Los Angeles Child Endangerment Lawyer CPC Section 273a

The term “child endangerment” includes a wide spectrum of criminal offenses. West Covina criminal lawyer Daniel Cota can explain the covered types of conduct. The expansive statute covers several types of prohibited activity. In each situation, the victim must be a child under 18 years of age. The “victim,” however, need not necessarily suffer any actual injury: it is enough that the child be placed in a situation in which such injury might occur.

CPC Section 273a

The heart of the law is set forth in California Penal Code Section 273a, which prohibits acts that place a child in a dangerous situation or allow a child to be placed in such a situation without taking reasonable steps to protect the child.

A violation of the statute occurs when a person: (1) inflicts, or allows another person to inflict, unjustifiable pain or mental suffering; (2) permits the child to suffer injury in body or health; or (3) permits the child to be in a situation in which the child’s physical well-being or health may be endangered. It bears emphasis that a violation can occur even when the charged party had no intent to inflict physical or mental injury, and even when the potential injury never actually occurred.

It is no defense that the child may have played a role in the potentially injurious conduct, so long as the charged party initiated the events leading to endangerment.

May Be a Felony or Misdemeanor

Violations of the statute may be prosecuted as either felonies or misdemeanors, depending upon the facts. This, in itself, is sufficient reason to engage an attorney immediately if a charge of child endangerment is made. How the charge is framed (and how the defendant responds to the charge) may have a heavy impact on the outcome of the matter. Early discussions between the prosecutor and the attorney for the defendant may posture the charge in a way that will heavily impact the outcome of the matter.

Ordinary Carelessness Is Not Child Endangerment

Because no actual injuries need to occur to sustain a charge of child endangerment, the defendant’s conduct is generally evaluated under a criminal negligence standard. Ordinary carelessness is not enough to sustain a criminal charge. There must be evidence that the defendant’s conduct went beyond the bounds of normal regard for the health and safety of others. If a parent or other adult left a child alone with a loaded pistol, the court may consider the conduct so far outside the scope of reasonable behavior that criminal negligence is established. Permitting an 8-year-old child to drive a car (with or without an accompanying adult) may meet the standard. Leaving a child with a known substance abuser may also come within the bounds of the child endangerment prohibition.

But what about locking a child in a closet for ten minutes? Or spanking or slapping a child? Subject to the specific circumstances, most episodes of such conduct will not rise to the level of child endangerment. Because each case is fact-specific, early consultation with a skilled West Covina criminal attorney such as Daniel Cota may be the key to successfully defending against a child endangerment claim. For a free initial consultation with dedicated West Covina criminal lawyer Daniel Cota, please call (800) 351-6860.

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