California Penal Code 273a PC punishes acts of child endangerment . . . a California domestic violence
crime. Simply put, the crime of California child endangerment occurs when someone:
- Causes or permits a child to suffer unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering,
- Willfully causes or permits a child in their care to be injured, or
- Willfully causes or permits a child to be placed in a dangerous situation.1
Unlike the California crime of child abuse, a child endangerment conviction does not require that any child suffer an actual injury.2 Therefore, it is easy (and unfortunately quite common) for innocent people to face prosecution under California child endangerment laws.
Examples of behavior that can lead to charges of California child endangerment include:
- Leaving dangerous weapons, including loaded guns and knives, within reach in a home where children live;
- Negligently leaving a child with a babysitter whom you know to have a history of abusive behavior; and
- Failing to get medical treatment for a very sick child.
If the circumstances of the child endangerment charges involve a risk of great bodily harm or death for the child...then the offense of child endangerment is a
wobbler. This means it may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a
Misdemeanor child endangerment penalties include up to one (1) year in county jail. For felony child endangerment, penalties include two (2), four (4), or six (6) years in California state prison.4
But if there was no risk of great bodily harm or death to the child, then child endangerment in California will be a misdemeanor.5
The good news is that, as former prosecutors and police officers, we know first-hand how child endangerment cases are investigated, prosecuted, and...most importantly...defended. There are several helpful legal defenses that may be available to you if you face child endangerment charges.
These legal defenses include:
- The so-called "endangerment" didn't happen intentionally;
- You were acting within your rights to discipline your child;
- You were falsely accused; and
- You were not the person responsible for the child or who caused the endangerment.
In order to help you better understand Penal Code 273a, California's child endangerment statute, our California criminal defense attorneys will address the following:
If, after reading this article, you would like more information, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.
You may also find helpful information in our related articles on California's Definition of "Great Bodily Injury/Harm" Penal Code 12022.7 PC; Legal Definition of a Wobbler in California Law; Legal Definition of a Felony in California Law; Legal Definition of a Misdemeanor in California Law; Explanation of California Probation and Probation Violation Hearings; California's "Under the Influence of a Controlled Substance" Law Health & Safety Code 11550 HS; The Crime of Violating a Restraining or Protective Order Penal Code 273.6 PC; How to Expunge Your California Criminal Record; Early Termination of Probation in California Criminal Cases; California's Three Strikes Law and Proposition 36 Reforms; Common Legal Defenses to California Crimes; The California Legal Defense of Accident; Penal Code 273d PC California Child Abuse Law; Penal Code 288(a) PC Lewd Acts with a Minor; California's DUI Laws; California's "Driving Under the Influence of Drugs" Laws; DUI With a Child Endangerment Sentencing Enhancement; Penal Code 187 PC Murder; The California Felony-Murder Rule; and Penal Code 192(b) PC California's Involuntary Manslaughter Law.
The legal definition of child endangerment revolves around certain facts called "elements of the crime." For you to be guilty of child endangerment, all of these facts must be true:
- You did ONE of the following:
- You were criminally negligent (if the allegation is that you did (b), (c), or (d) above); AND
- You did not act while reasonably disciplining the child.6
- You acted under circumstances that were likely to produce great bodily harm or death.7
a. willfully inflicted unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering on a child,
b. willfully caused or permitted a child to suffer unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering,
c. caused or permitted a child in your care or custody to be injured, or
d. caused or permitted a child in your custody to be placed in a dangerous situation;
In addition, if you are charged with wobbler child endangerment under Penal Code 273a(a) PC . . . instead of misdemeanor child endangerment under Penal Code 273a(b) PC . . . then the prosecutor must also prove that:
Let's take a closer look at some of these legal terms to gain a better understanding of their meanings.
"Willfully" means willingly or on purpose.8 It doesn't necessarily mean that you specifically intended to break the law or cause any harm.
Example: Eva has never harmed or mistreated her 11-month-old daughter. But after Eva's fiancé Hiram moves in with her, Eva begins to worry about his violent behavior toward the child. On previous occasions, the baby has suffered serious burns, a broken arm, and a black eye while under Hiram's care.
Still, Eva leaves her daughter in Hiram's care while she works. Her daughter is fatally injured by a beating and shaking from Hiram.
Eva is convicted of child endangerment. Even though she didn't intend to break the law or injure her child, she willfully allowed her violent fiancé to take care of the baby.9
Unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering
"Unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering" is pain or suffering that is either
- not reasonably necessary, or
- excessive under the circumstances.10
Example: Catherine is the mother of a hyperactive seven-year-old son who often does not listen to adult instructions.
One day, her son runs toward a busy street, ignoring Catherine's cries for him to stop. Catherine catches him just as he is about to run into the street and tackles him. In doing so, she knocks him to the ground and causes him to bump his head badly.
Catherine did inflict physical pain on her son. But her actions were reasonably necessary to keep her son from experiencing worse injuries. So Catherine probably did not commit child endangerment.
Under California law, "criminal negligence" refers to behavior that is so aggravated, gross, or reckless that it goes against all common sense.
If a "reasonable" person in a similar situation would not have engaged in the same behavior, you could be found criminally negligent for your act.11
Put another way, if
- you acted in a reckless way that was a gross departure from the way an ordinarily careful person would act in the same situation,
- your actions amounted to disregard for human life or indifference to the consequences, AND
- a reasonable person would have known that acting that way would probably result in harm to someone else,
you are considered to have been criminally negligent.12
Examples of criminal negligence
The following are some examples, drawn from actual California child endangerment cases where courts found criminal negligence to exist.
Example: Edward, a man in his thirties, is drunk. He convinces Jason, his 14-year-old neighbor, to play "Russian roulette" (a game where someone takes a gun loaded with at least one round, spins the cylinder, points the gun at his/her head, and then pulls the trigger). Jason ends up shooting himself in the head and killing himself.
Edward was criminally negligent and is guilty of child endangerment. Even though it was Jason who ultimately pulled the trigger, Edward is the one who initiated the game and gave Jason (a child) the gun.13
Example: Brian runs a methamphetamine lab in his home. So he keeps dangerous and highly flammable chemicals throughout the house, including some on the floor. Brian's 6-year-old stepson lives with him part-time.
Brian was found to be criminally negligent...and thus guilty of California child endangerment...for allowing the child to be in the presence of these chemicals.14
Examples where California courts found there was NO criminal negligence
But if the act on which child endangerment charges are based was due to ordinary carelessness, inattention, or a mistake in judgment . . . the behavior is not criminally negligent, regardless of the consequences. This means that simple negligence will not trigger this type of criminal liability.15
In contrast to the above examples, here are some cases of alleged child endangerment where the courts found no criminal negligence:
Example: Isabel leaves her four small children (between the ages of 2 and 6) home alone while she goes to a bar. Hours later, a fire erupts. A neighbor is able to save three of the children, but the two-year-old is killed in the fire.
Isabel was severely negligent. But her negligence was not criminal negligence because a reasonable person would not necessarily have foreseen the harm that arose from her actions. Thus, she is not guilty of child endangerment.16
Example: Donna leaves her 4-month-old son with his father. Although she has never witnessed the father mistreat the child, he has hit her on occasion, shows little affection toward the child, and has a violent temper. While under the father's care, the baby suffers multiple, non-accidental fractures on his rib cage and arm.
Donna's behavior-leaving the baby with his father-probably does not rise to the level of criminal negligence and so will not support a child endangerment conviction.17
The penalties, punishment, and sentencing for Penal Code 273a child endangerment depend on whether or not the defendant's behavior presented a risk of "great bodily harm" or death for a child.18
California's legal definition of "great bodily injury" includes significant or substantial injuries. It excludes minor or even moderate harm.19 Because there is no exact definition of what constitutes "great bodily harm"...it is actually determined on a case-by-case basis20 ...overzealous prosecutors have a tendency to allege it every chance they get.
It is important to remember that, under California's child endangerment statute, whether the child actually suffers an injury isn't the ultimate issue.21 The relevant factor is whether the child was placed in a situation where s/he was likely to suffer injury. That said, if the child does suffer great bodily harm, that factor will likely cause the prosecutor to file more serious charges.
When child endangerment charges arise from a situation that didn't create a risk of great bodily injury or death for the child, then Penal Code 273a PC is a misdemeanor in California law.22
If you are convicted of misdemeanor child endangerment, the sentence may include any or all of the following:
- up to six (6) months in county jail,
- a fine of up to one thousand dollars ($1,000),23 and/or
- informal probation (otherwise known as "summary" probation) for a minimum of four (4) years, which may involve the following conditions:
- a protective order protecting the alleged victim from further acts of violence and possibly a stay away order that prevents you from having contact with the child (which may include an order that you stay away from the child's home, even if it was once your own),
- successful completion of a minimum one-year child abuser's treatment counseling program, and
- if you were accused of being under the influence of a controlled substance and/or alcohol at the time of the offense, an order to abstain from both for the duration of probation (this provision may include random drug testing as well).24
If the prosecutor alleges that there was a risk of great bodily harm or death to the child, then the California crime of child endangerment is a wobbler in California law. This means that the prosecutor may choose to charge it as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on
- The exact circumstances of the allegations, and
- The defendant's criminal history.25
For felony child endangerment, the potential penalties include:
- Two (2), four (4), or six (6) years in California state prison,26
- A fine of up to ten thousand dollars ($10,000),27 and/or
- A minimum of four (4) years on formal probation . . . with the probation conditions listed for misdemeanor probation in Section 2.1 above.28
In addition, if you actually inflicted great bodily injury on the alleged victim, you may receive an additional and consecutive three (3) to six (6) years in prison.29
And if the child was ultimately killed either (1) as a result of child abuse you inflicted, or (2) as a result of your criminal negligence, you face an additional and consecutive four (4) years in prison.30 The prosecutor could also file more serious manslaughter or murder charges.
It is worth noting that...if you are granted probation in either a misdemeanor or a felony child endangerment case...you may expunge your California criminal record once you successfully complete the probationary period. But the judge also can deny you an expungement if you
- suffer a probation violation, or
- fail to adhere to all the terms and conditions of probation.31
The court may also grant an early termination of probation if you comply with all the terms and conditions of probation for the first year or two.
A felony child endangerment conviction will result in a "strike" on your record under California's Three Strikes Law . . . IF the offense actually resulted in great bodily injury (as opposed to just creating a risk of it).32 :
This means that if you are subsequently charged with any felony, you will be considered a "second striker." As such, your sentence will be twice the term otherwise required by law.33
And if you accumulate three (3) so-called "strike offenses," you will be considered a "third striker" and will serve a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years to life in California state prison.34
The bad news is that Penal Code 273a child endangerment carries severe penalties. The good news is that there are a number of common legal defenses that a skilled California criminal defense lawyer could present on your behalf in an effort to avoid conviction.
The following are examples of some of the most effective defenses to child endangerment allegations.
The act wasn't willful
Willfulness is an element of child endangerment, regardless of whether you are charged with
- inflicting an actual injury,
- placing the child in a dangerous situation, or
- doing nothing to prevent the child from being placed in such a situation.
This means that if you didn't act on purpose, you should not be held criminally responsible for the offense.
So if a mother's violent fiancé took her baby (without the mother's knowledge or consent) while the baby was with a qualified babysitter . . . the mother is not guilty of child endangerment as a result of any injury the baby suffered, because she didn't willfully place the child in a dangerous situation.
Similarly, if the child suffered an injury that was an accident...or placed him/herself in a harmful situation without your knowledge or approval...you haven't willfully contributed to either situation.
This legal defense is a variation on the common California legal defense of accident.
As Ventura criminal defense lawyer John Murray35 explains,
"Accidents happen, and kids get hurt or into trouble - period. The best parents in the world cannot prevent accidents from happening. Criminal liability for Penal Code 273a child endangerment requires more."
Parent's right to discipline
As we noted in Section 1 above, one of the elements of the California crime of child endangerment is that the defendant's actions must not have been a reasonable method of disciplining his/her child.36
Parents maintain a legal right to discipline their children...and that right includes using "reasonable" corporal punishment.37 "Corporal punishment," simply put, is physical punishment or punishment inflicted on the body. "Spanking" is the most common example.
If your criminal defense attorney can convince the prosecutor, judge, and/or jury that the alleged corporal punishment was justified as a reasonable means of discipline, your actions don't violate California child endangerment law.38
False accusations / wrongful arrest
Many child endangerment proceedings stem from false accusations and wrongful arrest. This occurs because
- children frequently embellish and even "make up" stories, and
- police are quick to arrest if there is even a suspicion that a child has suffered harm.
Also, false allegations are commonly asserted by jealous, angry, or revenge-driven
- in-laws, and
- even kids,
who are looking to gain control over the accused. We frequently see this in connection with divorce or custody battles.
Caretakers can also falsely accuse a child's mother, father, or other family member of injuring a child in an effort to cover up their own culpability.
If you are falsely accused of child endangerment, it's important to work with a seasoned criminal defense lawyer who knows how to interview witnesses, gather facts, assess motives . . . and generally get to the bottom of what actually happened.
It wasn't me
Overzealous police and prosecutors want to hold someone accountable in apparent instances of child endangerment, neglect, or abuse. So they often jump to conclusions about who is responsible.
This problem is made worse by California's "mandatory reporting law." Under this law, a long list of professionals-including doctors, teachers, social workers, nurses, school administrators, clergy, etc.-are required by law to report any suspected instances of child endangerment, abuse or neglect.39
If these "mandated reporters" don't make a required report, they can be prosecuted for a misdemeanor charge and may even serve time in jail.40 Thus, they are under strong pressure to report even the slightest suspicion of child endangerment.
If, for example, you take your child to the doctor...either for a routine visit or because you suspect something may be wrong...the doctor is obligated to report any signs of potential abuse. If you are the child's primary caretaker, the police may jump to the conclusion that you are to blame . . . even if you are not. Perhaps a babysitter or other caregiver harmed your child without your knowledge.
There are a variety of offenses that are related to California Penal Code 273a either because they
- share similar elements, or
- are commonly charged in connection with child endangerment.
The following are some of the most common:
Under Penal Code 273d PC, California child abuse laws make it a crime to direct physical abuse at a minor. Child abuse doesn't require great bodily injury...but there does need to be some kind of injury (no matter how slight) to trigger this charge.41
This is in contrast to California's child endangerment statute (Penal Code 273a PC)...which covers behavior that is likely to result in injury to a child, even if no injury actually occurs. That said, if you are accused of injuring or personally inflicting unjustifiable pain upon a child, prosecutors could charge you with both child endangerment and child abuse.
California child abuse is a wobbler. The maximum misdemeanor sentence is up to one (1) year in county jail. Felony penalties can include two (2), four (4) or six (6) years in state prison.42
Penal Code 288(a) PC, lewd acts with a minor, gets charged when a person touches a child under the age of 14 (or 15 if the defendant is 10 or more years older than the child) for sexual purposes. This crime may be a wobbler or a felony...with the maximum penalties depending on the age of the alleged victim and the defendant's relationship to him/her.43
Suppose you leave a child with someone whom you know, or reasonably should know, has a history of child molestation. And suppose the person actually does sexually abuse the child. Prosecutors could charge that person with lewd acts with a child . . . and you with Penal Code 273a PC child endangerment.
California's DUI laws punish driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. If you are arrested for driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol while you have a child in the car, prosecutors will likely charge you with either
- DUI with a child endangerment sentencing enhancement,44 or
- DUI and child endangerment as separate offenses, depending on the circumstances of the DUI.
If the child was in a situation so severe that it ultimately resulted in his/her death, prosecutors could charge a number of different offenses in addition to child endangerment.
Penal Code 273ab - Child abuse resulting in death to a child under 8
- you have care and custody of a child under the age of eight (8),
- you assault that child by means likely to result in great bodily injury, AND
- the child dies as a result of the injuries,
you could be charged under Penal Code 273ab.45
This offense carries a sentence of twenty-five (25) years to life in the state prison.46
Penal Code 187 PC Murder
Prosecutors may charge Penal Code 187 PC murder anytime someone kills another person with malice . . . that is, an intent to kill.47
Malice can be "express" or "implied." It is express when there is clear evidence that someone intended to kill another person. Implied malice is when the defendant acted with a reckless disregard for human life.48
When murder is charged in connection with child endangerment charges, this usually happens in one of two ways:
- through the California felony-murder rule, or
- with the prosecutor arguing that there was implied malice.
The felony-murder rule basically assumes malice exists when someone kills another person while committing a felony . . . including felony child endangerment.49 Thus, when a child dies as a result of child endangerment, prosecutors could file charges for Penal Code 273a and second-degree murder under the felony murder rule.
Implied malice, on the other hand, involves highly reckless behavior that the person knows endangers another person's life...a higher degree of recklessness than is required for criminal negligence.50
Penal Code 192(b) involuntary manslaughter
Finally, Penal Code 192(b) PC, California's involuntary manslaughter law, punishes acts of criminal negligence that result in death. The main difference between manslaughter and murder is that manslaughter doesn't involve malice.51
Involuntary manslaughter is charged when a death results from either (1) committing an unlawful act that doesn't rise to the level of a felony, or (2) engaging in a lawful but dangerous act without due caution.52
Example: Laurie is a devout Christian Scientist. When her four-year-old daughter gets sick with meningitis, Laurie does not seek medical treatment but instead relies on Christian Science clergy to pray for her daughter...in keeping with her religious beliefs. The daughter eventually dies from the illness.
Laurie's choice to purse Christian Science prayer therapy instead of medical treatment was a lawful act. But under the circumstances it was dangerous and done without due caution. So she is convicted of both involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment.53
Call Us for Help...
If you or loved one is charged with Penal Code 273a PC child endangerment and you are looking to hire an attorney for representation, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group. We can provide a free consultation in office or by phone. We have local offices in Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, Pasadena, Long Beach, Orange County, Ventura, San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Riverside, San Diego, Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and throughout California.
For more information on Nevada's "child abuse, neglect & endangerment laws, please visit our page on Nevada's child abuse, neglect & endangerment laws.
1 Penal Code 273a PC - Willful harm or injury to a child [Child endangerment]. ("(a) Any person who, under circumstances or conditions likely to produce great bodily harm or death, willfully causes or permits any child to suffer, or inflicts thereon unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering, or having the care or custody of any child, willfully causes or permits the person or health of that child to be injured, or willfully causes or permits that child to be placed in a situation where his or her person or health is endangered, shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or in the state prison for two, four, or six years. (b) Any person who, under circumstances or conditions other than those likely to produce great bodily harm or death, willfully causes or permits any child to suffer, or inflicts thereon unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering, or having the care or custody of any child, willfully causes or permits the person or health of that child to be injured, or willfully causes or permits that child to be placed in a situation where his or her person or health may be endangered, is guilty of a misdemeanor.")
2 People v. Jaramillo, (1979) 98 Cal.App.3d 830, 835. ("[California Penal Code] Section 273a provides for felony punishment [for child endangerment] where certain actions are committed "under circumstances or conditions likely to produce great bodily harm or death." A misdemeanor status is to those acts committed "under circumstances or conditions other than those likely to produce great bodily harm or death." For the felony punishment there is no requirement that the actual result be great bodily injury. The statute is intended to protect a child from an abusive situation in which the probability of serious injury is great.")
3 Penal Code 273a - Child endangerment, endnote 1, above.
4 See same.
5 See same.
6 Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions ("CALCRIM") 821 - [Child Endangerment] Likely to Produce Great Bodily Harm or Death. ("To prove that the defendant is guilty of this crime, the People must prove that: <Alternative A-inflicted pain> [1. The defendant willfully inflicted unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering on a child;] <Alternative B-caused or permitted to suffer pain> [1. The defendant willfully caused or permitted a child to suffer unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering;] <Alternative C-while having custody, caused or permitted to suffer injury> [1. The defendant, while having care or custody of a child, willfully caused or permitted the child's person or health to be injured;] <Alternative D-while having custody, caused or permitted to be placed in danger> [1. The defendant, while having care or custody of a child, willfully caused or permitted the child to be placed in a situation where the child's person or health was endangered;] [AND] 2. The defendant (inflicted pain or suffering on the child/ [or] caused or permitted the child to (suffer/ [or] be injured/ [or] be endangered)) under circumstances or conditions likely to produce (great bodily harm/ [or] death)(;/.) <Give element 3 when giving alternatives 1B, 1C or 1D> [AND] [3. The defendant was criminally negligent when (he/she) caused or permitted the child to (suffer/ [or] be injured/ [or] be endangered)(;/.)] <Give element 4 when instructing on parental right to discipline> [AND 4. The defendant did not act while reasonably disciplining a child.]")
See also CALCRIM 823 - [Child Endangerment] (Misdemeanor).
7 CALCRIM 821 - Child Endangerment Likely to Produce Great Bodily Harm or Death.
8 See same. ("Someone commits an act willfully when he or she does it willingly or on purpose.")
9 Based on People v. Valdez, (2002) 27 Cal.4th 778.
10 CALCRIM 821, Child Endangerment Likely to Produce Great Bodily Harm or Death. ("[Unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering is pain or suffering that is not reasonably necessary or is excessive under the circumstances.]")
11 People v. Valdez, (2002) 27 Cal.4th 778, 788. ("As construed to contain a criminal negligence requirement, [California Penal Code] section 273a [California's child endangerment law], subdivision (a) sets forth a standard of conduct that is rigorous. Ordinary negligence will not suffice. Specifically, criminal negligence involves " 'a higher degree of negligence than is required to establish negligent default on a mere civil issue. The negligence must be aggravated, culpable, gross, or reckless, that is, the conduct of the accused must be such a departure from what would be the conduct of an ordinarily prudent or careful [person] under the same circumstances as to be incompatible with a proper regard for human life ... or an indifference to consequences.' " (Penny, supra, 44 Cal.2d at p. 879.)")
12 CALCRIM 821, Child Endangerment Likely to Produce Great Bodily Harm or Death. ("Criminal negligence involves more than ordinary carelessness, inattention, or mistake in judgment. A person acts with criminal negligence when: 1. He or she acts in a reckless way that is a gross departure from the way an ordinarily careful person would act in the same situation; 2. The person's acts amount to disregard for human life or indifference to the consequences of his or her acts; AND 3. A reasonable person would have known that acting in that way would naturally and probably result in harm to others.")
13 Based on People v. Hansen, (1997) 59 Cal.App.4th 473.
14 Based on People v. Toney, (1999) 76 Cal.App.4th 618.
15 People v. Odom, (1991) 226 Cal.App.3d 1028. ("The facts must be such that the consequences of the negligent conduct could reasonable have been foreseen and it must appear that the [death] [danger to human life] was not the result of inattention, mistaken judgment or misadventure but the natural and probable result of aggravated, reckless or flagrantly negligent conduct [in order for child endangerment to have occurred].")
16 Based on People v. Rodriguez, (1961) 186 Cal.App.2d 433.
17 Based on People v. Peabody, (1975) 48 Cal.App.3d 43.
18 Penal Code 273a - Child endangerment, endnote 1, above.
19 California Jury Instructions - Criminal ("CALJIC") 17.20 - Infliction of great bodily injury [including in child endangerment cases]. (""Great bodily injury," as used in this instruction, means a significant or substantial physical injury. Minor, trivial or moderate injuries do not constitute great bodily injury.")
20 People v. Escobar, (1992) 3 Cal.4th 740, 750. ("It is well settled that the determination of great bodily injury is essentially a question of fact, not of law. Whether the harm resulting to the victim ... constitutes great bodily injury is a question of fact for the jury.")
21 People v. Jaramillo, (1979) 98 Cal.App.3d 830, 835. ("[California Penal Code] Section 273a provides for felony punishment [for child endangerment] where certain actions are committed "under circumstances or conditions likely to produce great bodily harm or death." A misdemeanor status is to those acts committed "under circumstances or conditions other than those likely to produce great bodily harm or death." For the felony punishment there is no requirement that the actual result be great bodily injury. The statute is intended to protect a child from an abusive situation in which the probability of serious injury is great.")
22 Penal Code 273a - Child endangerment, endnote 1, above.
23 Penal Code 19 PC - Misdemeanors [including misdemeanor child endangerment]. (" Except in cases where a different punishment is prescribed by any law of this state, every offense declared to be a misdemeanor is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding six months, or by fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both.")
24 California Penal Code 273a -- Child endangerment. ("(c) If a person is convicted of violating this section and probation is granted, the court shall require the following minimum conditions of [California] probation: (1) A mandatory minimum period of probation of 48 months. (2) A criminal court protective order protecting the victim from further acts of violence or threats, and, if appropriate, residence exclusion or stay-away conditions. (3)(A) Successful completion of no less than one year of a child abuser's treatment counseling program approved by the probation department. The defendant shall be ordered to begin participation in the program immediately upon the grant of probation. The counseling program shall meet the criteria specified in Section 273.1. The defendant shall produce documentation of program enrollment to the court within 30 days of enrollment, along with quarterly progress reports. (B) The terms of probation for offenders shall not be lifted until all reasonable fees due to the counseling program have been paid in full, but in no case shall probation be extended beyond the term provided in subdivision (a) of Section 1203.1. If the court finds that the defendant does not have the ability to pay the fees based on the defendant's changed circumstances, the court may reduce or waive the fees. (4) If the offense was committed while the defendant was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the defendant shall abstain from the use of drugs or alcohol during the period of probation and shall be subject to random drug testing by his or her probation officer. (5) The court may waive any of the above minimum conditions of probation upon a finding that the condition would not be in the best interests of justice. The court shall state on the record its reasons for any waiver.")
25 Penal Code 273a - Child endangerment, endnote 1, above.
26 Penal Code 273a - Child endangerment, endnote 1, above.
27 Penal Code 672 PC - Offenses for which no fine prescribed; fine authorized in addition to imprisonment. ("Upon a conviction for any crime punishable by imprisonment in any jail or prison, in relation to which no fine is herein prescribed, the court may impose a fine on the offender not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000) in cases of misdemeanors or ten thousand dollars ($10,000) in cases of felonies [including felony child endangerment], in addition to the imprisonment prescribed.")
28 Penal Code 273a - Child endangerment, endnote 24, above.
29 Penal Code 12022.7 PC - Enhancement for great bodily injury. ("(a) Any person who personally inflicts great bodily injury on any person other than an accomplice in the commission of a felony or attempted felony [including felony child endangerment] shall be punished by an additional and consecutive term of imprisonment in the state prison for three years. (b) Any person who personally inflicts great bodily injury on any person other than an accomplice in the commission of a felony or attempted felony which causes the victim to become comatose due to brain injury or to suffer paralysis of a permanent nature, shall be punished by an additional and consecutive term of imprisonment in the state prison for five years. As used in this subdivision, "paralysis" means a major or complete loss of motor function resulting from injury to the nervous system or to a muscular mechanism . . . . (d) Any person who personally inflicts great bodily injury on a child under the age of five years in the commission of a felony or attempted felony shall be punished by an additional and consecutive term of imprisonment in the state prison for four, five, or six years. (e) Any person who personally inflicts great bodily injury under circumstances involving domestic violence in the commission of a felony or attempted felony [including child endangerment] shall be punished by an additional and consecutive term of imprisonment in the state prison for three, four, or five years. As used in this subdivision, "domestic violence" has the meaning provided in subdivision (b) of Section 13700.")
30 Penal Code 12022.95 PC -- Willful harm to a child resulting in death. ("Any person convicted of a violation of Section 273a [child endangerment], who under circumstances or conditions likely to produce great bodily harm or death, willfully causes or permits any child to suffer, or inflicts thereon unjustifiable physical pain or injury that results in death, or having the care or custody of any child, under circumstances likely to produce great bodily harm or death, willfully causes or permits that child to be injured or harmed, and that injury or harm results in death, shall receive a four-year enhancement for each violation, in addition to the sentence provided for that conviction. Nothing in this paragraph shall be construed as affecting the applicability of [California Penal Code] subdivision (a) of Section 187 or Section 192. This section shall not apply unless the allegation is included within an accusatory pleading and admitted by the defendant or found to be true by the trier of fact.")
31 Penal Code 1203.4 PC.
32 Penal Code 667.5(c) PC. ("(c) For the purpose of this section, "violent felony" shall mean any of the following:...(8) Any felony [including felony child endangerment] in which the defendant inflicts great bodily injury on any person other than an accomplice which has been charged and proved as provided for in [California Penal Code] Section 12022.7, 12022.8, or 12022.9 on or after July 1, 1977, or as specified prior to July 1, 1977, in Sections 213, 264, and 461...")
See also Penal Code 1192.7(c) PC. ("As used in this section [with respect to California child endangerment law], 'serious felony' means...(8) any felony in which the defendant personally inflicts great bodily injury on any person, other than an accomplice . . . .")
33 Penal Code 667(e)(1) PC - Three strikes law. ("(1) If a defendant has one prior serious and/or violent felony conviction as defined in subdivision (d) [including felony child endangerment resulting in serious bodily injury] that has been pled and proved, the determinate term or minimum term for an indeterminate term shall be twice the term otherwise provided as punishment for the current felony conviction.")
34 Penal Code 667(e)(2) PC - Three strikes law. ("(e) For purposes of subdivisions (b) to (i), inclusive, and in addition to any other enhancement or punishment provisions which may apply, the following shall apply where a defendant has one or more prior serious and/or violent felony convictions ) [including felony child endangerment resulting in serious bodily injury] . . . (2) (A) Except as provided in subparagraph (C), if a defendant has two or more prior serious and/or violent felony convictions as defined in subdivision (d) that have been pled and proved, the term for the current felony conviction shall be an indeterminate term of life imprisonment with a minimum term of the indeterminate sentence calculated as the greatest of: (i) Three times the term otherwise provided as punishment for each current felony conviction subsequent to the two or more prior serious and/or violent felony convictions. (ii) Imprisonment in the state prison for 25 years. . . . (C) If a defendant has two or more prior serious and/or violent felony convictions ) [including felony child endangerment resulting in serious bodily injury] as defined in subdivision (c) of Section 667.5 or subdivision (c) of Section 1192.7 that have been pled and proved, and the current offense is not a serious or violent felony as defined in subdivision (d), the defendant shall be sentenced pursuant to paragraph (1) of subdivision (e) unless the prosecution pleads and proves any of the following: . . .")
35 Ventura criminal defense lawyer John Murray is a seasoned criminal defense attorney who represents clients accused of child endangerment at the Ventura Hall of Justice, the Van Nuys courthouse, the Pasadena courthouse, the Burbank courthouse, the Glendale courthouse, the Michael Antonovich Antelope Valley courthouse, and the San Fernando courthouse.
36 CALCRIM 821 - Child Endangerment Likely to Produce Great Bodily Harm or Death, endnote 6, above.
37 CALJIC 4.80 - Parent's right to discipline child [in child endangerment cases]. ("It is lawful for a parent reasonably to discipline a child, and in doing so to administer reasonable punishment, including the infliction of reasonable corporal punishment. However, it is unlawful for a parent to inflict unjustifiable punishment upon a child. Corporal punishment is not justified and is therefore unlawful if the punishment was not reasonably necessary, or was excessive, under the circumstances. The defendant contends that [he] [she] was lawfully disciplining the child. The People have the burden of proving that the force applied to the child was unlawful, that is, not reasonably necessary or excessive, under the circumstances. If you have a reasonable doubt that unlawful force was applied, you must find the defendant not guilty. If you find that the use of force was not reasonably necessary or was excessive, you must determine what crime, if any, was committed in light of the other instructions.")
38 People v. Whitehurst, (1992) 9 Cal.App.4th 1045, 1050 ("A parent has a right to reasonably discipline by punishing a child and may administer reasonable punishment without being liable for a battery...Thus as these cases make clear, whether the corporal punishment falls within the parameters of a parent's right to discipline [under California law, including child endangerment law] involves consideration of not only the necessity for the punishment but also whether the amount of punishment was reasonable or excessive. Reasonableness and necessity therefore are not two separate defenses but rather two aspects of the single issue of parental right to discipline by physical punishment.")
39 See California Department of Social Services, The California Child Abuse & Neglect Reporting Law: Issues & Answers for Mandated Reporters.
See also Penal Code 11165 PC et seq.
40 Penal Code 11166 PC. ("(c) c) Any mandated reporter who fails to report an incident of known or reasonably suspected child abuse or neglect [or child endangerment] as required by this section is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months confinement in a county jail or by a fine of one thousand dollars ($1,000) or by both that imprisonment and fine.")
41 Penal Code 273d PC -- Child abuse [may be charged along with or instead of child endangerment]. ("(a) Any person who willfully inflicts upon a child any cruel or inhuman corporal punishment or an injury resulting in a traumatic condition is guilty of a felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for two, four, or six years, or in a county jail for not more than one year, by a fine of up to six thousand dollars ($6,000), or by both that imprisonment and fine.")
42 See same.
43 Penal Code 288 PC - Lewd or lascivious acts; penalties; psychological harm to the victim [may be charged in connection with child endangerment charges].
44 Vehicle Code 23572 VC - Minor passenger enhanced penalty [DUI plus child endangerment enhancement]. This code adds additional punishment to a DUI sentence if the DUI offender had a child under the age of 14 in the vehicle at the time of the offense. The defendant can't be punished under this code and under Penal Code 273 PC, but can only be punished for one or the other.
45 Penal Code 273ab PC -- Assault resulting in death of child under 8; imprisonment. ("Any person who, having the care or custody of a child who is under eight years of age, assaults the child by means of force that to a reasonable person would be likely to produce great bodily injury [which could also lead to child endangerment charges], resulting in the child's death, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for 25 years to life. Nothing in this section shall be construed as affecting the applicability of subdivision (a) of [California Penal Code] Section 187 or Section 189.")
46 See same.
47 Penal Code 187 PC -- Murder. ("(a) Murder is the unlawful killing of a human being, or a fetus, with malice aforethought.")
48 Penal Code 188 PC -- Malice. ("Such malice may be express or implied. It is express when there is manifested a deliberate intention unlawfully to take away the life of a fellow creature. It is implied, when no considerable provocation appears, or when the circumstances attending the killing show an abandoned and malignant heart.")
49 People v. James, (1998) 62 Cal.App.4th 244, 257. ("The felony-murder rule 'artificially imposes malice as to one crime because of defendant's commission of another' and thereby satisfies the standard of culpability necessary to raise a homicide to murder. . . . The felony-murder rule applies to both first and second degree murder. . . . Under the first degree felony-murder rule, a homicide is first degree murder if it is committed in the perpetration or attempted perpetration of statutorily specified felonies (including arson, robbery and rape). Under the second degree felony-murder rule, a homicide is second degree murder if it is committed in the perpetration or attempted perpetration of any felony that is inherently dangerous to human life [such as felony child endangerment].") (citations and internal quotation marks omitted)
50 See same, at 277. ("[I]mplied malice has both a physical and a mental component, the physical component being the performance of ' "an act, the natural consequences of which are dangerous to life," ' and the mental component being the requirement that the defendant ' "knows that his conduct [of child endangerment] endangers the life of another and ... acts with a conscious disregard for life.")
51 Penal Code 192 PC -- Manslaughter. ("Manslaughter is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice. It is of three kinds: (b) Involuntary--in the commission of an unlawful act, not amounting to felony [such as misdemeanor child endangerment]; or in the commission of a lawful act which might produce death, in an unlawful manner, or without due caution and circumspection [which is equal to criminal negligence]. This subdivision shall not apply to acts committed in the driving of a vehicle....")
52 See same.
53 Based on Walker v. Superior Court, (1988) 47 Cal.3d 112.