When it comes to protecting children, California has some of the stringiest laws. If you are charged or perhaps being investigated for a child endangerment charge, you should hire an experienced attorney for knowledgeable legal representation during the prosecution process.
Early intervention and investigation of your case could have a significant impact on the results of the alleged charge. At Chula Vista Criminal Attorney, our attorneys have substantial experience in this area of law to help you achieve the best possible outcome on the alleged child endangerment charge.
If the prosecutor refuses to dismiss the case, our attorneys will strive and negotiate the best possible plea deal for you.
Posting Bail After an Arrest for Child Endangerment Charge
Penal Code (PC) 273a is the statute that makes it a crime to willingly and knowingly expose a child to unjustifiable pain, danger, and suffering. You can face a charge under this statute when you expose a child to the risk of being harmed even if he/she does not suffer an actual physical injury. For the sake of this statute, a child is any person aged below eighteen 18 years.
If you are under arrest for an alleged child endangerment charge, you must post bail if you want your freedom back before the judgment of the alleged offense at trial. However, you must pass through the mandatory booking procedure, where the arresting officer or the booking officer on duty will do the following:
- Record relevant details of the alleged charge, your name, date of birth
- Check your criminal history
- Confiscate your belongings, including clothing, jewelry
- Take your mugshots
- Take your fingerprints
After that, the officer will check whether or not you are eligible for a release from jail on bail, as your alleged case continues through the required court processes. You can post your bail while at the station if they have a predetermined bail amount for a child endangerment charge on their bail schedule.
However, if they do not, you will have to wait for the bail hearing, which should happen within twenty-four hours (24) after an arrest, as long as your arrest did not occur on the weekend. If you were arrested and charged with a child endangerment charge on the weekend or holiday, your first court appearance would happen after forty-eight (48) hours.
During the hearing, the judge will have total discretion on whether or not to grant you a release on bail and the amount you should pay for your unique child endangerment case. Below are some of the factors he/she will consider when making this decision:
- Your likelihood of fleeing the state
- Whether or not you have a history of skipping bail or missing court dates after posting bail
- Your general criminal history
- Your community ties
Typically, the bail amount for child endangerment could range from $100 to $100,000, depending on the facts of your unique case. To stand a chance of achieving the minimum bail amount possible, you should retain the services of an attorney to represent your best interests during this hearing.
An experienced attorney will know the applicable mitigating arguments to convince the judge to lower your bail to make it easy to pay it in cash to obtain your release from jail without delay. If you cannot post cash bail, your attorney can help you find a dependable bail bond agent who can post the bail on your behalf.
In exchange for your well-deserved freedom, you will pay the agent ten percent of your scheduled bail amount as his/her premium or services fee. Depending on your total bail amount, the agent could also require you to give up collateral as security for your release, pending the outcome of the alleged child endangerment charge. The collateral could be anything valuable like your:
- Private home
- Real estate
Events that follow after an arrest are typically confusing. If you are under arrest for an alleged child endangerment charge under PC 273a, it is wise to speak to an attorney to know your legal options.
Examples of Scenarios that Could Attract Criminal Charges Under PC 273a
Generally, most child endangerment cases occur in connection with domestic violence incidents in a family setting or home environment. However, several other scenarios could make you subject to a child endangerment charge under PC 273a, even if you are not related to the child, including:
- Leaving a dangerous weapon or tool near a child, for example, a knife or a loaded gun
- Leaving drugs within a child's reach
- Neglecting or assuming a child's basic needs for an extended period
- Leaving a child with a baby nurse who you know has a record of abusive behavior
- Failing or refusing to seek medical assistance for a sick child
- Tattooing a minor, which is also illegal under PC 653
Even if the alleged child did not suffer an actual bodily injury, the prosecutor could still file a child endangerment charge against you. That would be possible if he/she has evidence to prove that you did place a child in a potentially dangerous situation or place where he/she could likely sustain an injury or die.
What the Prosecutor Must Prove to Obtain a Conviction Against You for PC 273a Violation
It is at the trial hearing that your case judgment will occur. At this phase of the court system, the prosecutor with the jurisdiction over your case will be ready with his/her evidence to prove the child endangerment allegations you are up against are true.
To secure a conviction against you for child endangerment under PC 273a, the prosecutor must prove one of the following factors, also known as the "elements of the crime," using convincing evidence:
- You willfully and knowingly inflicted unjustifiable mental and physical pain on a child
- You willfully and knowingly caused or permitted a child to endure unjustifiable mental suffering and physical pain
- While having custody over the alleged child, you willfully and knowingly permitted or caused his/her person or his/her health to be injured
- While having custody over the alleged child, you willfully and knowingly placed him/her in a situation where his/her health or life could be at risk
In addition, the prosecutor must also go ahead and prove to the court that:
- You were criminally negligent when you allowed the child to suffer unjustifiable pain and suffering or his/her life to be endangered
- You were not reasonably disciplining the child if you are his/her biological parent to secure a conviction against you for PC 273a violation
If the prosecutor cannot credibly prove these facts beyond a reasonable doubt using relevant evidence, you will not be guilty of child endangerment under PC 273a.
Defense Arguments to Counter a Child Endangerment Charge Under PC 273a
Although PC 273a clearly states what counts as child endangerment, there are several defenses an experienced and creative attorney defense attorney could assert during your case's trial for the possible outcome. Depending on your case's unique facts, the following defenses could work out in your favor for a less severe charge or dismissal of the entire case:
You Did Not Act Willfully or With Criminal Negligence
According to PC 273a, your act or conduct must be willful or intentional to be guilty of child endangerment. Your attorney could argue that the alleged injury to the child was accidental rather than the outcome of criminal negligence for a less severe charge or acquittal of the case.
You Were Reasonably Disciplining Your Child
As a parent, you have a right to discipline your child whenever it is necessary through "reasonable" bodily or corporal punishment. For instance, spanking your child on the buttocks is reasonable to discipline them whenever necessary. If that is the case, you should not be guilty of child endangerment under PC 273a.
The Allegations You are Up Against are False
Undoubtedly, several child endangerment cases begin with false accusations. Even lawmakers acknowledge that a child can make false accusations if another person with revengeful intentions manipulates him/her to do so. Child endangerment is a crime ripe for false accusations, especially in domestic violence incidents like a bitter divorce.
Since police officers do not want to be accountable for disregarding a potential injury to a child, they will arrest you as soon as they receive information or hints that you are the culprit in a child endangerment case. An aggressive defense attorney could use this defense argument to convince the court to drop or reduce the alleged child endangerment case.
Mistake of Fact
Another defense argument your defense attorney could use to counter the allegations you are up against is "mistake of fact." In some cases, an accusation for the crime of child endangerment could arise when a person with good intentions misinterprets a particular situation.
Mandatory reporting law, which requires professionals like teachers, doctors, or clergy to report potential child abuse cases to relevant authorities, could further aggravate this issue. When any of these professionals fail to report possible child abuse or endangerment incident to relevant authorities, he/she could be subject to a misdemeanor charge.
Because of this, these professionals are often under pressure to report potential child endangerment cases. If the court finds this defense argument reasonable, you should expect a less severe charge or dismissal of the case.
Early intervention in your case is the key if you want to give your attorney ample time to prepare bulletproof defenses to counter the allegations you are up against for the best possible outcome.
Penalties You Should Expect if You are Guilty of Child Endangerment
Depending on your specific case facts, the penalties you will be subject to upon a conviction for child endangerment charges could vary. Generally, the penalties or punishment you will be subject to upon conviction for PC 273a violation will depend on whether or not your alleged action exposed the child to a risk of severe bodily injury or death.
If the alleged actions did not put the child at risk of severe bodily injury or death, the prosecutor would file a misdemeanor child endangerment charge against you. Upon conviction for a child endangerment offense as a misdemeanor, you should anticipate the following probable penalties:
- Not more than six (6) months in the county jail
- A fine not exceeding $1,000
- Misdemeanor or informal probation for up to fours years
If the court awards you misdemeanor probation instead of a jail term, you must abide by the necessary conditions to avoid spending your sentence behind bars. Some of the conditions the court will require you to adhere to include:
- Complete a court-approved counseling program on child abuse for up to one year
- A restraining order which protects the child (victim) from further acts of violence
- If you were under the influence of unlawful drugs or alcohol at the time of the offense, the court could require you to abide by the following conditions during the probation:
- Submit or comply with regular and random drug test requests by the probation officer
- Abstain from drugs
If you comply with the conditions of your probation within the first two years, the court may choose to terminate your probation early. Therefore, it is wise to talk with your attorney to seek clarification on what you should do and not do while on probation to avoid violating any of these conditions unknowingly.
If your actions or conduct would likely cause a great bodily injury or perhaps the child's death, the prosecutor will prosecute your case as a wobbler. If that is the case, you could face felony or misdemeanor penalties upon conviction of a child endangerment charge under PC 273a, depending on your criminal history and your unique case circumstances.
A misdemeanor conviction will result in the penalties mentioned above. However, a conviction for a child endangerment charge as a felony will attract the following potential penalties:
- A maximum of six years imprisonment in the state prison
- Up to $10,000 fine
- Felony probation for up to four years
When the court awards you felony probation, the conditions you will abide by are similar to those listed above for misdemeanor or informal probation.
Sentencing Enhancement Available for Child Endangerment Charge Conviction
On top of the above standard penalties, a sentencing enhancement could also be available upon a conviction for a child endangerment charge. The applicable sentencing enhancement will also attract an extra and consecutive term in the state prison if:
- Your actions led to a severe injury to the child
- Your actions led to the death of the child
If your actions caused the child to suffer serious bodily injury, you should expect an additional three to six years in the state prison. However, if your actions led to the child's death, a conviction for PC 273a violation will result in an additional four years in prison.
Under the three-strikes law, a conviction for child endangerment as a felony will also count as a "strike" on your criminal record if the child sustained a severe bodily injury. According to this statute, your third conviction or strike for a child endangerment charge could attract up to twenty-five (25) years to life in the state prison.
Other Charges the Prosecutor Could File Against You in Connection With Child Endangerment
There are several other "domestic violence" offenses the prosecutor could file against you in connection or in addition to the child endangerment charge under PC 273a. These charges include (but are not limited to):
The child abuse crime is closely related to the child endangerment offense under PC 273a because they have similar or common elements of the crime. That means the prosecutor could file this charge against you if he/she has inadequate convincing evidence to obtain a conviction against you for PC 273a violation.
According to PC 273d, you commit the crime of child abuse when you intentionally direct physical or cruel punishment on a child, leading to a traumatic condition or an injury. A conviction for a child abuse charge as a felony could make you subject to a combination of all of the following potential penalties:
- A fine not exceeding $6,000
- Two, three, or five years in the state prison
- Formal probation for not more than three years
However, if your child abuse case is a misdemeanor, a conviction will attract the same amount of fines and a county jail term of up to one year.
Also known as failure to provide care, child neglect is another common domestic violence crime that the prosecutor could file against you in addition to or instead of child endangerment. Although child neglect is a less severe offense than child endangerment under PC 273a, a conviction could still ruin your life.
According to PC 270, you commit the offense of child neglect when you fail to provide basic physical necessities to your child. For the sake of this statute, basic physical necessities include:
- Food and water
- Medical care
Upon conviction for child neglect under PC 273a, you should expect the following probable punishment or penalties:
- Up to $2,000 fine
- Up to one-year custody in the county jail
You will not be guilty of child neglect or failure to provide care if it is not your fault that you cannot provide these basic physical necessities to your child.
Lewd Acts With a Minor
Penal Code 288 is the statute that makes it unlawful to knowingly touch a child under the age of fourteen years or make him/her touch himself or herself for sexual purposes. Typically, the crime of lewd acts with a child is chargeable and punishable as a felony. The penalties you will face upon conviction for PC 288 violation will depend on:
- The age of the child or victim
- Whether or not you are the child's caretaker
- The age difference between you and the child
Generally, a conviction for lewd acts with a minor could attract a fine of up to $10,000 and not more than eight years in prison. If you are a non-citizen, a conviction for a PC 288 violation could also make you subject to deportation because it is a crime involving moral turpitude.
Driving Under the Influence (DUI)
As you could beware, it is unlawful to drive or operate an automobile under the influence of alcohol and drugs. The crime of DUI becomes more severe if you had a child in your car at the time of the offense. If you are arrested for DUI with a child under 14 as a passenger in your vehicle, the prosecutor could choose to file both DUI and child endangerment charges against you.
Depending on whether or not you have past DUI convictions on your record, a conviction for DUI with a child under the age of 14 could attract the following potential sentencing enhancements :
- An additional forty hours in the county jail if it is your first-time DUI offense
- An additional ten days in the county jail if it is your second-time DUI offense
- An additional thirty days in the county jail if it is your third-time DUI offense
- An additional ninety days in the county jail if it is your fourth-time DUI offense
The above sentencing enhancement is in addition and consecutive to the standard penalties you will face for a DUI charge conviction.
As you can see above, being charged with child endangerment could come with severe consequences that could significantly affect the quality of your life. Even if it is impossible to secure a conviction against you for PC 273a violation, a relentless prosecutor could secure a conviction against you for any of the above-related offenses.
To increase the chances of achieving the best possible outcome if you are being investigated or charged with child endangerment, you should work with an attorney. You need an attorney in your corner to help you prove your innocence in every stage of the prosecution process for the best possible verdict.
Find a Credible Defense Attorney Near Me
Apart from the hefty fines and lengthy prison terms, a conviction for child endangerment can also ruin your reputation in the community. Luckily, you do not have to go through these challenging and stressful moments alone. Knowledgeable attorneys at Chula Vista Criminal Attorney are here for you if you are in trouble with the law for an alleged child endangerment charge.
We will aggressively represent your best interests and defend your legal rights in court for the best possible outcome. We invite you to call us at 619-877-6894 to schedule your initial consultation with our understanding and experienced defense attorneys.