Children are vulnerable, and California laws seek to ensure every minor’s best interest is a priority. When a minor child is in your care, you are accountable for their safety and well-being. It applies whether you are the juvenile’s parent, professional caregiver, teacher, or relative. If you fail to take practical measures when protecting the minor, you can face child endangerment charges irrespective of whether the child sustained injuries. Facing child endangerment charges in Pasadena can be detrimental, and the confusion linked to it can make it challenging to deal with the complicated criminal process.

Retaining a skilled domestic violence defense attorney can offer peace of mind. Michele Ferroni Pasadena Criminal Attorney Law Firm is dedicated to assisting you in fighting for your freedom, rights, life, and future. Once you hire us, we can evaluate your case facts to determine if the police violated your rights. We can also advise you on the possible favorable outcome at trial.

Understanding California Child Endangerment Law

PC 273a makes it illegal to intentionally expose a minor to unjustifiable suffering, danger, or pain. You can be convicted of subjecting the minor to an unreasonable risk of harm irrespective of whether the child suffered physical harm or not.

While child endangerment is commonly referred to as child abuse, you should not confuse it with child abuse law under PC 273d.

Some of the acts that can lead to child endangerment charges include:

  • Leaving a loaded gun within your child’s reach
  • Leaving your son or daughter with a nanny with a history of abusive conduct
  • Failing to seek medical care for a sick child
  • Tattooing your baby

Before finding the accused person guilty, the prosecution must verify the facts of this offense beyond any reasonable doubt:

  1. They engaged in any of the following:
  • Willfully inflicted unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering on a baby
  • Intentionally caused or allowed the juvenile to suffer unjustifiable mental suffering or physical pain
  • While looking after the minor or having their custody, the defendant willfully permitted and caused the child’s health or person to be hurt
  • While looking after a minor or having their custody, willfully permitted and caused the juvenile to be in conditions where their health, well-being, or person was endangered
  1. The defendant was criminally negligent when they allowed or made the juvenile to suffer or be endangered or injured.
  2. If the minor is the defendant’s child, they were not reasonably disciplining them.

Additional Element to Establish Felony Child Endangerment

Child endangerment is a wobbler. Typically, the prosecution can charge it as either a felony or a California misdemeanor, depending mainly on the defendant’s criminal record and case facts.

The prosecutor will charge you with a felony if your conduct can result in demise or great bodily injuries. It is not a must that your actions ultimately lead to demise or harm but is a likely outcome.

Great bodily injuries are significant physical injuries. Trivial, moderate, or minor injuries cannot be considered great bodily injuries. The jury determines whether the harm is great bodily injuries based on the case facts. Due to this, an overzealous prosecutor will allege all chances they have.

Please note that it does not matter whether the minor suffered injuries but whether you placed them in circumstances where they could sustain injuries.

Criminal Negligence

A person is criminally negligent when they act with a disregard for risks to human safety and life. Criminal negligence involves more than an excusable accident or a mistake.

The prosecutor should prove the following to show your criminal negligence:

  • You acted recklessly and created a high risk of great bodily injuries or death
  • You would have known that your conduct would result in the risk

Unjustifiable Mental Suffering and Physical Pain

The legal phrase means suffering and pain that is extreme under the case circumstances or unreasonably necessary.

Penalties Carried by Violation of PC 273a

PC 273a is a wobbler; sentencing and penalties vary significantly depending on your case facts and criminal history.

Misdemeanor Penalties and Consequences

If the child endangerment behavior did not result in a risk of demise or great bodily injuries, you would be charged with a misdemeanor. The crime carries penalties like:

  • A one-thousand-dollar fine
  • A six-month jail sentence

Sometimes the judge can order a summary probation for four years instead of serving time. During the probation period, you should comply with the following conditions:

  • The judge can impose a restraining or protective order that protects the teenager from further violent behavior. The order can comprise a stay-away requirement that prevents you from communicating with the teenager. Sometimes the protective order can apply to your home even when you live with the minor
  • Completing a child abuser’s treatment counseling program that lasts for a year
  • If you violated the law while intoxicated, you will be required to refrain from alcohol or drug abuse during the probation period and submit to random drug tests

The judge could waive a condition if he/she finds it is not in the best interest of justice.

Felony Consequences

If convicted of a felony, you will pay a fine of $10,000 and spend a maximum of six years in prison.

The court can also impose four-year felony probation.

In addition to these penalties, you can receive a great bodily injury sentencing enhancement. The sentencing enhancement will lead to an additional and consecutive term in prison as follows:

  • If the juvenile succumbed to the criminal negligence, you would spend an additional four years in prison
  • If you inflicted great bodily injuries on the baby, you would spend an additional six years, depending on the alleged victim’s nature of injuries and age.

Violation of Child Endangerment Law is a Strike

A felony PC 273a is a California strike per the Three Strikes law.

A California strike on the criminal record means you will face a double sentence for a subsequent California felony conviction. Additionally, this sentencing scheme gives accused individuals a state prison sentence of 25 years or even life imprisonment if they are found guilty of at least three felony crimes.

Murder or Manslaughter Penalties

In an extreme case, the prosecution team can file more severe criminal charges when the minor dies due to child endangerment. These charges include:

  • Second-degree murder
  • Voluntary manslaughter
  • Involuntary manslaughter

Fighting PC 273a Criminal Charges

Some of the practical legal defenses you can use to fight the criminal charges against you include:

Your Behavior Did Not Involve Criminal Negligence, or You Did not Act Willfully

Before convicting you, the prosecuting attorney must prove that you were criminally negligent or acted on purpose.

There are many methods your defense attorney can use to prove evidence for an acquittal verdict. For example, you can argue those bodily injuries stemmed from ordinary negligence or an accident.

You Were Reasonably Disciplining Your Child

Parents in California are entitled to discipline their babies via reasonable corporal punishment. Corporal punishment is physical punishment inflicted on the baby’s body and can include:

  • Disciplining your child using a paddle or belt
  • Confining a minor in their bedroom
  • Spanking

Another Person Endangered Your Child

An overzealous prosecution team will want to hold an individual accountable when a minor is in danger. Consequently, they are quick to jump to conclusions about the responsible person.

Mistake of Fact

A mistake of fact takes place when well-meaning individuals misinterpret a situation. The mandatory reporting laws worsen the matter. The law requires experts like teachers, the clergy, and doctors to report all suspected child endangerment cases to law enforcers.

Otherwise, they can be prosecuted for misdemeanor charges and serve time. Thus, they are pressured to report all suspected cases.

False Accusations

Most child endangerment criminal cases begin with false allegations. Typically, false allegations originate from vengeance, jealousy, or greed. Sometimes a minor’s caretaker can make false allegations to conceal their abuse and endangerment.

Whatever the case, law enforcers do not want to be accountable for ignoring a potential PC 273a violation. Thus, they will arrest the accused person.

Handling False Allegations Dos and Don’ts

If facing false accusations, you should be proactive. The following steps can lead you in the right direction.

  • Resolve all child custody disputes amicably to avoid the possibility of your angry spouse or ex-spouse using false accusations as a way of obtaining custody or means of punishment.
  • Retain a skilled criminal defense lawyer. Even if you believe the truth will prevail or your accuser will retract their accusation, it is wise that you retain a lawyer knowledgeable about the legal system and who can protect your rights and interests.
  • Learn more about the relationship between child endangerment and false allegations. Understanding your situation will help you protect your rights and freedom and team up with your defense attorney.
  • Do not put yourself in a situation that can result in suspicion, like bathing children, aiding them to change clothes, or accompanying them to the bathroom. If your job entails these responsibilities, always ensure an adult is present during any situation that a well-meaning person can misinterpret.
  • Do not hesitate to ask your lawyer questions during your initial consultation and criminal justice process.
  • Do not argue with the authorities. Instead, be calm and remain relaxed.
  • Ensure you contact neighbors, colleagues, family members, and friends who can testify of your good character in court.

How Much is Bail for Violating PC 273a

Posting bail is the most straightforward way to secure your release following child endangerment charges. Bail is the amount you post with the court or detaining jurisdiction to obtain freedom as you await trial.

To know how much bail you should pay, you should first find the bail schedule for the county in which you have been charged. Every California county has its set bail schedule. Then you should complete the felony bail worksheet below.

  • List the offense you have been charged with
  • Find if there exists an enhancement that requires additional bail. Typical enhancements include previous convictions, the minor’s age
  • After finding the underlying charge and enhancements, add all the figures together to find the total bail amount required

Other factors the judge uses to determine bail include:

  • The seriousness of the crime
  • The defendant’s criminal record
  • The defendant’s community ties
  • Whether the defendant is a flight risk
  • Whether the defendant poses a risk to themselves and their community
  • History of skipping bail (failing to attend any scheduled court hearing)

If you cannot afford to raise the bail amount, consider consulting with a renowned California bail bond agent. Most bail bond agents offer their services after the suspect pays a non-refundable 10% premium of the total bail amount.

What to Do If Charged With Child Endangerment

If convicted of PC 273a, you will likely face fines, incarceration, and penalties that can alter your life after serving time. You can avoid these detrimental consequences by taking proper steps immediately after learning of your charges. These steps include:

Exercise the Right to Remain Silent

Probably you have heard the phrase, “You are entitled to remain silent…” in TV shows and movies. The entitlement to remain silent is not made to look good on television.

The 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution allows you to prevent self-incrimination in your criminal case by keeping quiet. If arrested or under police investigation, do not answer any questions. Instead, politely tell the police officer that you cannot answer any question without your criminal defense lawyer present.

Remain Polite and Calm

Being interrogated by law enforcers can be confusing, scary, and overwhelming. Nonetheless, even when you are falsely accused or the police have violated your constitutional rights, do not argue with the police or resist arrest. Resisting makes you look guilty and can lead to additional criminal charges.

Retain a Qualified Criminal Defense Lawyer

One essential step in fighting your criminal charge is hiring a defense attorney. Every minute you are in detention without legal representation hurts the case.

The prosecution knows the California law’s technicalities better than you and will try convincing you to take a plea bargain deal that seems like the best option. Your lawyer will review your case, level the playing field, and stop you from accepting an easy offer that is not in your best interests.

According to the California legal system, you are innocent until the prosecution proves your guilt beyond any reasonable doubt. Your lawyer should work aggressively to protect this right in the eyes of the prosecutor and the judge. The legal counsel should also ensure all information between you and them is confidential.

You can also expect your lawyer to:

  • Keep your updated throughout your legal process
  • Defend you in trial
  • Collect evidence, analyze the case facts, interview witnesses, review the prosecutor’s evidence, and develop the most effective legal defense

Be Truthful With Your Qualified Defense Lawyer

Your lawyer should know the correct case facts to effectively prepare for your case and offer you the best defense. Consequently, you should be honest with the legal counsel throughout your criminal process.

Do not be afraid to tell the lawyer the truth. The attorney-client privilege protects your relationship; whatever you tell the legal professional is confidential. If the attorney shares your case details, they risk facing disciplinary action, including losing their professional license.

Avoid Discussing Your Case With Loved Ones

Unlike your conversations with a lawyer, confidentiality rules do not protect those you have with a loved one. Whatever you say to them could be used against you.

Nevertheless, California Evidence Code 970 offers spouses control over whether they can testify in court against their partner. Therefore, the prosecutor cannot coerce one partner to testify against the other.

Note Down Everything You Recall

You can also give your defense lawyer precise details when they are fresh in your mind. The most effective method to ensure you recall them is to write down all the circumstances surrounding the arrest immediately you remember.

Once you are under investigation, the police will document everything and build a strong case against you. Consequently, you should have accurate case information.

Attend Every Court Hearing

The law requires you to know when your court proceedings will happen and attend them. Set alarms and reminders or work with an attorney to generate a calendar of your hearings, so you do not miss any. Failing to attend a court hearing can lead to the judge issuing a warrant of your arrest.

When To Hire a Qualified Domestic Violence Defense Lawyer

If you are facing domestic violence criminal charges, you probably have a lot running through your head. One pressing concern is whether you must hire a defense attorney and, if yes, when.

Retaining an attorney early in the process can assist you in saving a lot of money and time and securing your freedom in the long run. A criminal defense lawyer has a lot on their plate with each case they take on.

Some of their responsibilities include gathering and analyzing the evidence against the defendant, conducting research, and engaging in negotiations with the prosecution. The bail amount, sentences, and charges can also reduce significantly as a result of the agreements. The lawyer can represent their client at trial if they cannot reach a plea deal. Your legal counsel should prepare you on what to do and say at your sentencing.

Every seasoned California defense attorney understands the criminal justice process's concerns, confusion, and frustration. Consequently, they can provide a realistic and objective assessment of the potential sentence and probable case results.

Continue reading this section to help you understand when you should retain a defense attorney.

After Your Arrest or During Investigation

While police officers will tell you that you do not need legal representation for your preliminary investigation process, you require an expert to ensure the police do not violate your legal rights. Sometimes, the investigators can trick you into giving answers that they can use as evidence against you in court.

Consequently, you should retain a proficient criminal defense lawyer immediately. Your lawyer is trained and knowledgeable about the criminal legal system, and their presence can reduce the severity of your criminal charges.

During Your Arraignment

The ideal time to consult with a legal counsel is after learning of the law enforcement investigation or following your arrest. However, this is not always a reality for some people.

Typically, you will attend your initial court hearing (arraignment) within 48 hours from your arrest. During the arraignment, the judge will advise you of the criminal charge against you, and you have a chance to enter a plea of either no contest, not guilty, or guilty.

It is in your best interests to have competent legal representation. It will help you understand the charges against you and the potential consequences and penalties if found guilty. Moreover, your lawyer will elaborate on the pros and cons of accepting a prosecutor’s plea bargain offer over proceeding to trial.

The California criminal justice process can be overwhelming to navigate, mainly if you are a first-time offender. On top of representing you in court, the lawyer can offer you comfort and support throughout the ordeal. Knowing you have a knowledgeable and qualified lawyer by your side can provide peace of mind.

When Filing a Motion to Suppress Evidence

If you believe that the police did not have probable cause to arrest you or they illegally collected evidence, you should work to suppress the proof against you.

Nevertheless, motions to suppress evidence in criminal cases are complicated and technical since they involve cross-examining the arresting police officer. Therefore, you should not try handling the process without experienced legal assistance.

 Find a Qualified Pasadena Domestic Violence Defense Attorney Near Me

California PC 273a makes it illegal to deliberately, recklessly, and knowingly engage in conduct that exposes a juvenile to unjustifiable pain or suffering. Being charged with child endangerment in Pasadena is every person’s nightmare. Like many people, your initial reaction can be defending your parenting skills to law enforcement and explaining your behavior. It is worth noting that defending yourself is useless, especially following your arrest. Whatever you say can be used against you in court.

Consequently, you should hire a criminal defense lawyer immediately. At Michele Ferroni Pasadena Criminal Attorney Law Firm, we understand that your life, future, career, and family relationship are at stake and can work aggressively to help you achieve the most favorable case outcome. Please contact us at 626-628-0564 to schedule your initial free case review and learn how we can help you.