California Child Endangerment Laws 

California Penal Code § 273a states that anyone who, under conditions likely to produce great bodily harm or death, willfully causes or permits any child to suffer, or inflicts unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering commits child endangerment, or the abandonment and neglect of a child.

Crimes of physical or mental abuse against vulnerable groups of people, such as the elderly or children, tend to carry more significant punishments than other offenses. Child endangerment is a “wobbler offense.” That means that you could face felony or misdemeanor charges. The severity of your potential penalties ultimately depends on the nature of the alleged crime and other factors.

Child Endangerment Charges & Penalties in Oakland, CA

Child endangerment sentences can vary. Depending on your charges, you could face a few years in jail or decades in prison. You may also owe thousands in fines. Here are some possible crimes you may be charged with and the potential penalties for each:

Child Assault Causing Death

California Penal Code § 273ab states that anyone who assaults a child at least eight years old with force that would cause a reasonable person to suffer great bodily injury that results in the child’s death faces a sentence of 25 years to life in prison.

The statute also explains that anyone who assaults a child at least eight years old, resulting in the child becoming comatose or paralyzed, faces a life sentence in prison.

Cruel or Inhuman Corporal Punishment

There’s a fine line between punishing your child and endangering their safety, and when that line is crossed, you could end up in legal trouble. California Penal Code § 273d states that someone commits child endangerment if they willfully inflict cruel or inhuman corporal punishment on a child or an injury resulting in a traumatic condition.

This is a felony offense. It’s punishable by two, four, or six years or a sentence in the county jail for up to one year with a $6,000 fine. Any prior convictions could add a sentence enhancement of four years. In addition to jail time and fines, the court may order you to complete a child abuser’s treatment counseling program.

Habitual Drunkenness in Front of a Child

While casual drinking in front of children is not a crime, you could face misdemeanor charges if you’re accused of indulging in any degrading, lewd, immoral, or vicious practices, or are habitually drunk in front of a child, according to California Penal Code § 273g.

Publishing Information for Crimes Against Children

California Penal Code § 273i states that anyone who publishes information depicting or describing a child’s physical appearance or location for another person to use and commit a crime against the child commits a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Child Endangerment Involving Female Genital Mutilation

California Penal Code § 273.4 explains that felony violators of California Penal Code § 273a, or child endangerment, face an additional one year of imprisonment if the offense involved female genital mutilation.

Defense Options for Child Endangerment Charges in Oakland

A conviction is not guaranteed in any criminal case. You have the right to retain an attorney to defend yourself. Once acquired, your attorney will review your case and possibly make one or more of the following arguments:

  • You Accidentally Injured Your Child – Accidents happen, and there are endless ways that you could injure your child on accident. You might have bumped into your kid as they sprinted through the house, or they could have tripped over your foot. You might have even been wrestling or playing with your child, resulting in an unfortunate injury. Whatever the case, if you did not willfully cause harm to your child, you can’t be convicted of child endangerment.
  • You Are Falsely Accused of Child Endangerment – Heated custody battles or exes with a vendetta against you could result in false accusations of child endangerment. Your ex might claim you hit your child or have acted belligerently drunk around them to assassinate your character and get a leg up in a custody dispute to gain the judge’s favor. Your attorney will examine and discredit your accuser’s claims by creating doubt in your case.
  • Something Else Caused the Child’s Injuries – It’s not uncommon for children to injure themselves while roughhousing or playing outside with friends. They may fall off their bike, trip, slip, or fall by other means. Your attorney could argue that your child’s injuries are not from physical abuse but from another source.
  • You Were Lawfully Disciplining Your Child – Spanking your child is not illegal in California and could be used for disciplinary purposes. However, if the court finds the physical discipline to be excessive, you may face charges for cruel or inhuman corporal punishment.