California Child Endangerment Lawyer
If a parent or other responsible person endangers the health of a child, that adult can be charged with either Child Endangerment, pursuant to Penal Code section 273a or Child Abuse, pursuant to Penal Code section 273d. Penal Code section 273a(a) states:
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.
Penal Code section 273a(b) states:
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.
The difference between these two subsections mainly involve whether the circumstances were likely to produce GBI or death. If the circumstances surrounding the child endangerment could have produced GBI or death, then Penal Code section 273a(a), awobbler, is charged. If the circumstances surrounding the child endangerment could not have produced GBI or death, then Penal Code section 273a(b), a misdemeanor, is charged.
In some cases, child endangerment can be charged against any person, regardless of the relationship with the child. In other cases, child endangerment can only be charged if the defendant has care or custody of the child. Any person who inflicts unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering on a child has violated Penal Code section 273a. However, if a person merely allows a child to suffer unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering OR allows the child to be injured OR causes or allows the child to be placed in a situation where the child’s health may have been endangered, then that person can only be charged with a crime if they have care or custody of the child.
A child is any person under the age of 18 years.
Great bodily injury (aka GBI) means significant or substantial physical injury. It is an injury that is greater than minor or moderate harm.
A child does not need to actually suffer great bodily harm, but if a child does suffer great bodily harm, the jury may consider that fact, along with all other evidence, in deciding whether the defendant committed the offense.
In domestic violence cases where the violence is alleged to have occurred in front of the children, the defendant can be charged with child endangerment.
California Child Abuse Lawyer
Penal Code section 273d(a) states:
Any person who willfully inflicts upon a child any cruel or inhuman corporal punishment or an injury resulting in a traumatic condition is guilty of a felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for two, four, or six years, or in a county jail for not more than one year, by a fine of up to six thousand dollars ($6,000), or by both that imprisonment and fine.
This crime is a wobbler and the District Attorney’s office will charge it as a misdemeanor or felony depending on the circumstances involved. If a defendant has a prior conviction for child abuse, then Penal Code section 273d(b) raises the maximum punishment to ten years under certain conditions.
In order to prove this charge, the prosecution must prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
1. The defendant willfully inflicted cruel or inhuman physical punishment or injury on a child; AND
2. The punishment or injury caused some kind of wound or bodily injury, whether internal or external, whether serious or minor; AND
3. The defendant was not reasonably disciplining a child.
A typical child endangerment case or child abuse case starts with a 911 call, but these cases can also start with a call to the police by a mandatory reporter from a hospital or school. Certain people, such as teachers, doctors and nurses, are required to report suspected child abuse to the police. So if your child shows up to school with a bruise on his face, the teacher must call the police if child abuse is suspected. In addition to the police, Child Protective Services (CPS) is usually called as well.
If the child is old enough to speak, the child will most likely be interviewed by CPS and/or the police WITHOUT YOU BEING PRESENT OR BEING NOTIFIED.
The police will usually speak with the other parent independently while interviewing you. If the police and/or CPS determine that the child’s safety is at issue, then your child will be taken away from you and placed in a shelter or foster home. In these situations, you have to fight in dependency court to have your child back. Dependency cases can take years to resolve. You need to have a lawyer that is familiar with dependency court as well as criminal court in order to successfully get your child back as soon as possible, while at the same time dealing with the criminal courts to prevent or minimize criminal penalties.
Not only can a child endangerment or child abuse conviction lead to criminal penalties, but it can also have drastic employment, licensing and immigration consequences. A crime of child abuse or child endangerment is considered a crime of moral turpitude. Having a child abuse or child endangerment conviction can prevent a person from finding a job or lead to a person being fired from their current job. Furthermore, many professions that require licensing from a state board, such as doctors, pharmacists, nurses, lawyers, accountants, contractors, teachers, real estate agents and stock brokers, all require background checks. A professional who has a child abuse or child endangerment conviction on their record risks losing their professional license, or never acquiring it in the first place. Perhaps the most severe impact of a child abuse or child endangerment conviction involves immigration consequences. Non-citizens who are permanent residents, with green cards, or temporary visitors, with a visa, can be denied admission, denied naturalization or even deported, with a child abuse or child endangerment conviction on their record. In fact, child abuse or child endangerment convictions are considered one of the worst convictions for immigration consequences.
The Right Lawyers
Choosing the right criminal defense lawyer will be the most important decision someone can make when facing a child endangerment or child abuse charge. Many people who face child endangerment or child abuse charges are good people who made a mistake or exercised poor judgment. There are also some people who have been wrongfully accused of child endangerment or child abuse, based on a misunderstanding or false evidence. You need an attorney who will listen to your side of the story carefully, who will evaluate the evidence thoroughly, who will negotiate with the judge and the District Attorney’s office skillfully, and who will fight in trial aggressively. You need an attorney from the Law Offices of Fred Thiagarajah.
As a former Deputy District Attorney and Deputy Public Defenders, our attorneys have the negotiating skills and trial experience necessary to get the best results for our clients. Since he has prosecuted child endangerment cases as a prosecutor, Fred Thiagarajah now uses his specialized knowledge of child abuse cases to lead his team in getting the best possible outcomes for his clients. For examples of our work in domestic violence and child endangerment, please see our case results and read our client testimonials. With offices in Newport Beach, Long Beach, Diamond Bar, Rancho Cucamonga, Riverside, Murrieta and Carlsbad, our attorneys have criminal defense experience throughout Southern California including Orange County, Los Angeles County, San Bernardino County, Riverside County and San Diego County.
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