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California Child Endangerment Law & Defense

Penal Code 273a(a)

Information on the crime of child endangerment is found at California penal code section 273a(a).

To be found guilty of the crime of child endangerment under PC 273a(a), the prosecutor must prove that defendant willfully or recklessly placed a child in danger of immediate harm.

The law of PC 273a(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 pemits the heatlth 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 by punished by imprisonment in a county jail not excceing one year, or in a sate prison for two, four, or six years.

For purposes of PC 273a(a) it does not matter if the child was actually harmed in order to prove guilt. The placement of the child in a situation of danger is sufficient in order to prove child endangerment. However, if the child is not harmed, the argument that the child was not actually in danger is generally stronger.

The phrase likely to produce great bodily injury or death means the probability of great bodily injury or death. This of course, is factored on a case by case basis.

A child, for purposes of child endangerment, is anyone under the age of 18 (See PC 273a(a)).

Per PC 273a(a), the recklessness required to prove guilt is more than ordinary negligence. Recklessness requires a subjective carlessness or disregard for the safety of a child.

Sentence & Penalty for PC 273a(a)

The crime of child endangerment can be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony in California. If found guilty of the crime of child endangerment as a misdemeanor the defendant faces up to one year in jail. If the defendant is found guilty of felony child endangerment the defendant faces up to six years in prison.

PC 273a(a) is not considered a serious or violent crime as those terms are defined in California's Three Strike Sentencing Law. Thus, if found guilty, the defendant may be allowed to serve a probation sentence (as opposed to jail or prison). In addition, if found guilty of PC 273a(a), the defendant may receive a split or suspended sentence and in any event is entitled to up to 50% credit for good behavior while in jail or prison.

In addition to jail time, the if found guilty of the crime of child endangerment, the defendant will be ordered to attend mandatory child abuse classes, pay fines, have the child abuse incident report to the department of child protective services (CPS), be deported from the United States (For non-U.S. citizens), and be placed on at least four years of probation.

Examples of child endangerment:

  • DUI with a child in the vehicle
  • Physically fighting while holding a baby
  • Allowing a child to play with a gun
  • Giving alcohol or drugs to a minor

Defenses to PC 273a(a)

There are many defenses to the charge of child endangerment in California. Every case of child endangerment is different and therefore every defense is different. However, most child endangerment cases defend with these common defenses: insufficient evidence, mistake of fact, intoxication (except where intoxication is part of another crime such as DUI, statute of limitations, coerced confessions, defense of others, and more.

It is sometimes possible to reduce or dismiss the criminal charge of child endangerment, or reduce the penalty associated with the crime of child endangerment. The facts of the case will determine the defense attorney's approach to the case. Having a good defense attorney can make all the difference.

If you have been charged, or are suspected of committing, child endangerment or PC 273a(a), contact our criminal defense attorneys without delay. We are experienced and successful with child endangerment charges and our consultations are always free. Call today!


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PC 273a(a): Child Endangerment Defense

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Crimes Related to PC 273a(a): Child Endangerment

  • Child abuse causing injury PC 273a(b)
  • Assault on a child under 8 yrs old PC 273ab(a)
  • Abusing or endangering the health of a child PC 273a(a)
  • Corporal injury to a child with a prior 273a(a) PC 273d(b)

California Child Endangerment Laws & Defense PC 273a(a)


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