San Diego Child Endangerment Attorney

Everything you need to know about Child Endangerment: Definitions, Defenses and Penalties explained by a San Diego criminal defense lawyer

San Diego Criminal Lawyer
San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney Nicholas Moore

Nicholas J. Moore

San Diego Criminal Lawyer



Criminal Child Endangerment Defense Lawyers

California Penal Code 273(a) PC


In order to help you understand the law as it relates to child endangerment we provide you this guide to explain the elements of the crime of child endangerment, and the defenses to a charge that an experienced San Diego criminal defense lawyer may use to get your charges dismissed. We also offer discounted services and links to free resources for domestic violence victims - such as domestic violence restraining orders. If you are a victim of domestic violence, or have been falsely accused of domestic violence, please call us immediately. We are happy help in any way that we can. 

Definition of Child Endangerment

California Penal Code 273(a) and (b)


(  ) Willfully gave a child unjustifiable physical or mental pain

(  ) Willfully permitted a child to suffer physical or mental pain

(  ) Caused or permited a child in your care to be injured, or

(  ) Cause or permitted a child in your care to be placed in a dangerous situation


If you did any of the above (yes those are broad statements) you could be charged with criminal negligence. If there were a substantial probability that the behavior would have resulted in great bodily harm or death, you could be charged with a felony and face major prison time. 


Defenses to a Charge of PC 273(a) and PC 273(b)

Affirmative Defense - Reasonably Disciplining a Child

Parents have the right to discipline their child - a right that includes "reasonable" corporal punishment. However, the social standards of corporal punishment are rapidly changing, and conduct such as using a belt or a switch can potentially result in criminal charges. An affirmative defense can dispose of a case in a number of ways. The judge could dismiss the case outright, a sympathetic DA may listen to reason and not wish to ruin a good person's record, and a jury is hesitant to criminalize conduct their parents likely did to them.  


Ordinary carelessness, inattention or mistake in judgement

Child endangerment requires willfull action - you must have willfully placed the child in a dangerous situation, or willfully avoided preventing injury. If the child is injured, the government must prove that you willfully inflicted the injury upon the child.  


For example: A woman leaves her child with a babysitter. He ex-husband takes the baby from the sitter and the baby is injured. The woman did not willfully place her child in a dangerous situation nor did she willfully cause the child to be injured. She will face no child endangerment charges.


False Accusations

False accusations happen, and they happen frequently. Ex-spouses often use allegations to attempt to gain the upper hand in custody disputes, and sometimes even children will lie to inflict retribution on their parents. The accusation of child endangerment is enough to destroy your career and reputation. 


Another responsible party

It is possible for two people who have equal custody of a child to be charged with child endangerment. However, as discussed above your conduct needs to be wilfull and if another responsible party is endangering the child while you were unaware, then you would not be guilty of child endangerment... however, if you know there is a likelihood that leaving your child with a particular person may be dangerous to the child, then you are committing child endangerment. 


Fight the Charges at Trial

When you are charged with child endangerment, your reputation and your freedom are on the line. You need an experienced San Diego domestic violence lawyer willing to go the distance and fight at trial.  


Penalties and Punishment for Child Endangerment Under PC 273(a) and (b)

Penalties and punishments for child endangerment will vary depending on your personal criminal history, and the specific facts of your case. The following is simply an estimate of what you may be able to expect. This is not a substitute for consulting with an experienced criminal defense attorney about the specific facts of your case. 

Misdemeanor Child Endangerment 

California Penal Code 273(a) PC


For a conviction of PC 273(a)As a misdemeanor (that means the child was not at risk of serious injury or death) - the penalty is up to 1 year in jail and a $10,000 fine. The liklihood of receiving the maximum penalty depends on your criminal history, probation status and the specific facts of your case. In San Diego county, there are increased penalties if you were under the influence of a controlled substance. 


A one year mandatory counseling course is required, and a stay away order will be issued. 

Felony Child Endangerment

California Penal Code 273a(b) PC

If the child was exposed to a risk of serious bodily injury or death, a defendant charged with felony child endangerment faces at least 2 years in prison minimum, and could face up to six years in prison. Additional punishments may include a fine (up to $10,000), mandatory child counseling classes, complete loss of parental rights, formal probation (5 years), and restrictions on movement and employment. 


San Diego Criminal Defense

101 W. Broadway, Suite 1770 | San Diego, CA 92101

This site is for information only. Use of this website does not create an attorney client relationship. This site is not legal advice. Legal advice is specific direction related to the unique circumstances of your legal issue. This website is not a substitute for a consultation with a California licensed criminal defense attorney. We invite you to contact us with any legal or criminal defense question you might have. 


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