Penal Code 273(a) punishes what is known as “child endangerment”, and is generally considered to be a “domestic violence” crime. There is a crime under 273(a) when an individual (a) places a child in a dangerous situation, or (b) allows a child to be placed in a dangerous situation without taking measures to protect the child.
Like Penal Code 273.5 Corporal Injury and 243(d) Aggravated Battery, 273(a) Child Endangerment is a “wobbler”. A “wobbler” is a crime that the prosecution can choose to file as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the nature of the offense, your criminal history, and other factors.
Elements of the Crime – PC 273(a) Child Endangerment
To be convicted of PC 273(a), the prosecutor must show that you:
What is “willfully caused or permitted”?
“Willful” means that the act was done on purpose, or with intent. It means that you either intended to cause physical harm or mental suffering to a child, or you intended to place a child in a situation where the child would be harmed.
With regards to placing a child in a situation where another person harms the child, the prosecution does not have to prove that you intended for the child to be harmed – merely that you intended to place the child in a situation that the prosecution can prove is criminally negligent.
Okay, then what is “criminally negligent”?
In California, “criminal negligence” is behavior that is so extreme, so reckless, that is goes against common sense. The court will consider whether a reasonable person in the same situation would have acted in the same manner. More specifically, the court will consider:
Here is an example of criminally negligent behavior. You are separated from your spouse, and know that your spouse has beaten your child repeatedly in the past. Despite that knowledge, you need someone to watch your child while you go on vacation, and leave the child with your estranged spouse.
True to form, your spouse beats the child. The child suffers a black eye, a broken arm, and bruises. If the prosecution proves that you knew your spouse had beaten your child before, and you left your child with your spouse anyway, you can be convicted of 273(a) Child Endangerment.
On the other hand, there have been cases where the same situation happened, except the defendant had no idea that the spouse had been abusing the child. If you were not aware that a spouse was abusing the child, and your Domestic Violence attorney from the Law Offices of Pereira & Moffatt can show the court that no reasonable person would have known, then there will be no conviction for 273(a) Child Endangerment.
It is also important to know that being arrested for a DUI while a child was in the car is a common situation in which 273(a) Child Endangerment charges are filed against our clients.
I believe in spanking my children. Can I be convicted of 273(a) Child Endangerment?
No. The courts will not consider a spanking (with your hand) or other reasonable means of disciplining a child to be “physical pain or mental suffering”. Don’t worry; if you take away a child’s toy or place him on time out for misbehaving, you will not be convicted of child endangerment! “Physical pain or mental suffering” is considered to be something unjustifiable and extreme.
Spanking your child with an open hand does not qualify. However, if you hit your child with a belt, you may be convicted of 273(a) Child Endangerment if the prosecution can prove that your actions were not justified and were an extreme use of force.
How can the domestic violence attorneys from the Law Offices of Pereira & Moffatt fight my 273(a) Child Endangerment charge?
Let’s take a look at some defenses that our domestic violence attorneys have successfully used in many of our other 273(a) Child Endangerment cases:
What sort of penalties am I facing if convicted of 273(a) Child Endangerment?
Remember, 273(a) Child Endangerment is a “wobbler”. If convicted of misdemeanor 273(a), you may face:
If you are convicted of felony 273(a) Child Endangerment, you may face:
I am a gun owner. Can a conviction for CA Penal Code 273(a) affect my right to own a gun?
Yes. You may be prohibited from owning, possessing, purchasing, or receiving a firearm for 10 years if convicted of misdemeanor PC 273(a) Child Endangerment, or for life if convicted of a felony. Click here for more information on “How A Conviction Can Affect Your Gun Rights.”