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CHILD ENDANGERMENT, PC 273a

Child Endangerment, PC 273a, is a wobbler in California, which means that it is a crime that can be charged either as a felony or as a misdemeanor. Child endangerment is oftentimes charged along with domestic violence, formally known as Corporal Injury to Spouse/Cohabitant, PC 273.5(a), because the act of injuring a spouse in front of a child is considered a dangerous act.

The California legislature makes it clear what constitutes Child Endangerment under 273a:

“273a(a) Any person who, under circumstances or conditions likely to produce great bodily harm or death, willfully causes or permits any child to suffer, or inflicts thereon unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering, or having the care or custody of any child, willfully causes or permits the person or health of that child to be injured, or willfully causes or permits that child to be placed in a situation where his or her person or health is endangered, shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or in the state prison for two, four, or six years.

273a(b) Any person who, under circumstances or conditions other than those likely to produce great bodily harm or death, willfully causes or permits any child to suffer, or inflicts thereon unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering, or having the care or custody of any child, willfully causes or permits the person or health of that child to be injured, or willfully causes or permits that child to be placed in a situation where his or her person or health may be endangered, is guilty of a misdemeanor.”

Note that if there was a risk of death or great bodily injury, it can be charged as a felony, but if there was no risk of death or great bodily injury, then it is a misdemeanor.

What Qualifies as Child Endangerment?

-If the defendant willfully causes or permits any child to suffer, or inflicts thereon, any unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering

-While having the care or custody of the child, the defendant willfully causes or permits that child to be injured

-The defendant willfully causes or permits that child to be in a place of danger

Examples:

  1. Driving drunk with a child in the backseat.
  2. Leaving a child alone and within reach of a gun.
  3. Committing domestic violence in front of a child.

Losing Custody of A Child

In many Child Endangerment cases, parents are also referred to a child protective services agency and will have to fight for custody in dependency court.

Defenses

  1. False Accusation

Sadly, many people use the system get back at others. Sometimes a person will make false accusations against another person so that the other person has their child taken away from them. It is terrible, but it does happen.

2. You did not INTENTIONALLY endanger or harm your child.

Let’s say it is the 4th of July, and you are watching TV with one child in the living room. You hear what you think are fireworks (but were really gunshots). Your other child is in the bathroom and screams that she is drowning, so you run to save the other child. In the living room, stray bullets are piercing the walls and your son is lying on the ground screaming while you are attending to the child in the bathtub. In this case, you did not intentionally endanger your child in the living because you genuinely thought the sound outside was fireworks.

3. Someone else was taking care of your child.

If you research a babysitting company and the company seems to provide safe, high quality service, and you leave your child with the babysitter, if the child is left in a dangerous situation, you have not committed Child Endangerment.

4. You didn’t cause the dangerous situation.

Let’s say you are at a park and you are playing with your child, and a fight breaks out. Your child gets hurt. Even if it’s a park in a dangerous neighborhood, other parents were also playing with their child at the park and you had no part in the fight.

CHILD ENDANGERMENT (PC 273a) cases are oftentimes prosecuted very aggressively. You need an aggressive criminal defense lawyer who can represent you and show that you acted reasonably and that it was not your fault that your child was hurt. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can show that you did not CAUSE your child to get hurt or that you did not put them in a dangerous situation. We have experience fighting Child Endangerment cases, and we serve Orange County, LA County, Riverside County, San Bernardino, and all of southern California. We can conduct business with our clients both in person and remotely. Our phone number is 213-235-7969 and we look forward to discussing your case with you.

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