California Penal Code Section 273a defines child endangerment as any person causing great bodily harm or death to a child. This crime includes inflicting physical abuse upon a child, but also punishes any person who allows for a child to physically or mentally suffer. In other words, a person may be convicted of child endangerment if they cause any physical or mental harm to a child.
The definition of child endangerment as found in Penal Code Section 273a is very broad. If the defendant is accused of child endangerment the prosecution will have to prove that the defendant willfully inflicted unjustifiable physical or mental pain upon the child. The pain inflicted must be unjustifiable.
How You Can Be Convicted of Child Endangerment
If the defendant did not cause the actual pain, he or she may still be convicted of child endangerment. This situation occurs when the defendant may have been responsible for allowing the child to be put in the position where great bodily harm or death occurred to the child. The prosecution will have to show that the defendant was responsible for the child when the pain was caused, and the defendant was criminally negligent.
Defenses to Child Endangerment
There are many defenses to child endangerment. An obvious one is that the person injured must be a child. This means that the alleged victim must be under 18 years of age at the time of the alleged crime.
Another defense is that the law permits an adult to impose reasonable discipline upon their child. A parent may discipline a child in a reasonable manner, such as spanking. However, whether or not the "reasonable discipline" defense will be successful depends in great part upon the specific facts of each case. It is essential that any person being charged with child endangerment talk to a criminal defense attorney when they first discover that they are being accused of this serious crime.
The Consequences of Child Endangerment Charges
A felony conviction on child endangerment charges may result in imprisonment for up to six years. However, the charges may be filed as a misdemeanor. If a person is convicted of misdemeanor child endangerment that person can be sentenced to up to one year in the county jail. The court also has the power to place the defendant on probation and as a condition of probation may impose minimal jail time.