Defending against "child endangerment" charges in Nevada
(NRS 200.508)
Explained by Las Vegas Criminal Defense Attorneys

Child endangerment is a form of child abuse in Nevada where a parent or guardian leaves a child in a dangerous situation. A person may be convicted of this crime even if he/she never lays a hand on the child or doesn't mean for the child to be harmed.

The punishment for a child endangerment conviction depends on the specifics of the case. Penalties range from just fines to several decades in Nevada state prison.

It's not uncommon for people to be falsely accused of child endangerment in Nevada. Typical defenses include that the child had an accident or simply made up the abuse allegation.

This page summarizes the definition, defenses, and penalties for the Nevada offense of "endangerment." Continue reading to learn more.

Definition of Child Endangerment in Nevada

The legal definition of "child endangerment" in Nevada occurs when someone knowingly places a child in a situation that harms the child's physical or mental wellbeing. Mesquite criminal defense attorney Michael Becker gives an example:

Jack lives in Henderson with his son. Jack knows that his neighbor operates a meth lab in his basement. One day Jack has to rush to work and leaves his son with his neighbor. If caught, Jack could be booked at the Henderson Detention Center for child endangerment for knowingly leaving his son in a drug den. (And the neighbor of course could be charged with the Nevada crime of making drugs.)

Note that it does not matter that Jack never meant for his son to be around a meth lab. A reasonable person would have foreseen that leaving a child in a meth lab might cause the child to be physically or mentally harmed from the experience. Other examples of child endangerment include:

  • a guardian leaving a child with a family member that the guardian has good reason to suspect is abusive
  • a guardian allowing a child to play in or near a dangerous or hazardous location
  • a guardian transporting a child in a stolen car

Also note that a defendant should not be convicted of child endangerment in Nevada if he/she could not have reasonably believed that the child may be harmed. If Jack in the above example had no idea that his neighbor ran a meth lab, then Jack should not be held liable for child endangerment. Beatty criminal defense attorney Mike Castillo explains with an illustration:

Ben takes his daughter to a playground in North Las Vegas. Yellow tape that had cordoned off the jungle gym flew away in the wind before Ben got there. When his daughter climbs the jungle gym, it collapses and she sustains a broken leg. The cops then book Ben at North Las Vegas Detention Center for allowing his daughter to be in a dangerous environment. But since Ben had no idea that the jungle gym wasn't operational, he shouldn't be convicted of charges of child endangerment.

Child endangerment is just one form of child abuse. Others include physical abuse, mental abuse, sexual abuse or exploitation, and neglect. For more information on these offenses, see our article on Nevada child abuse crimes.

Reporting child endangerment in Nevada

People who suspect a child is a victim of endangerment may contact Child Protective Services (CPS). CPS will then conduct an investigation and gather information about the situation. If it finds reasonable cause of child abuse, it will contact the police to take further action.

Note that anyone may contact CPS with tips, including people who wish to remain anonymous. Certain professionals such as clergy, doctors, educators, and counselors are legally required to contact CPS with reports of suspected child abuse.

People may report child abuse to the Child Abuse Hotline in Clark County, Nevada, at (702) 399-0081 and DFSHotline@co.clark.nv.us. It's not necessary that the callers give proof of the abuse. Child abuse can also be reported to 911.

Defenses for child abuse in Nevada

The best ways to fight child endangerment allegations in Nevada depend on the facts of the case and the available evidence. Typical defenses include the following:

  • Lack of intent. A person does not commit child endangerment by putting the child in a situation the person has every reason to believe is safe. As long as the prosecution can't prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant intended to place the child in a location that he/she should have known was dangerous or hazardous, the case should be dismissed.
  • Lack of possibility of physical or mental harm. Child endangerment charges don't apply if the child could not have reasonably suffered any physical or emotional harm.
  • False accusations. It is not unusual for people to get wrongly accused of child endangerment by vengeful exes or irritable children. In some cases children even inflict wounds on themselves to show they have been abused. In these cases, medical experts may be able to show the court how those wounds were self-inflicted. In addition, a defense attorney can challenge the accuser's credibility on cross-examination.

Note that it is not a legitimate defense that the defendant had no intent to abuse the child. Anyone who deliberately puts a child in an environment that a reasonable person should realize is hazardous may face child endangerment charges.

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Penalties for child endangerment in Nevada

The punishment for child endangerment in Nevada turns on the child's age, the defendant's history of child abuse, and whether the child suffered substantial bodily harm in Nevada or substantial mental harm. Another factor is whether the defendant willfully caused the child to be endangered or knowingly permitted the child to be endangered by someone or something else.

If the endangerment was "willful" AND the child experienced substantial bodily or mental harm:

The charge is a category B felony in Nevada, carrying 2 - 20 years in Nevada State Prison.

If the endangerment was willful AND the child experienced no substantial bodily or mental harm:

If the defendant has never been convicted of child abuse before, the incident will be charged as a category B felony in Nevada carrying 2 - 15 years in prison. Otherwise, the penalty is 1 - 6 years in prison.

If the endangerment was "permissive" AND the child experienced substantial bodily or mental harm:

The offense is a category B felony in Nevada carrying 2 - 20 years imprisonment.

If the endangerment was "permissive" AND the child experienced no substantial bodily or mental harm:

As long as the defendant has no previous convictions for child abuse, the incident is charged as a gross misdemeanor in Nevada carrying a $2,000 fine and/or a year in jail. Otherwise, the incident is charged as a category C felony in Nevada carrying 1 - 5 years in prison and maybe a $10,000 fine.

Note that people who aren't U.S. citizens who are convicted of child endangerment may face deportation proceedings from the U.S. Learn more about criminal defense of immigrants in Nevada.

Accused of child endangerment in Nevada? Call us for help...

If you have been arrested for "child endangerment" or any kind of child abuse in Nevada, phone our Las Vegas Nevada criminal defense lawyers at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) for a free meeting to discuss your case. Our goal is to try to get the charges dismissed or reduced. And we' are always prepared to fight for your innocence at trial.

We represent clients throughout Nevada, including Las Vegas, Henderson, Washoe County, Reno, Carson City, Laughlin, Mesquite, Bunkerville, Moapa, Elko, Pahrump, Searchlight and Tonopah.

For more information see our articles on Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers, category C felony in Nevada, gross misdemeanor in Nevada, North Las Vegas detention center, Henderson detention center, Laughlin criminal defense attorney, Mesquite criminal defense attorney, criminal defense of immigrants in Nevada, Nevada crime of selling drugs, Nevada crime of child abuse and neglect, and substantial bodily harm in Nevada. For more information about California child endangerment law, see our article on California child endangerment law.

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