California has different type of statutes that protect the children from negligence, child abuse, child endangerment and failure to provide care. Each of these crimes established a specific conduct that could lead someone to an imprisonment conviction. The crime of child abuse or endangerment established any person who physical injury a child or the put the children in danger, could be guilty of these crimes. However, failure to provide care, under California Penal Code 270, stipulates that just the parents could be guilty of this crime, meaning that one of the requirement for this crime to occurs, is whether the person who failure to exercise a duty of care is the parent of the child.

Examples of failure to provide care:

  • Your child got sick because you did not provide enough clothes.
  • The parents did not provide substantial food to the child.
  • Failing to provide medical care or give medicine to your son.

In order for someone being convicted of failure to provide care to a child, the prosecution must prove some specific factors of the crime into court, usually called, elements of the crime. Under California Penal Code 270, the elements mandatory to prove that the defendant is guilty are the following: 

  • The defendant was the parent of the victim.
  • The child was a minor.
  • The defendant failed to provide necessities for the child.
  • The failure to provide was willful and without lawful excuse.

Parent of a Child

As explained above, a person can only be guilty of this crime, if he/she is the parent of the child. The responsibility to provide care to a child started when the child is not born yet. The parents have liability to provide medical care even when the child in unborn. For instance, if you negligent failure to provide prenatal care, you could be guilty of this crime.

The parent could be criminally liable to provide care even if she/he does not have legal custody of the minor child, in other words, you are considered parents for purpose of this crime, even if you never been marry or you are divorced, so long as you have a child and do not provide assistance to the minor.

Moreover, for the purpose of parental responsibility, if a woman conceives through assisted reproduction with semen or ova or both donated by a donor not her spouse, with the consent of other intended parent, that intended parent is treated in law as if he or she were the natural parent of a child thereby conceived.

The Child Was a Minor

In California, for purpose of failure to provide care, a parent can only be guilty of this crime, if the victim is a child. A child is considered any person under the age of eighteen (18) years old.  A person is considered one year older after midnight on his/her birthday, after at 12:01 am the day of the birthday.

Example: Karen is 17 year-old teenager, one day she got really sick and need urgently medical treatment. However, Karen's mom does not believe that the daughter is sick and she did not take any actions about it.

In this case, Karen's mom could be guilty of failure to provide case, since Karen is considered a child for the purpose of this crime and the mom failed to provide basic necessity to her daughter.

Failed To Provide Necessities

In California rules, necessities are necessary clothing, food, shelter, medical care or other remedial care for a minor child. The parents must provide a substantial necessity to not put the children in danger.

A parent have the duty to do all reasonable necessary to provide assistance and necessities for the minor. " A parent has a lawful excuse for failing to do so if, through no fault of his or her own, he or she is unable to earn enough money and does not have other income or assets to pay for those necessities. ''CALCRIM 2981 Furthermore, it is not an excuse, if the parent instead to provide necessities, he/she spent the money on other things.

The Constitution protects the individual freedom of religion and in California allows spiritual treatment through prayer alone in accordance with practices of recognized church or religious denomination and other remedial care that it is duly accredited practitioner. In other words, the parents that provide religious treatment to a child, in order to provide traditional treatment, could not be guilty of failure to provide care. However, the parents that treat the minor with religious belief could be guilty of child endangerment or involuntary manslaughter if the child dies.

The Failure to Provide was Willful and Without Lawful Excuse

The last element that prosecution needs to prove to initiate the charges, is that there was a willful action of the parents, meaning, there was an intention to do something on purpose, even if there was no intent to hurt someone, gain advantage or break the law.

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 the child. The prosecution 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 to the children, as failure to provide clothes, medical care or food.

Furthermore, the parents could have a lawful excuse, if they are not able to provide assistance to the child, meaning, sometimes the parents do not earn enough money to pay the necessities of the children.


Claire is a single mom addicted in heroin. Claire does not make enough money, but everything that she owns, she spend on drugs and does not provide clothes and food to her daughter. 

Claire could be guilty of failure to provide care, since she had money to provide necessities to her child but spent with drugs.



Bob is Claire's ex-boyfriends and father of her chil. When Claire was pregnant, she told Bob that she was waiting for his child, but did not believe that she was pregnant of him and never talked with Claire anymore.  Bob is a successful businessman and he could be liable of failing to provide care to his child, even if he thought the child was not his, he has the duty of care and must provide basic necessity to his child.


In California failure to provide care to a children is a misdemeanor and is punishable by a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars ($2,000) or by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding one year, or misdemeanor probation, or the fine, imprisonment and probation.

The offense could be charged as either misdemeanor or a felony if the parents have been convicted of failure to provide care before.  This is called wobbler in California, the prosecution has an option to charge the defendant with either misdemeanor or felony. 

Legal Defenses

A failure to provide care is a misdemeanor in California Law and could be a wobbler, meaning that a person could face a felony or a misdemeanor conviction, 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 registered, it is likely that the employer won't hire someone with a misdemeanor or felony background.  If you has 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, San Diego Criminal Attorney would be able to use the following legal defenses:

  • There was no willful conduct.

Sometimes the actions of the defendant were accidental or misunderstanding by the victim. 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 this offense make sure you contact an attorney immediately. San Diego Criminal Attorney can help you build a strong defense, if you did not act willfully.

  • Lawful excuse defense

California law permits a valid excuse for failing to provide care to your child, if you are unable to earn enough money or does not have other income or assets to pay for the necessities to your child, you could have a valid defense.  If this is your case, please contact our team promptly, we can show that you and your family lacked of good financial resources.  This type of defense could be emotional to the parents and San Diego Criminal Attorney is promptly to help you and your family.

  • 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.