Child Endangerment

California Penal Code 273a

Child Endangerment (also known as “Child Abuse”) typically concerns an act or failure to act that causes a child to suffer psychological, emotional or physical abuse.

What is a Child Endangerment Charge?

Under California Penal Code 273a(a)&(b) P.C., you can be charged for willfully placing a child in a dangerous situation or permitting a child to suffer unjustifiable physical or emotional pain. Thus, you can be charged whether your alleged conduct is “active” or “passive”. Active conduct would include an intentional assault on the alleged victim-child. Passive conduct would include severe neglect of the child’s welfare (such as leaving the child in a “hot car”).

Other examples of Child Endangerment include driving while intoxicated when transporting the child, buying or using illegal drugs while the child is with you, excessively punishing the child, physically fighting with someone while you are caring for the child, or otherwise placing the child in harm’s way because of your own negligence.

Child Endangerment is a “wobbler” offense, meaning that the prosecutor can charge you with either a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the facts of the case and your criminal record. Typically, you will be charged with a felony if it appears the child was placed in imminent danger of serious bodily harm or death. Otherwise, you will likely be charged with a misdemeanor.

What are Examples of Child Endangerment?

Examples of Child Endangerment include the following:

  • Because of an extended heroin binge, you were unable to properly care for your toddler, who suffered from dehydration and malnutrition;
  • Because of your religion, you withheld medical attention from your child, who almost died from a severe infection;
  • The police raided your home with a valid search warrant and discovered cocaine hidden underneath your child’s mattress.
  • You left your loaded pistol in an unlocked cabinet within easy reach of your children.
  • You physically attacked your wife while your child was sitting nearby.
  • You allowed your son to serve as an altar boy with a priest who is a known pedophile.

What Does the Prosecutor Need to Prove for a Child Endangerment Charge?

To prove that you are guilty of Child Endangerment under California Penal Code 273a P.C., the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt each of the following elements (as required by the Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions CALCRIM 823):

  • You willfully inflicted unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering on a child; or
  • You willfully caused or permitted a child to suffer unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering; or
  • While having care or custody of a child, you willfully caused or permitted the child to be injured; or
  • While having care or custody of a child, you willfully caused or permitted the child to be placed in a situation where the child was endangered; and
  • You were criminally negligent when you caused or permitted the child to suffer, be injured, or be endangered.

What Happens If I am Convicted of a Child Endangerment Charge?

If you are convicted of Child Endangerment under California Penal Code 273a P.C., you face the following punishment (excluding any sentencing enhancements):

  • Two, four, or six years in prison (if you are convicted of a felony). If the child did, in fact, suffer great bodily injury, an additional six years will be added to the prison sentence; or
  • One year in county jail (if you are convicted of a misdemeanor); and
  • A maximum fine of $10,000 (felony) or $1,000 (misdemeanor);
  • Probation of three or five years (felony, assuming prison is not part of the sentence, or misdemeanor);
  • Imposition of a protective order to stay away from the victim;
  • Possible counseling (felony or misdemeanor);
  • Possible community service (felony or misdemeanor); and
  • Your child may be taken away from you by Child Protective Services (CPS). You will have to go to court and obtain a court order to regain legal custody. Even if you do regain custody, you will likely have to endure a period of supervised visitation.

What are My Possible Defenses to a Child Endangerment Charge?

Child Endangerment cases can often be resolved during the investigation stage even before criminal charges are actually filed. Specifically, a highly experienced and skilled Los Angeles County Child Endangerment attorney like Ninaz Saffari might be able to convince the investigating detective to not refer the case to the District Attorney’s Office for prosecution, or to convince the D.A.’s Office not to file charges if the case has already been referred. These are called Pre-Files, which Ms. Saffari has a great deal of experience in successfully negotiating. See her Case Results.

If you are charged with Child Endangerment, Ms. Saffari will first conduct a thorough investigation, often with the help of her private investigator, to ascertain all relevant facts. Again, if possible, she will attempt to get the charges dismissed either before or shortly after they are filed. If she takes the case to trial, she will often use an expert witness who will argue that the alleged harm never occurred, did not occur to the degree claimed, occurred but was the result of an accident or unintentional conduct, or that the District Attorney has otherwise failed to provide enough evidence to meet the high threshold to prove Child Endangerment.

The following are the possible defenses to a Child Endangerment charge:

  • Lack of injury or placement in harm’s way. The child suffered little or no injury and you did not place the child in a harmful situation. Or, if there was moderate injury, you were acting within your parental rights when punishing the child;
  • Lack of criminal negligence. The injury or death of the child was the result of an accident that only rose to the level of “ordinary” negligence on your part;
  • Lack of willfulness. You did not act purposefully or with knowledge of the potential harmful consequences to the child. In other words, the incident resulted from an accident, misfortune or ordinary negligence.
  • False accusations. The alleged victim or supposed eyewitness may have ulterior motives for lying to the police. Some of the most common motives include child custody disputes and romantic strife with current or former lovers.
  • Misidentification by the accuser or witness. For example, your act was misunderstood or misinterpreted, or you were not the actual person who committed the alleged assault on the child. Eyewitness identification can be affected by many different factors, including bad lighting, witness stress, cross-racial identification, suggestions by the police, etc.
  • Constitutional defenses. These include lack of probable cause, police misconduct (coerced confession, planted evidence, falsified police report, etc.), Miranda violations (suppressing any statements you made to the police if your Miranda rights were violated), and suppression of evidence that was seized without reasonable suspicion, probable cause, or a valid warrant (in violation of the Fourth Amendment).
  • Insufficient evidence. The prosecutor failed to provide sufficient evidence to prove you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of one or more charges.
  • The accuser and/or witnesses are not credible. In other words, for any host of reasons, the jury simple does not believe what the accuser and/or witnesses are claiming about your criminal culpability.

What Kind of Child Endangerment Cases Has Ninaz Saffari Defended?

Since 2005, Ninaz Saffari has successfully represented many clients against Child Endangerment charges, including both as felonies and misdemeanors, including in felony hot-car where both parents were each facing 12 years in prison. See her Case Results.


If you or a loved one are currently being investigated or prosecuted for this crime, it is critical that you immediately hire a highly skilled, aggressive and experienced Los Angeles County Child Endangerment criminal defense attorney like Ninaz Saffari. Contact the Saffari Law Firm, P.C. now for a free telephone consultation. If Ms. Saffari believes she can help you, she will immediately schedule a free in-person meeting or, if you are in custody, she will visit you in jail (again, for free and with no obligation to hire her).


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