment of children and domestic partners. The most common domestic violence laws charged together with California Penal Code 270 PC include:

  • Domestic battery (PC 243(e)(1)
  • Stalking (PC 646.9)
  • Corporal injury to a cohabitant or spouse (PC 273.5)

Each of these offenses is charged as a wobbler.

Deprivation of Custody

California Penal Code Section 278.5 PC is the deprivation of custody. It's almost like child abduction. However, it applies precisely to:

  • A non-custodial parent who deprives the custodial parent of the custody over the child
  • A custodial parent who interferes with a non-custodial parent's visitation rights.

A custodial parent is a parent with a lawful child's custody while a non-custodial parent doesn't have custody but could have visitation rights.

Deprivation of custody is considered a wobbler. A California misdemeanor carries:

  • A maximum of a year in jail
  • One thousand dollars in fines

On the contrary, a felony conviction has the following penalties:

  • Eighteen (18) months, two (2) or three (3) years in county jail
  • Ten thousand dollars in fine
  • Reimbursement of both the government's and victim's costs used to find and take the child back

What to Do After Being Charged with Penal Code Section 270 PC

If convicted of child neglect in San Diego, you're likely to face the consequences even after you have served time. To avoid these negative repercussions, you should take the right steps from the case's inception. These steps include:

Exercise the Right to Remain Silent

Probably you have heard, "You have the right to remain silent…" when watching TV shows and movies. According to the Fifth Amendment, the best method to prevent incriminating yourself is by keeping quiet.

Do not answer the questions asked and politely tell the law enforcement agency that you won't answer the questions without your attorney present.

Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney Immediately

The most paramount step in defending yourself against a failure to provide care charge is to contact a defense lawyer. Every day you are in police custody without your lawyer fighting for your rights hurts the case. Therefore, it is wise to hire an attorney immediately you are arrested.

The prosecution understands the law more than you. And often, they will make you agree to a plea bargain, which seems like a good deal. Your competent attorney will analyze your case and stop you from taking what looks like a simple deal when it's not in your best interests.

Don't Post Bail Before Consulting Your Attorney

Most individuals make the blunder of paying bail for their loved one immediately when they are put into custody. It is a wrong move, especially if it involves a felony charge.

You ought to first consult your lawyer who can assist you in deciding by:

  • Reviewing the case's facts and determining whether the bail can be reduced or even have you released without posting bail
  • Advising you whether there is a likelihood of your charges been dropped at your arraignment or not
  • Determining if the judge will raise your bail at the arraignment. In this case, there is a possibility that you will be taken back to detention.

Be Truthful to the Lawyer

Your lawyer should know the correct information about the case. It will help them adequately prepare for your case and offer you the best defense. Consequently, it is fundamental that you're honest with them throughout the criminal process.

Remember, the information you share with the lawyer is confidential. And if the lawyer decides to share your case's details, they could face discipline, which entails the likelihood of losing their professional license.

Avoid Discussing the PC 270 Charges with Your Loved Ones

Confidentiality rules don't protect conversations with your loved ones. Anything you say can be used against you.

Come Up with a List of Witnesses

Note down the names and contact details of all persons who can testify positively on your behalf. Also, gather the names of all persons who saw the alleged PC 270 taking place. Your attorney should be in a position to follow up with the witnesses and check if their story matches yours.

Attend all the Court Hearings

You should attend all of your court hearings. The law requires the accused to be aware when the hearings are taking place and attend all.

Work with the attorney to generate a calendar of your court hearings. Also, set alarms and reminders. Failure to show up in court not only looks bad for the case but could also lead to the issuing of your arrest warrant.

What Happens After a Child Neglect Report is Filed

Typically, the identity of the individual who filed the failure to provide care report remains confidential. Also, the police and Child Protective Services (CPS) don't share details about the progress of child neglect investigation with any person.

The Report is Reviewed for Investigations

After a child neglect report has been filed, CPS and the police determine whether to follow up on the report. The term "screened in'' means the authorities will conduct an investigation. While screened out means the report won't be investigated.

Once the authorities determine the report could indicate child neglect, they should investigate within the duration specified by the law. Sometimes, preliminary investigations are done to collect more details to check if they should go ahead with the investigations or not.

People Who Participate in the Investigations

The police or CPS manage the investigations. Other professionals involved may include social workers, doctors, and therapists. Interviews could be held with the non-offending parent as well as the child.

Sometimes interviews are held with the minor's siblings or any person with knowledge about child neglect like doctors, teachers, and neighbors.

What Happens when Investigation Proves Child Neglect

In case the investigation shows you have violated PC 270, interventions are taken to protect the minor. The Child Protective Services can choose follow-up actions like continuous supervision and support and counseling programs for the child.

Find a San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

The stakes in a failure to provide care charge can be high with consequences like incarceration and damage to family connections and relationships. A child neglect conviction can also leave you with a criminal record, which makes securing employment hard. If you are facing PC 270 charges, please speak to the San Diego Criminal Attorney via 619-880-5474 before talking to authorities. We can conduct investigations and try to reveal mitigating factors as well as advise you on your legal options and rights.