9580 Oak Avenue Parkway, Suite 7-199, Folsom, CA 95630 • 877-432-5325 toll-free • 877-837-3609 fax

Criminal Defense Information for Child Endangerment (Cal. Penal Code s. 273a)

  1. What is Child Endangerment?
  2. What are the necessary elements to be found guilty of Child Endangerment?
  3. What is the sentence / punishment for Child Endangerment?
  4. What are possible defenses to charges of Child Endangerment?
  1. What is Child Endangerment?

    Child Endangerment is sometimes referred to as "child abuse".

    A person is guilty of Child Endangerment if he willfully causes or permits any child to suffer, or inflicts unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering on the child, or permits the child's health to be injured or endangered while under his care. Cal. Pen. Code s. 273a Opens in New Window.

    There are two severities of Child Endangerment: a misdemeanor and a wobbler. It can be a felony to do any of the above under circumstances or conditions that are likely to, or actually do, cause great bodily injury. Cal. Pen. Code s. 273a (a) Opens in New Window. It is a misdemeanor in other cases. Cal. Pen. Code s. 273a (b) Opens in New Window.

  2. What are the necessary elements to be found guilty of Child Endangerment?

    To prove the defendant committed Burglary, the state must show that the defendant:

    1. Willfully;
    2. Caused or permitted;
    3. Any child; and
    4. - One of the following -

    5. Permitted the child to suffer; or
    6. Inflicted unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering on the child, or
    7. Allowed the child's health to be endangered while in his care; or
    8. Permitted the child to be in a place where his person or health was endangered.
  3. What is the sentence / punishment for Child Endangerment?

    Under Cal. Pen. Code s. 273a (a) Opens in New Window, Child Endangerment is a wobbler and may be treated as a misdemeanor or a felony. The felony is punishable by two, four, or six years in prison plus fines. If it is treated as a misdemeanor under this subsection, the punishment is up to one year in county jail plus fines.

    Under Cal. Pen. Code s. 273a (b) Opens in New Window, Child Endangerment is a misdemeanor and is punishable by up to six months in jail and/or $1,000 in fines.

    In either case, if the court grants probation, there is a mandatory minimum of 48 months of probation, a criminal protective order for the victim, a minimum of a one year child abuser's program, and, if the defendant was using drugs or alcohol when the abuse happened, an order that the defendant not use drugs or alcohol for the duration of probation and an order that the defendant's probation officer is authorized to conduct random drug tests. Cal. Pen. Code s. 273a (c) Opens in New Window.

  4. What are possible defenses to charges of Child Endangerment?

    To prove someone committed a crime, the state (through its prosecutors) must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed each element of the crime. Therefore, defenses to any crime start with negating one or more of the elements of the crime. Additionally, some crimes allow for “affirmative” defenses which, if the defendant can prove the defense applies, will result in a verdict of “not guilty” even if the prosecutor proves the defendant met each of the elements of the crime.

    If the prosecutor can prove all the elements of Child Endangerment, however, the defendant must prove that one or more justifications for his actions existed (i.e., it is the defendant’s burden to prove an affirmative defense). For Child Endangerment, some of these justifications include:

    • Parent's right to discipline a child;
    • Accident;
    • Alibi / Mistaken Identity;
    • Coerced Confession;
    • Double Jeopardy;
    • Duress / Threats;
    • Entrapment;
    • Insanity;
    • Mistake of Fact;
    • Necessity;
    • Self-Defense / Defense of Others;
    • Statute of Limitations;
    • Unconsciousness; and
    • Voluntary / Involuntary Intoxication.
See also, Child Neglect, Child Pornography.