CHILD ENDAGERMENT UNDER PENAL CODE § 273(a)
A person commits child endangerment when he or she, under circumstances or conditions “likely to produce great bodily harm or death”, does any of the following:
- A person willfully causes a child to suffer unjustifiable injury or pain
- A person willfully inflicts unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering on a child
- A person willfully causes or permits the health of a child to be injured
- A person willfully cases or permits a child to be placed in a situation where his or her health is endangered
If the defendant’s actions were not likely to cause bodily harm or death, the crime will be a misdemeanor offense.
For example, a parent who drives a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol with children in the vehicle may be convicted of child endangerment because the parent created an unjustifiable risk of harm to the child by drinking and driving.
PUNISHMENTS FOR CHILD ENDANGERMENT
Child endangerment is a “wobbler” meaning that it can be punished as either a felony or a misdemeanor offense.
Misdemeanor child endangerment is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for up to one year.
Felony child endangerment is punishable by imprisonment in state prison for two, four, or six years.
DEFENSES TO CHILD ENDAGERMENT
There are many defenses to child endangerment. For example, the prosecution may not be able to prove all of the elements if a parent lacked the necessary intent.