Child Endangerment

Child endangerment (Penal Code 273a) in Santa Ana goes beyond direct physical child abuse. You can also be charged with child endangerment when you permit a child to suffer, neglect a minor's health, allow the child's wellbeing to be endangered, or if you cause emotional abuse or physical abuse on a minor. Moreover, you can be arrested for not reasonably disciplining your child. If you've been detained for PC 273a, speak with one of the experienced attorneys at Darwish Law. We can help you achieve the best possible outcome.

Understanding Child Endangerment Law

Because persons below eighteen years of age are vulnerable members of society, they are given protection under the law. If you fail to offer care, security, and safety to a child, you risk facing strict penalties that can disrupt your future and life.

Per California Penal Code Section 273a PC, child endangerment can be defined as willfully exposing a person below eighteen to unjustifiable danger, pain, and suffering. You can also be convicted of putting the minor to an unreasonable risk of harm, even when the risk does not come to a realization.

To be found guilty of the violation of PC 273a, the prosecution should show the below elements of the crime:

1. You committed one of the following:

  • Willfully imposed unjustifiable mental suffering or physical pain to a minor
  • Willfully inflicted or allowed a minor to endure unjustifiable mental suffering or physical pain
  • When having care of an individual below 18, willfully inflicted or allowed the minor to be in a situation where the minor's person or wellbeing was endangered
  • When having care of an individual below 18, willfully inflicted or allowed a minor's wellbeing or person to be injured

2. Your criminal negligence caused or allowed the baby to be put in danger, suffer or hurt

3. If the victim was your baby, you weren't reasonably disciplining your baby

Additional Fact of the Crime Used to Establish Felony Child Endangerment

There is another fact of the crime that the prosecution must establish if you're charged with child endangerment as a wobbler. A wobbler means a crime that could be filed as a misdemeanor or a felony hinging on the prosecution's discretion.

In this case, the prosecution team should show that the case circumstances might result in demise or great bodily hurt. Please note, the actions don't have to cause death or injuries finally. It's only crucial that the demise or injuries were a possibility.

Understanding Key Legal Terms

To comprehend the above definition of Penal Code 273a PC, below is an overview of the legal phrases and terms:

Unjustifiable Mental Suffering and Physical Pain

This legal phrase means suffering or pain, which either:

  • Is extreme under the circumstances
  • Isn't reasonably essential


The legal term "willfully" means conduct performed on purpose.

However, that doesn't suggest that you intended to inflict injuries or violate laws. Instead, it implies you performed an action that might have caused injuries.

Great Bodily Hurt

Moderate, minor, or trivial injuries aren't considered great bodily hurt. It is because a serious bodily hurt is any significant injury.

Whether injuries are severe bodily injuries vary with each case. As a result, overzealous prosecutors and police officers will allege great bodily hurt whenever they get an opportunity.

Recall that the main issue  isn't if the minor sustained injuries. The crucial issue is if the juvenile child was in a condition that would possibly cause injuries.

Bearing that in mind, should a child sustain severe bodily injury, you will face California felony charges. 

Criminal Negligence

The legal term "criminal negligence'' comprises more than an error in judgment, negligence, or inattention. You are criminally negligent if:

  • You act recklessly (a way which is different from how an ordinarily reasonable individual would behave in the same situation)
  • Your conduct was an irrelevance to the impact of your conduct or contempt for human life

Any rational individual should have recognized that the actions might undoubtedly result in injuries to others

In short you are criminally negligent if your actions are very reckless, aggravated, or gross that they go beyond common sense.

What Expect If You are Charged with Child Endangerment: Penalties

The penalties a defendant receives depends on if the accused's conduct created the hazard of death or serious bodily hurt to the alleged victim.

Misdemeanor Consequences and Penalties

If your action didn't cause demise or severe bodily injuries, the lawbreaking is considered a misdemeanor. It carries:

  • A maximum fine of one thousand dollars
  • A 6-month jail term

Misdemeanor/Informal Probation

You could also be convicted of misdemeanor probation. Typically, the shortest probation period is four years.

Also called summary probation, the misdemeanor probation entails:

  • Successful completion of a one-year child abuser's treatment counseling program
  • A restraining order- The protective court order protects the minor child from violent conduct. The order could consist of a stay-away element that bans you from reaching the victim. This order applies to the minor child’s home, even when it's your home

If the accused was drunk during the violation of the law, the court could order the accused to refrain from alcohol during their probation period.

Probation Conditions Can be Terminated, Expunged, and Waived

The mentioned above terms and conditions could be waived if the conditions violate your constitutional rights.

Moreover, the judge might issue an early termination of probation when you follow probation conditions.

You could also seal the record immediately after you successfully complete the probation.

However, the court could deny the expungement petition when:

  • The defendant violates their probation
  • The defendant fails to follow probation conditions

Felony Consequences

As previously mentioned, child endangerment is filed as a wobbler as long as the danger of demise or great bodily hurt existed. It is either a California misdemeanor or a felony hinging mostly on:

  • Your criminal history
  • The case facts

A California felony conviction is punishable by the following potential penalties:

  • Up to six years in prison
  • A maximum fine of $10,000

Alternatively, you might receive four years of California formal or felony probation. The terms and conditions of formal probation are identical to summary/informal probation conditions discussed above. Moreover, you can seal your conviction, as discussed above.

Manslaughter or Murder Charges

Should your baby die due to endangerment, the prosecutor might elect to prosecute a more severe charge, such as:

  • Second-degree murder (Penal Code 18 PC)
  • Involuntary manslaughter (Penal Code 192b PC)
  • Voluntary manslaughter (Penal Code 192a PC)

Great Bodily Injuries Enhancement

Additionally, the accused can receive a sentence increment.  It can apply if your baby suffered a severe injury.

This enhancement causes an additional prison term as follows:

  • Inflicting severe bodily injuries on an alleged victim attracts consecutive three to six years hinging in the injury's type and the age of the minor
  • Should the minor succumb to the criminal negligence, the accused will face an additional 4 (four) years in state prison

Three Strikes Laws

A felony Penal Code Section 273a conviction is considered a California strike per three-strikes laws if the alleged victim sustained severe bodily injuries.

If you have a California strike on the criminal record and are subsequently found guilty of a felony, you are a second striker. The later crime is punishable by a sentence that is two times what it should be.

Should the accused become a California third striker, they could serve 25 years in prison to a life sentence.

Ways to Fight a California Penal Code Section 273a Charge

Any experienced defense attorney should be able to use either of the below legal defenses:

The Accused was Disciplining Their Baby

In California, a parent can correct his/her baby using corporal punishment. This legal phrase can be defined as physical punishment. It can be:

  • Spanking
  • Restricting a minor child to a room
  • Telling your child to sleep with taking supper
  • Disciplining a minor using a belt

Wasn't Willful or The Conduct Did Not Involve Criminal Negligence

To be convicted of Penal Code Section 273a PC, the prosecution ought to establish that the accused was criminally negligent or willful.

Your lawyer can claim that the injury was due to an accident or carelessness. In this scenario, you did not break the child endangerment laws.

False Accusation

Most Penal Code 273a cases begin with false accusations.

Maybe your baby is making false accusations due to your partner's manipulation. Or possibly the minor child is irritated and is in search of your attention. Generally, this occurs after your marriage dissolution or when you have a new spouse other than the child's other parent.

Your baby's caretaker can also make an untruthful claim as a technique to cover their abuse.

The outcome is identical in the above cases. Law enforcers don't want to be held answerable for ignoring any possible child harm. Consequently, they will detain the accused.

Any competent defense lawyer should leave no stone unturned when reviewing the case's evidence. It involves interviewing all incident witnesses. Moreover, they will interview other individuals in the accused's life for proof of whether the defendant is a responsible person. They will also analyze the minor's social media platforms as well as all who could be involved.

Mistake of Fact

A mistake of fact occurs when a morally-conscious individual misunderstands a situation.

Mandatory reporting laws worsen the issue. The laws require teachers, the clergy, school administrators, and medical practitioners to tell of all suspected PC 273a cases to the authority.

If they fail to report, they risk facing a misdemeanor and spending time in jail. Therefore, they are pressured to tell the authorities of all child endangerment suspicions.

Another Individual Endangered the Alleged Victim

Overzealous prosecutors and police officers will blame an individual every time a minor child is at risk. Therefore, the team will jump into a conclusion about the liable person.

Are There Offenses that are Charged Along with or in Place of Child Endangerment?

Almost all domestic violence crimes have identical facts to child endangerment. Therefore, these related crimes can be prosecuted alongside or in lieu of PC 273a. Discussed below are the related offenses:

Child Abuse (California PC 273d)

Under PC 273d, it's illegal to impose abuse on an individual below eighteen years. It isn't a must that you caused severe bodily hurt, but there ought to be some injury irrespective of how small.

Violating Penal Code 273d PC is considered a wobbler.

If charged with a misdemeanor, you will pay a fine of six (6) thousand dollars and spend a year in jail.

On the contrary, a felony carries the following potential penalties:

  • A maximum fine of six (6) thousand dollars
  • A 2, 4 or 6-year sentence in California state prison

PC 270 (Child Neglect)

Under California PC 270, it is a crime for you as a parent to fail to make necessities available to your baby.

The legal term "necessities" means medical attention, clothing, food, and shelter. Nevertheless, you can't be found guilty of PC 270 if you cannot manage to pay for the necessities.

Violating failure to provide law is considered a misdemeanor. The offense carries:

  • A maximum fine of two thousand dollars
  • A year in a jail

A subsequent conviction is a California wobbler.


It’s unlawful to drive a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Penal Code 273a PC is often prosecuted alongside driving under the influence. It happens when a person is arrested for DUI with a child below fourteen in the motor vehicle.

The prosecution could also charge DUI with a sentence enhancement. If found guilty of DUI and the child endangerment enhancement applies, you'll face the DUI consequences together with the following consecutive penalties:

  • A forty-eight-hour county jail sentence after a first drunk driving conviction
  • A ten-day jail sentence following a second-time DUI conviction
  • Thirty (30) days in jail after a third-time DUI conviction
  • Ninety days in jail for a fourth-time drunk driving conviction

Moreover, you should use a child restraint system if you have a young child (VC 27360).

Furnishing Dangerous Fireworks to a Child

Under California Health and Safety Code 12702 PC, it is an offense to deliver, sell, or give dangerous fireworks to a minor. The offense carries:

  • Fines that ranges from $500 to $1,000
  • One year in jail

Lewd or Lascivious Act with a Minor Child

Per PC 288, it is a crime to touch a minor improperly. It is prosecuted when an individual touches a minor for a sexual purpose, and the minor is:

  • Below fourteen years of age, or
  • Is fourteen or fifteen and the accused is at least ten years older than the victim

Consequences for violation of Penal Code 288 PC depends on factors, such as:

  • The alleged victim's age
  • Whether the accused was the minor's caretaker
  • The age difference between the accused and the baby

More often than not, the offense attracts several years of incarceration and a maximum of ten thousand dollars.

Charges Relating to a Child's Death

Should the minor child die, you could be sentenced for one of the below PC 273a related offenses:

Child Abuse Resulting in Demise of a Child Minor Below Eight (Penal Code Section 273ab)

Penal Code 273ab is prosecuted when:

  • The accused had the care of an individual aged below eight
  • The accused assaulted the baby using means that would possibly cause great bodily injuries
  • The victim succumbed to the injuries

Hinging on the hurt suffered, you can face a 25-year to a life sentence.

Involuntary Manslaughter

When criminal negligence causes death, it could be filed as involuntary manslaughter (PC 192b). Please note, unlike murder, manslaughter doesn't require malice.

Penal Code Section 192b is the most prosecuted form of manslaughter in PC 273a cases. It's prosecuted when the minor's demise stems from either:

  • The accused performing legal but dangerous conduct without due caution
  • Commission of unlawful conduct which isn't a California felony

Murder (Penal Code Section 187 PC)

Killing the alleged victim with malice is murder. Malice can be defined as an intent to kill.

It's second-degree murder in case the killing is intentional, but it is not premeditated. In the event the killing is intentional, it is charged as first-degree murder.

Usually, murder charges originate from California Penal Code Section 273a in any of the below:

  • Due to implied malice, or
  • Due to felony-murder rule

Implied malice happens when you engage in gross conduct, which you know endangers somebody's life.

When it comes to felony-murder, it is presumed that malice existed when you killed an individual when committing a California felony.

Normally, both situations lead to second-degree murder charges. A conviction attracts fifteen years to a life sentence.

Find Legal Representation Near Me

Child endangerment involves putting a minor at the risk of emotional, mental, or physical harm. The judge could put this harm into consideration and impose severe penalties like incarceration and fines. Therefore, defending against a PC 273a charge requires a careful review of case circumstances and facts. A proficient defense lawyer acquainted with California law can assist you in understanding the charge against you and its consequences. For many years, Darwish Law has represented thousands of clients in Santa Ana. Call us today at 714-887-4810 for a confidential case evaluation.