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What is Child Endangerment and What Are the Consequences?

Everyone wants to provide their child with a good and safe life, but sometimes things go sideways and you find yourself facing child endangerment charges.

Being charged with child endangerment in California means that the police suspect you’ve violated Penal Code 273a PC. This code is what lawmakers put together as a legal reference for situations that involve children suffering pain, being neglected, or being placed into dangerous situations.

Penal Code 273a PC 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.”

This section of Penal Code 273a PC is important because it clearly indicates that anyone, not just parents, can be charged with child endangerment provided there is evidence that they were responsible for a child who was in a bad situation.

The fact that anyone can be named in a child endangerment case and that there are million different ways children could place themselves in danger has resulted in many people who would never dream of breaking the law suddenly finding themselves facing child endangerment charges.

Penal Code 273a PC also states that:

“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.”

Examples of how someone could find themselves facing child endangerment charges include:

  • Failing to act when they noticed a child was being abused or neglected
  • Allowing a child to play on severely damaged equipment
  • Letting their child play in the middle of a busy street
  • Looking away while a child is abused
  • Failing to adequately provide for their child’s basic needs

Child endangerment is a misdemeanor in California. Potential penalties include a year in a county jail and/or a $1,000 fine. In some cases, probation and counseling may be part of the sentencing.

The exact circumstances surrounding the specific child endangerment charges play a massive role in how the sentencing is handled. In cases where the endangerment was a genuine accident, such as not noticing that the child had slipped out of the house, and where there is no indication that there’s a history of risky behavior, the sentence will likely be mild. In other cases where issues of neglect, abuse, and repetitive behaviors are raised, the sentence will likely be more severe.