Penal Code 270.1(a) - Failure to Supervise Child's School Attendance

Can a parent go to jail because the child ditches school?

In this video, California criminal defense attorney Neil Shouse discusses California Penal Code 270.1(a) PC which is the California statute which makes it a crime if a parent or guardian does not provide reasonable supervision of a “child’s” school attendance. A “child” for purposes of this video, is a minor age six years or older, and in grades kindergarten through 8th grade. According to California Education Code 48263.6, a “chronic truant” is a child-student that is absent from school, without a valid excuse, for 10 percent or more of the schooldays in one school year. More info at https://www.shouselaw.com/school-attendance call (888) 327-4652 for a free consultation. If you or a loved one is charged with a crime 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.


Penal Code 270.1(a) PC
is the California truancy law that makes it a crime if a parent or guardian does not provide reasonable supervision of a “child's” school attendance. A “child” for purposes of this section is a minor age six years or older and in grades kindergarten through 8th grade.

One of the important requirements under this section is that the child in question must be a “chronic truant.” A “chronic truant” is a child that is absent from school, without a valid excuse, for 10 percent or more of the school days in one school year.

Examples of illegal acts under this code section include:

  • a dad ignores the fact that his 12-year-old son continues to skip school, even though he has been labeled a chronic truant by school officials.
  • a mom of a 4th grader, whose principal has declared to be a chronic truant, continuously picks up her daughter early from school so that the child can hang out with friends and play video games.
  • a guardian of a chronic truant always disregards the fact that his 7th grader skips school to bike with friends.

Luckily, there are several legal defenses that a person can raise if accused of failing to supervise a pupil's school attendance. These include showing that:

  • the accused provided “reasonable” supervision;
  • the child involved in the case was not a “chronic truant;” and/or,
  • the defendant gave a coerced confession.

Penalties

A violation of Penal Code 270.1(a) is charged as a misdemeanor (as opposed to a California felony or an infraction). The crime is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in the county jail for not more than one year; and/or,
  • a maximum fine of $2,000.

Our California criminal defense attorneys will highlight the following in this article:

kid going to school
California Penal Code 270.1(a) PC is the California statute that makes it a crime if a parent or guardian does not provide reasonable supervision of a “child's” school attendance.

1. What is the legal definition of failure to supervise a pupil's school attendance?

California Penal Code 270.1(a) PC makes it a crime for a parent or guardian insufficiently to supervise a child's school attendance.

A prosecutor must prove four elements in order to successfully convict a person under this code section. These are:

  1. the defendant was a parent or guardian of a child-student that was six years of age or more and who was in kindergarten or any grade between 1st and 8th;
  2. the child is subject to compulsory full-time education or continuation education;
  3. the defendant failed to reasonably supervise the student's school attendance; and,
  4. the child was a “chronic truant.”1

A judge or jury will determine whether or not a parent or guardian provided “reasonable” supervision based upon all of the facts of a given case.

According to California Education Code 48263.6, a “chronic truant” is a child-student that is absent from school, without a valid excuse, for 10 percent or more of the schooldays in one school year.2

2. What are the legal defenses?

A person accused under PC 270.1(a) can challenge the accusation by raising a legal defense. A good defense can often get a charge reduced or even dismissed. Please note, though, that it is critical for an accused to hire an attorney to get the most effective defense.

Three common defenses are:

  1. reasonable supervision;
  2. child not a chronic truant; and/or,
  3. coerced confession.

2.1. Reasonable supervision

Please recall that one element a prosecutor must prove under Penal Code 270.1(a) is that a parent or guardian failed to reasonably supervise his child's school attendance. And, a judge or jury will determine whether or not a parent or guardian provided “reasonable” supervision based upon all of the facts of a given case. This means a defendant can build a legal defense by highlighting all the details in a case that show his supervision was reasonable under the circumstances.

2.2. Child not a chronic truant

Also recall that a prosecutor must prove under PC 270.1(a) that a child-student was a “chronic truant.” This term has a specific definition under EC 48263.6, namely that a child-student is absent from school, without a valid excuse, for 10 percent or more of the school days in one school year. A solid defense, therefore, is to show that a defendant's child was not a chronic truant, under EC 48263.6.

2.3. Coerced confession

This defense applies to the situation where a defendant was charged under PC 270.1(a) following a confession.

California law states that police may not use overbearing measures to coerce a confession.

If a party can show that the police coerced him into a confession, then:

1. The judge may exclude the confession from evidence; or,

2. The case could get dropped altogether if the party got pressured into confessing to a crime he didn't commit.

man behind bars
Violating this law can result in prison time and/or a fine

3. Penalties, Punishment, and Sentencing

A violation of Penal Code 270.1(a) is charged as a misdemeanor.3

The crime is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in the county jail for not more than one year; and/or,
  • a maximum fine of $2,000.4

Please note that in lieu of jail time a judge may order a defendant to misdemeanor probation. This is also called “summary” or “informal” probation.

Also note that under this section, a person charged with inadequate supervision may get a deferred entry of judgment program.5 This program would allow a defendant to avoid a conviction provided that certain conditions are met (e.g., completing parenting classes and/or substance abuse treatment).6

4. Related Offenses

There are three crimes related to failure to supervise a pupil's school attendance. These are:

  1. contributing to the delinquency of a minor – PC 272;
  2. child endangerment – PC 273(a); and,
  3. failure to provide care/child neglect – PC 270

4.1. Contributing to the delinquency of a minor – PC 272

Contributing to the delinquency of a minor is a crime per California Penal Code 272 PC.

The offense occurs when someone acts, or fails to act, and as a result a minor becomes:

  • a dependent of the juvenile court system;
  • a juvenile delinquent; or
  • a habitual truant.7

A violation of Penal Code 272 is a misdemeanor.8

The possible penalties include

  • up to one year in county jail, and/or
  • a fine of up to $2,500.9

4.2. Child endangerment – PC 273(a)

Penal Code 273(a) PC is California's criminal “child endangerment” law. It punishes someone who willfully exposes a child to pain, suffering, or danger.

Specifically, child endangerment, under Penal Code 273(a), can be charged when an adult:

  • causes or permits a minor to suffer unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering,
  • willfully causes or permits a minor to be injured, or
  • willfully causes or permits a minor to be placed in a dangerous situation.10

Please note that child endangerment is different than the crime of child abuse, under California Penal Code 273(d).

Punishment under PC 273(a) depends on whether the exposure to the child included death or “great bodily injury.”

If there was no possibility of either, Penal Code 273(a) is a California misdemeanor. And, the offense is punishable by:

  • up to one year in county jail, and/or
  • a fine of up to $1,000.11

If there was a risk of death or great bodily harm, child endangerment becomes a California “wobbler” offense. A “wobbler” may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, in the prosecutor's discretion.

If charged as a felony, child endangerment can include punishment of:

4.3 Failure to provide care/child neglect – PC 270

Penal Code 270 PC is California's criminal law on “child neglect.” This crime is also known as “failure to provide care” for a child in California.

A parent violates this law by:

  1. failing to provide physical necessities,
  2. for his/her minor child,
  3. without a lawful excuse.13

The “physical necessities” required under PC 270 are:

  • clothing,
  • food,
  • shelter, and
  • medical or other “remedial care” (such as help from an official religion).14

Failure to provide care is usually a misdemeanor in California. It can be punished by:

  • up to one year in county jail; and/or,
  • a fine of up to two thousand dollars ($2,000).15

Were you accused of failing to supervise a pupil's school attendance in California? Call us for help…

california criminal defense attorneys
Call us for help at (855) LAW-FIRM

If you or someone you know has been accused of a crime under California Penal Code 270.1(a), we invite you to contact us for a free consultation. We can be reached 24/7 at 855-LAWFIRM.


Legal References:

  1. California Penal Code 270.1(a) PC. This code section states: “A parent or guardian of a pupil of six years of age or more who is in kindergarten or any of grades 1 to 8, inclusive, and who is subject to compulsory full-time education or compulsory continuation education, whose child is a chronic truant as defined in Section 48263.6 of the Education Code, who has failed to reasonably supervise and encourage the pupil's school attendance, and who has been offered language accessible support services to address the pupil's truancy, is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars ($2,000), or by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment. A parent or guardian guilty of a misdemeanor under this subdivision may participate in the deferred entry of judgment program defined in subdivision (b).”

  2. California Education Code 48263.6 EC.

  3. California Penal Code 270.1(a) PC.

  4. See same.

  5. California Penal Code 270.1(b) PC.

  6. See same.

  7. California Penal Code 272(a) PC.

  8. See same.

  9. See same.

  10. California Penal Code 273(a) PC.

  11. California Penal Code 273(a)(b) PC.

  12. California Penal Code 273(a)(a) PC.

  13. California Penal Code 270 PC.

  14. See same.

  15. See same.

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