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Child Endangerment Law in California – Penal Code 273a PC

The Crime of Child Endangerment in California - PC 273a

The crime of child endangerment is described under California Penal Code 273a PC as willfully exposing a child to unjustifiable pain, suffering, or danger.

You can face criminal charges under this statute if you subject a child to an unreasonable risk of being harmed, even if they are not physically injured.

Child Endangerment Law in California – Penal Code 273a PC
PC 273a child endangerment is described as willfully exposing a child to unjustifiable pain or placing them in a dangerous situation.

PC 273a child endangerment cases are often directly related to domestic violence because these incidents can endanger the well-being and safety of a child. However, other examples include:

  • parents neglecting their child for an extended period of time;
  • parent places their child a situation where drugs are within reasonable reach of their child.

As stated, the act of endangering doesn't have to cause the child direct physical harm, but just places them a potentially dangerous situation where they might be harmed.

Penal Code 273a PC is a California “wobbler” offense that can be filed by the prosecutor as either a misdemeanor or felony. In most cases where your behavior placed the child at great risk of suffering bodily harm, the case will be charged as a felony.

In order to give readers a better understanding of California's child endangerment laws, our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers are providing a detailed review below.

What Must Be Proven for a PC 273a Child Endangerment Conviction?

California Penal Code 273a PC defines child endangerment as follows:

  • “Anyone who, under circumstances likely to produce great bodily harm or death, willfully causes or permits a child to suffer, or inflicts unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering, or having care of a child, permits them to be placed in a situation where their health is endangered.”

In order for a prosecutor to obtain a conviction for PC 273a child endangerment, they must be able to prove one of several different factors.

What Must Be Proven for a PC 273a Child Endangerment Conviction?
In order to get convicted for child endangerment, it must be proven you acted willfully or were criminally negligent.

These are commonly known as the “elements of the crime” and listed under CALCRIM 821 Jury Instructions:

  • you willfully inflicted unjustifiable pain or mental suffering on a child, or;
  • you willfully caused of permitted a child to suffer unjustifiable pain or mental suffering, or;
  • while you had care of a child, you willfully caused or permitted their health to be injured, or;
  • while you had care of a child, you willfully caused or permitted them to be put in a situation where their health was endangered.

The prosecutor must further prove that you were negligent when you caused the child to suffer or be endangered.

Finally, if you are the child's parent, it must be shown you were not reasonably disciplining your child.

Example of child endangerment 

An example of PC 273a child endangerment includes a situation where parents negligently leave dangerous weapons in the home within the reach of their child.

In some serious cases, a referral to the Department of Children and Family Services (DCSF) will be made.

What are the Penalties for a Child Endangerment Conviction?

If you are convicted of violating Penal Code 273a child endangerment laws, the penalties will vary based on the specific details of the case.

If the case involved the risk of great bodily harm or death, it's a “wobbler” that can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony offense.

What are the Penalties for a California Child Endangerment Conviction?
If convicted of a felony California child endangerment case, it's punishable by up to six years in jail.

If you are convicted of a misdemeanor child endangerment case, it's punishable by:

  • up to six months in the county jail, and/or;
  • a fine up to $1,000;
  • informal summary probation.

If you are convicted of a felony child endangerment cases, it's punishable by:

  • two, four, or six years in a California state prison;
  • a fine up to $10,000;
  • formal felony probation;
  • a ‘strike” under California's three strikes law.

Sentencing enhancement 

If the child was seriously harmed, then you could face a great bodily injury (GBI) enhancement defined under California Penal Code 12022.7 PC:

  • if you personally inflicted a great bodily injury on the child, then an additional three to six years can be added to the sentence;
  • if you were negligent resulting in the death of the child, you could face an additional and consecutive four years in state prison.

What are the Related Crimes for Penal Code 273a PC?

Penal Code 270 PC – failure to prove child care

Penal Code 273d PC – child abuse

Penal Code 273ab PC – child abuse resulting in death (under 8 years old)

Penal Code 192(b) PC – involuntary manslaughter

Vehicle Code 23152 VC – driving under the influence

How Can I Fight the Child Endangerment Charges?

If you are accused of child endangerment as defined under Penal Code 273a PC, our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers can use a variety of strategies in an effort to obtain a favorable outcome, such as:

How Can I Fight the Child Endangerment Charges?
If you were accused of Penal Code 273a child endangerment, we can use a wide range of strategies to obtain the best possible outcome.
  • reasonable discipline;
  • not a willful act;
  • the act wasn't criminally negligent;
  • false allegation.

We might be able to make an argument you were acting within your legal rights to reasonable discipline of your child.

Perhaps we can show the punishment was warranted and not excessive under the circumstances.

Not a willful act 

Recall the elements of the crime above where the prosecutor must be able to prove your act was “willful,” or criminally negligent.

Perhaps we can show evidence to prove to child's injuries were the result of an accident, or due to ordinary negligence, which does not rise to the level of criminal negligence.

Perhaps we could argue you had a momentary lapse attending to your child, but never had the intent to place them in a dangerous situation.

Criminal Defense for California Child Endangerment Charges

If you are under a criminal investigation, or already charged with California Penal Code 273a child endangerment, contact our experienced team of Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers for an initial consultation.

Criminal Defense for California Child Endangerment Charges
Contact our law firm to review the details and options in your child endangerment case.

Early intervention into your case by our law firm could have a dramatic impact on the outcome of the case.

For example, through prefiling intervention, we might be able to negotiate with the prosecutor to avoid the formal filing of criminal charges before court.

Eisner Gorin LLP is a top-ranked criminal defense law firm representing clients throughout Southern California, including Los Angeles County, Orange County, Ventura County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Sherman Oaks, and the San Fernando Valley.

Our office is located at 1875 Century Park E #705, Los Angeles, CA 90067. Our main office is next to the Van Nuys Superior Courthouse at 14401 Sylvan St #112 Van Nuys, CA 91401.

Contact our office for an immediate consultation at (877) 781-1570.

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