California has strict laws aimed at protecting children, which makes sense. The crime of child neglect is punished under California Penal Code 270. Children, among the most defenseless members of society, must be provided for and protected. If you are a parent or guardian and purposefully refuse to meet a minor's needs without a valid reason, you are charged with child neglect and may be subject to harsh punishments. A child's basic needs include food, clothing, medicine, education, and shelter.
A variety of events and circumstances may bring about child neglect accusations. However, most of the time, the allegations are either wholly untrue or based on misunderstandings in which you lack control over the circumstances. Unfortunately, the prosecution's team typically moves forward with the case regardless of this.
You require the assistance of an experienced and tenacious defense attorney to fight the allegations and prove your innocence. A skilled criminal defense attorney will build a solid defense plan to assist you in obtaining a positive outcome. Positive outcomes include protecting your reputation, having your criminal record expunged, maintaining custody of your child, and avoiding jail time.
At Michele Ferroni Pasadena Criminal Attorney Law Firm, our criminal defense attorneys will assist you in building a solid defense if you are accused of a PC 270 violation in Pasadena. We can help because we know how the local courts, prosecutors, and law enforcement departments operate. In addition, if you allow us to handle your case, we will ensure we take all reasonable steps to help you, including devoting our resources, time, and unrivaled expertise. Call us immediately if you have been charged or want to learn more about your rights and legal alternatives.
Elements of Child Neglect Under California Law
Per Penal Code 270, the prosecutor must show certain elements before they can charge you with child neglect, including:
- Your status as the child's legal guardian or parent must be clear.
- You neglected to give the child their needs.
- You have purposefully withheld provision from the child without a valid justification.
Adding to clothes, housing, and food, the court may also consider medical and corrective care. You acted willfully if you knowingly neglected to meet the minor's needs. The definitions of a child and parent under California law are very contentious. Also in question is what constitutes a legitimate defense.
Parents and Minors
Under PC 270, the term "parent" has a wide definition; several groups of people can be considered parents. Parents might be a child's adoptive parents, legal, biological, or both parents. Additionally, other persons who perceive themselves as parents or identify themselves as such also qualify. While residing with you, you are considered a legal guardian/ parent if you are the spouse of a child's mother. Although you are not the minor's biological father, the law regards you as the child's parent. You are not a legal guardian or parent if you have no responsibilities or rights concerning a minor. You cannot become a parent because of a court order.
The law defines a minor as someone under the age of 18. It is crucial to remember that California law also protects unborn infants. The legal responsibility to meet the unborn child’s needs falls on the parents.
Lawful and Legal Excuse
According to Penal Code 270, as a parent, you must make every effort and take all reasonable measures to meet your child's needs. However, as a parent, you could be excused from meeting your child's needs if you have a legitimate legal reason. If your wage is not enough, you have a legitimate justification for not taking care of your child's needs. Your incapacity to cater to the minor’s needs must be due to circumstances beyond your control. For example, you lack the resources to provide for your child.
You cannot assert that you have a legal defense if you cannot provide for a child because you spent your savings on other needs. If you do not diligently pursue employment, you lack a legal justification for failing to provide for your child’s needs.
If you are dismissed from work unexpectedly and do not have an alternative source of income, you cannot provide for your child's needs. Because your employer did not terminate you from work for your fault, you are innocent of child neglect accusations in this situation. However, if you are employed but choose to waste money on pleasures rather than provide for your child's needs, you could be charged with child neglect.
According to California law, parents are presumed without a valid justification for neglecting to provide for their children. If the prosecution charges you with a PC 270 violation, it is your responsibility to show that you had a good reason for not taking care of the minor’s needs. You could have your child neglect charge dismissed with the assistance of an experienced attorney.
Signs that Show Child Neglect
Several signs could point to child neglect, even if no one component defines it. Being constantly hungry is a sign that a child has experienced physical mistreatment. A starving child is prone to displaying signs of craving food all the time. Children who experience physical neglect are frequently tiny in both weight and height. Clothing that does not fit right, is dirty, does not cover the body enough, or is not right for the weather could be signs that a child is being neglected.
A physically abused child could exhibit poor personal hygiene, such as unwashed hair, body odor, or unclean skin. Children who have been neglected may also have wounds or diseases that are left untreated or seem to have been disregarded.
A child who has experienced emotional or mental neglect may frequently act out in ways intended to express irritation, anger, or disobedience. If a child repeatedly misses school, is left unsupervised, or is permitted to play in dangerous situations, the child may be the victim of supervision issues or educational neglect.
Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) Roles
The DCFS's CPS will likely contact you if you have been accused of violating PC 270. Adoption, foster care, and allegations of child abuse fall within the purview of DCFS.
When your child is involved, you should typically work with the police. You might feel compelled to react to inquiries and dispel misconceptions or misunderstandings regarding the care of your child. It is normal to respond in this manner.
However, if DCFS is already involved, your family's future is at risk. Even though DCFS asserts its mission is to serve families in need and protect children, they are a criminal justice-related organization. You should speak with a qualified attorney who handles neglect cases. An experienced attorney will know how the DFCS will investigate your claim and collaborate with the team of prosecutors to file formal charges.
A DCFS/CPS social worker will often keep all of their accusations from you. They may appear polite and pretend to want to assist you, but they seek specific information. They are familiar with the procedures, laws, and how local judges handle cases of a similar nature.
If a minor is being neglected, California's CPS can remove them. According to the legislation, removal is permitted when a child is abused. Child Protective Services states that neglect occurs when a parent or other adult fails to give a child enough food, shelter, clothes, supervision, or medical attention.
Before removal, CPS works to advocate keeping the child with the family. If, despite its assistance, it deems that the minor cannot remain in the parental home, it will make arrangements for foster placement.
Should I Talk to a Social Worker or DCFS Agent About an Ongoing Investigation into Child Neglect?
Ideally, you should only have brief conversations with DFCS/CPS and consult a lawyer as soon as possible. If a social worker contacts you, you should gently inquire about the foundation of their inquiry and whether the particular allegations and charges go beyond more general definitions of neglect or abuse. Ask them to record any interrogations involving your child firmly but gently. If an investigator has not given them a warrant, do not let them inside your house.
Child Neglect Penalties
A child neglect offense is typically a misdemeanor charge; child neglect could result in administrative sanctions and criminal sentencing. If the prosecution decides to file your crime as a misdemeanor, you might face up to a year in jail. The judge may fine you an amount that cannot exceed $2,000.
Child negligence may occasionally result in felony charges. You may be charged with felony child neglect if the judge finds that you continue to neglect your minor, even if you are a parent. If a judge finds that the man who is the father of a child refuses to provide for the child's needs, felony charges may be brought in a paternity case.
Possible sentencing for felony child neglect includes serving up to a year in jail. You might receive a sentence of a year and a day in state prison in California. Additionally, the judge could impose a fine of not more than $2,000.
Adverse immigration effects are not a result of a PC 270 conviction. Therefore, if you are found guilty of child neglect, it will not impact your immigration status. Offenses involving moral turpitude attract adverse repercussions. California law provides that you could face deportation if you commit a felony offense of moral turpitude. You can also be flagged as being ineligible to enter the US. However, neglecting a child is not an offense, including moral turpitude.
Removal of the Neglected Child
Child Protective Services (CPS) in California have the authority to remove your child from your care if you neglect them. This statute allows for the deportation of children who are abuse victims. Per the CPS, parental or caregiver neglect of a child constitutes abuse. Abuse is failing to give a child enough clothing, food, supervision, shelter, and medical attention. CPS will provide the support required to maintain a child in their home before taking the child away. If it is clear that a minor cannot stay in a household even with support, CPS may arrange for the child's placement in foster care.
Impacts on Your Gun Ownership Rights
Your gun rights may be withdrawn if you are convicted of a PC 270 violation as a felony. In California, convicts of felonies are not permitted to purchase or possess firearms. Your right to carry a firearm is unaffected by a misdemeanor conviction for child negligence, unlike a felony conviction.
Expungement of Child Neglect Convictions
You might request the expungement of a PC 270 conviction in California just like you could with other convictions. Once the offender completes probation and abides by all probation requirements, the judge will only award an expungement. If the judge sentences you to time in jail, you must serve the entire sentence before requesting that the conviction be erased. Even after breaking the terms of your probation, you could still request that the conviction be erased from your record. However, the judge's ruling will be required in this case.
You will not experience any challenges related to your child neglect conviction once it has been expunged. Although the sentencing will not appear in your background check, it would still be accessible in police records.
Common Legal Defenses
Charges of child neglect can be fought by developing solid legal arguments. To persuade the judge that you are innocent of a child neglect charge, you will need the assistance of an experienced attorney. Examples of common legal defenses include:
You can contest the claims if you have been falsely accused of neglecting a child. Child neglect accusations frequently involve false claims. For instance, in the past, a parent could accuse the other of neglecting the child to gain the upper hand in disputes over child custody or divorce. A spouse may sometimes accuse the other of neglecting the children out of retaliation or envy. Your attorney can compile sufficient proof to show that you never neglected a child.
A Valid Lawful Excuse
You may also claim that you have a legitimate justification for not meeting a child's needs. You could argue that your failure to provide for your child was justified on legal grounds. For example, you might have been hurt in a road accident and could not care for your child. The judge will decide if an explanation counts as a legitimate legal justification.
You Did not Act Willfully
Only willful or intentional failure to provide for a minor's needs qualifies as child neglect. You cannot be found guilty of child neglect if your actions were not deliberate or willful. You could claim it was not on purpose if you neglected to provide a minor with what they needed. You might have abruptly lost your job or your only source of money, for example. Because you did not behave deliberately in this situation, you will not be found guilty of child neglect.
Steps to take After a Child Neglect Charge
If the prosecutor charges you with child neglect, you could take particular actions to acquire evidence to support your defense. You will struggle, particularly if the child neglect charge goes to trial. But if you adhere to the appropriate advice, you cannot bargain for a lower sentence or avoid being found guilty altogether.
- You must be well informed about the minor's relationship with you. Child neglect claim is based on a pattern of failure to act rather than a single instance. As a result, you will know all the details regarding how you interact with the Child. You cannot always be confident that you are the minor's parent. You may not have known the child before.
- In some cases, you may be dealing with severe physical and mental problems that make it impossible to build a strong bond with the minor. Make sure you have access to all of these details. You may also rely on friends, coworkers, and witnesses to testify about your relationship with the minor.
- Obtain thorough documentation of the provision you have done for the child. For example, you could gather receipts attesting to giving the child shelter, food, or other necessary support. Also, you could present medical bills or doctor's reports stating that you have specific mental or physical health issues that prevent you from providing for your child.
- After being accused of child neglect, you should speak with a lawyer immediately after being charged with a PC 270 violation. In California, a PC 270 violation is a grave crime, and you could not have the ideal strategies for navigating the judicial system. Self-defense can be challenging, particularly if you have no prior legal expertise. Contacting a reputable lawyer as soon as possible is crucial to give them adequate time to look into your situation. Choose a lawyer who has a lot of expertise in addressing child-related cases. A lawyer is better equipped to develop a solid defense in a child neglect lawsuit.
Offenses Related to Child Neglect
According to California law, three crimes share a close relationship with a child neglect offense:
- Endangering children
- Failure to Monitor a Child's Attendance at School
- Child abuse
Child Abuse, Penal Code 273(d)
Penal Code 273(d) defines child abuse as corporal injury to a child. This statute makes it illegal to subject a child to cruel treatment or physical harm. Child abuse may have occurred if you struck a child hard enough to leave marks on their body. If you hit your teenage minor for arriving home late, you can also face a conviction for child abuse. If you strike a child more often than you reasonably might have, you may have committed child abuse.
Spanking a minor is not considered abuse if it is not done for disciplinary reasons. Spanking a child might not count as child abuse if you never use excessive force in the situation. The predicate is factual. Whether you spank the minor with your hand or another object, the above conditions still hold.
Child abuse is a crime that can be either a felony or a misdemeanor. Depending on your criminal background, the prosecutor will handle your case differently. You will probably be charged with a crime if you have a criminal record of abusing children or engaging in domestic violence. The prosecuting agency could consider your case when determining whether to charge you with a misdemeanor or a felony offense.
Penal Code 273 (a), Child Endangerment
If you put a child or a juvenile in danger or subject them to pain or suffering, you may violate PC 273a's child endangerment laws. The law does not require that you hurt a child to be charged with endangering them.
Child endangerment is a misdemeanor violation if it does not put a child in danger of suffering grave injuries or death. However, the crime of child endangerment becomes a wobbler when a minor is at risk of serious injuries or death.
Failing to Supervise a Child's School Attendance, Penal Code 270.1 (a)
Neglecting to supervise your child's attendance at school violates Penal Code 270.1 (a). This statute defines a child as any minor six years of age or older; the minor may be enrolled in kindergarten through eighth grade. A habitual truant minor is required for this statute to apply. This indicates that the child frequently skips class and never has an acceptable reason.
In California, a misdemeanor infraction punishable by county jail time violates PC 270.1 (a). The court may fine you an amount that cannot exceed $2,000.
Contact a Pasadena Criminal Lawyer Near Me
After facing child neglect charges in Pasadena, you should hire a criminal defense lawyer with experience to assist you in defending the allegations. At the Michele Ferroni Pasadena Criminal Attorney Law Firm, we can assess your situation and help build strong defense options. We know how crucial it is to defend your legal rights to avoid being wrongfully convicted. Also, we will listen to your side of the story if you contact us. Speak with our experienced criminal lawyers today at 626-628-0564.