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Child abuse or endangerment? (PC 273a)

Recently a child with autism was left unattended on a bus for over 6 hours. Under current California law, that could be considered child neglect or potential child endangerment.

It is still unclear who was ultimately responsible for this, but certainly there is potential of a criminal charge being filed if this was done intentionally or with negligence. The school district also may face civil sanctions if it is determined the child was in the care of the district at the time he was left alone. In order to understand this issue, it is important to first understand child abuse and child endangerment laws in California.

Child Abuse vs Child Endangerment

Although the child in this case was not injured, child endangerment charges could be filed if the conduct (or lack thereof) created a dangerous situation. A child with autism left alone on a bus would be considered dangerous because this endangered his life and well-being. But could someone also face charges of child abuse in this case?

In order to understand this, we must first look at the California laws regarding child abuse and child endangerment. California Penal Code Section 273 defines child endangerment. The main difference between this statute and California child abuse laws is that physical abuse of a minor must be present in order to convict you of child abuse. However, child endangerment is a much broader term.

Under PC 273, any of the following acts is considered child endangerment:

  • Cause or permit a child to suffer unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering;
  • Willfully cause or permit a child in your care to be injured; or
  • Willfully cause or permit a child to be placed in a dangerous situation.

In order to be convicted of this crime, you didn’t have to have the specific intent to break the law or cause harm, but the term “willfully” means that you willingly or on purpose allowed the minor to be injured or placed in danger.

Defenses to Child Endangerment Charges

Child endangerment attorney Our skilled child endangerment attorneys have been successfully defending our clients accused of child endangerment for over 30 years. Our criminal lawyers understand the legal defenses to this crime. Some valid defenses we have used in the past to help our clients facing these charges include:

  • Reasonable Discipline – You were only using reasonable discipline to punish the child
  • The victim was not a minor – If the victim was 18 years of age or older, you can’t be convicted of this crime
  • The act was not willful – If the minor was placed in a dangerous situation against your will, you can’t be convicted of this crime.

There are many more potential defenses to child endangerment charges. Our child endangerment lawyers will work with you to prepare a defense specific to your case so we can help you obtain a favorable outcome.

Speak to an Experienced Child Abuse Attorney Today

If you or your loved one is facing child abuse charges or child endangerment charges in California, you need to speak with one of our experienced criminal defense attorneys. At Wallin & Klarich, our skilled child abuse lawyers have been successfully defending our clients accused of child abuse and child endangerment for over 30 years. We can help you obtain the best possible outcome in your case.

We have offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville. No matter where you work or live, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney available to help you nearby.

Call us at (888) 280-6839 for a free phone consultation today. We will get through this together.

About Wallin & Klarich

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Wallin & Klarich was established in 1981. Over the past 32 years, our law firm has helped tens of thousands of families in their time of legal need. Regardless of whether our clients faced criminal or DUI charges, the loss of their driving privilege, or wanted to clean up their criminal record, we have been there to help them.