Child Neglect

California law PC 270 outlines the crime of child neglect. You could face child neglect charges if you intentionally fail to provide a minor's needs without a lawful excuse. The necessities of a child include items like medicine, clothing, food, and shelter. If you face charges for child neglect in Santa Ana, we at Darwish Law can help you come up with a good defense.

Elements of Child Neglect

For the prosecutor to accuse you of child neglect in California, the prosecutor will have to prove several elements of the crime:

  • It should be evident that you are the minor's parent or legal guardian
  • The prosecutor should prove that you failed to provide necessities to the child
  • Your failure to provide to the child must have been intentional and without a lawful excuse

Other necessities that the court might consider in addition to clothing, shelter, and food include medical care and remedial care. Acting willfully or intentionally means that you failed to provide to the child's needs on purpose. Intense debate surrounds the meaning of a minor and a parent according to California law. Questions also arise regarding what qualifies as a lawful excuse. 

Parent and Minor

A parent is a broad term under PC 270; several categories of people qualify as parents. Parents include the legal or biological parents of a child or the adoptive parents of the child. In addition, other people who consider or hold themselves out as parents qualify. You qualify as a parent if you are the husband of a woman who gets a child while living with you. The law will consider you the parent to the child even if you are not the child's biological father. You are not a parent if you do not have obligations or rights in connection with a minor. A court declaration does not make you a parent. 

According to the law, a minor is a person below 18 years. It is important to note that the law also protects unborn children. The parents to an unborn child have a legal obligation to provide for the needs of the child.

Lawful/Legal Excuse

As outlined by California PC 270, a parent should do everything possible and reasonable to provide for a minor's needs. However, if a parent has a valid lawful excuse, he or she might be exempted from providing to the needs of a child. A parent has a lawful excuse not to provide for a minor's needs if the parent does not earn enough money. It must be evident that the parent's inability to provide the child is through no fault of his or her own. It should be evident that a parent does not have assets to support the minor.

If you are unable to meet the necessities of a minor because you chose to spend your money on other things, you can't claim to have a lawful excuse. You do not have a lawful excuse for not providing to your children if you fail to seek employment diligently.

If you suddenly lose your job and have no other income source, you might not be able to meet the necessities of your child. In this case, you are not guilty of child neglect because you did not lose the job through a fault of your own. However, you could face child neglect charges if you have a job, but instead of meeting the needs of your child, you spend the money on luxuries.

California law presumes that parents do not have a lawful excuse for failing to provide to their children. Therefore, if the prosecutor accuses you of child neglect, you have a burden of proving that you had a valid excuse for not providing for the children. With the help of a competent attorney, you can beat a child neglect charge. 

Visible Signs of Child Neglect

There is not a single defining factor for child neglect; however, there are several signs that could serve as an indication of child neglect. You can tell that a child has undergone physical neglect if the child is always hungry. A hungry child is likely to constantly portray signs of hoarding or seeking food. Physically neglected children are often small in body height and weight. Poorly fitting, dirty, clothes not covering the body, or inappropriate clothing in certain weather conditions could be physical signs of child neglect.

A physically neglected child is likely to have consistently poor hygiene, including body odor, unwashed hair, or dirty skin. Neglected children could also have physical injuries or illnesses that have gone untreated or which appear ignored.

A child experiencing mental or emotional neglect could have frequent displays of intent emotions of frustration, anger, or misbehavior.

A child could be experiencing supervision or educational neglect if the child frequently misses schools, is left unattended, or is allowed to play in unsafe conditions.

Penalties for Child Neglect

In most cases, a violation under California PC 270 is a misdemeanor offense; child neglect could have criminal and administrative penalties. If the prosecutor charges your offense as a misdemeanor, the consequences include jail time of not more than one year in a California county jail. The court might also impose a hefty fine, not exceeding $2,000.

In some instances, child neglect could attract felony charges. If the court decides that you are a parent, but you still neglect your child, you could be guilty of felony child neglect. Felony charges might apply in a paternity lawsuit where a judge determines that a man is a child's father, but the man refuses to meet the child's necessities.

For felony child neglect, penalties include jail time of up to one year in county jail. You could also serve an imprisonment of one year plus one day in a California state prison. The court might also impose a hefty fine that does not exceed $2,000.

The crime of child neglect does not have negative immigration consequences. Therefore, there will be no effect on your immigration status after a conviction for child neglect. According to California law, crimes involving moral turpitude have negative immigration consequences. If you commit a crime of moral turpitude, you might be subject to deportation. You could also be marked as inadmissible into the United States. However, the crime of child neglect is not a crime of moral turpitude.

Effects on Your Gun Rights

A felony conviction of child neglect could affect your gun tights. According to California law, people convicted of felony offenses should not own or possess guns. A misdemeanor conviction of child neglect will not affect your gun rights like a felony conviction.

Removal of the Neglected Child

If you neglect your child, California's CPS (Child Protective Services) could take the child away from you. According to this law, child removal is allowable if a child is facing child abuse. According to CPS, child neglect by a caretaker or parent is a form of abuse. Failing to provide enough food, shelter, clothing, supervision, and medical care to a child is a form of abuse. Before CPS removes a child from his or her home, it will give the necessary support to keep the child within the home.

CPS could arrange for a child's foster placement if it is evident that a child can't remain in a home even after the provision of support.

Expungement of Conviction

Just like with other convictions in California, you could apply for an expungement of child neglect conviction. A judge will only grant an expungement once the perpetrator completes probations and honors all the terms of probation. If the court imposes a jail term, you have to complete the jail term before seeking an expungement of the conviction. You could still apply for an expungement of the conviction even after violating the probation terms. However, this will depend on the judge's discretion.

After the expungement of your child neglect conviction, you will no longer bear any hardships associated with the conviction. The conviction will not appear on your background search but will still be available on the law enforcement databases.

Common Legal Defenses

You can fight child neglect charges by coming up with convincing legal defenses. You will need the assistance of a qualified attorney to convince the court that you are guilty of child neglect. Some of the typical legal defenses are:

You Did not Act Willfully

You can only be guilty of child neglect if you intentionally or willfully fail to provide a minor's necessities. If you did not act willfully or on purpose, you can't be guilty of child neglect. You can state that even if you failed to provide the necessities of a child, you did not do it on purpose. For instance, you could have suddenly lost your job or your sole source of income. In this case, you will not be guilty of child neglect because you did not act willfully.

A Valid Lawful Excuse

You could also state that you had a lawful excuse for failing to provide a child's necessities. You could assert that you had a lawful excuse for failing to provide to your child. For instance, you could have been involved in an accident and suffered injuries that prevented you from taking care of your child. Whether an excuse qualifies as a valid lawful excuse depends on the discretion of the judge.

False Accusation

You can fight child neglect charges if you are a victim of false accusations. False accusations are common in child neglect charges. For instance, once a parent could accuse the other of child neglect to gain an advantage over him or her in child custody or divorce cases. A spouse might also accuse the other spouse of child neglect out of jealousy or revenge. Your attorney can gather ample evidence to prove that you are not guilty of child neglect.

What to Do After an Accusation of Child Neglect

When the prosecutor accuses you of child neglect, you can take several steps to gather evidence to help you fight the charges. You will have a tough time, especially if the child neglect case proceeds to trial. However, if you follow the right tips, you might be able to negotiate for a lesser punishment or avoid the conviction altogether.

  • You should have adequate facts regarding your relationship with the child. An accusation of child neglect does not rest on one occurrence but repeated omissions of acts. Therefore, it is important to have all the facts about the way you relate to the child. In some instances, you might not be sure whether you are the child's parent. Perhaps you have never had any prior relationship with the child. In some instances, you could be suffering from extreme health and mental issues that prevent you from having a good relationship with the child. You should ensure that you have all these facts. You could also have relatives, neighbors, and other witnesses to provide information on the relationship you share with the child.
  • Gather ample evidence of any support that you have offered to the child. For instance, you could compile receipts showing that you have provided food, shelter, or any other relevant support to the child. You could also provide medical receipts or records from your doctor outlining that you suffer from certain physical or mental health conditions, which prevents you from supporting your child.
  • It is important to have a support system while facing child neglect charges. An accusation of failing to provide care to your child could have an intense emotional and mental toll on you. Ensure that you have a professional counselor, therapist, or a reliable relative that you can speak to.
  • You should contact an attorney immediately after an accusation of child neglect. Child neglect is a serious offense under California; you might not know the right techniques to help you navigate the legal system. It can be difficult to defend yourself, especially if you do not have prior legal experience. It is important to contact an attorney early enough to give ample time to investigate your case. Ensure that you go for an attorney with ample experience in handling child-related lawsuits. An attorney is better placed to build a strong defense for a child neglect case.

Related Offenses

Three crimes are closely related to the crime of child neglect under California law:

  • Child endangerment
  • Failure to Supervise a Child's School Attendance
  • Child Abuse

PC 273d- Child Abuse

California PC 273d outlines the crime of child abuse, also known as a corporal injury on a child. According to this statute, it is an offense to impose cruel punishment or physical injury on a child. You could be guilty of child abuse if you hit a child hard and leave a mark on his or her body. You could also be guilty of child abuse if you beat up your teenage child for coming home late. As long as you hit a child more than the reasonable way of disciplining the child, you could be guilty of child abuse.

Spanking a child is not child abuse as long as it is for disciplinary purposes. If you do not use excessive force under the circumstances, spanking may not qualify as child abuse. The above conditions apply irrespective of whether you use your hand or an object to spank the child.

The crime of child abuse could be a misdemeanor or a felony. The way the prosecutor treats your case will depend on your criminal history. You are likely to get felony charges if you have a history of child abuse or domestic violence. The prosecutor will also consider your case when deciding whether to charge the offense as a felony or misdemeanor.

PC 273a- Child Endangerment

You could be guilty of child endangerment under PC 273a if you expose a minor or a child to danger, suffering, or pain. For you to face child endangerment charges, you do not need to inflict actual harm to a child.

If child endangerment does not expose a child to the risk of death or great bodily injury, it's a misdemeanor offense. However, when a minor is at a risk of great bodily harm or death, the crime of child endangerment becomes a wobbler.

PC 270.1 (a) – Failing to Supervise a Minor's School Attendance

According to California PC 270.1 (a), it is an offense to fail to supervise a child's school attendance. According to this statute, a child is any minor-aged six years or above; the minor could be in kindergarten to the 8th grade. For this law to apply, the minor involved should be a chronic truant. This means that the minor is constantly absent from school and does not have a valid excuse to be absent.

A violation under PC 270.1 (a) is a misdemeanor offense punishable by imprisonment in a county jail in California. The court might also impose a hefty fine, not exceeding $2,000.

Find a Santa Ana Domestic Violence Attorney Near Me

If you are facing charges for child neglect, you need an experienced domestic violence attorney to help you fight the charges. Darwish Law can evaluate your case and offer the best defense services. Contact us at 714-887-4810 and speak to one of our Santa Ana attorneys.