West Chester PA Child Endangerment Charges
Child endangerment is a broad term that can apply to a variety of situations. People often associate child endangerment with child abuse, but the charge can be applied in a plethora of situations. In Pennsylvania, any time a child’s health or safety is jeopardized while under supervision of an adult, the caregiver could face criminal charges.
Being charged with child endangerment can have serious consequences on your life. If you are convicted, you could face jail time, fines or both. However, the penalties could be increased if there is a course of conduct endangering the child. A skilled attorney can help you fight the charges.
If you are an adult who cares for a minor child, you have a legal responsibility to make sure that child is not placed in any type of dangerous situation. Should you fail to protect that child, or you let the child be placed in a dangerous, inappropriate or unhealthy situation, the state of Pennsylvania punishes this crime under the Child Endangerment Statutes. (The crime of child endangerment is detailed under 18 Pennsylvania Criminal Statutes, Section 4304).
Under this law, not only is the parent, guardian or other person who supervises the welfare of a child responsible for that child’s care, protection and support, but a person who employs or supervises a person in charge of the child’s welfare is also responsible. A person can also be charged with child endangerment for preventing or interfering in an official capacity with making a report of suspected child abuse.
West Chester Endangering the Welfare of a Child Attorney
Child endangerment charges can have a substantial impact on your life and your family relationships. It is important to fight these charges and work to avoid a conviction. The child endangerment defense attorneys at Ciccarelli Law Offices are experienced in handling these cases and they can work one-on-one with you to find the best defense for the charges.
Call us at (610) 692-8700 to schedule a free consultation. We are based in West Chester and have office locations across the region, including in Philadelphia, King of Prussia, Plymouth Meeting, Kennett Square, Radnor, Springfield, Malvern and Lancaster. We serve clients in Chester County, Lancaster County, Montgomery County and Delaware County.
Examples of Child Endangerment
Some of the most common instances of child endangerment include the following:
· Driving while impaired with a child in the vehicle;
· Possessing illegal drugs while in the presence of a child or children;
· Doing illegal drugs while in the presence of a child or children;
· A spousal argument which escalates to the point the child is accidentally injured;
· Manufacturing drugs in the presence of a child;
· Leaving a child in an unsafe area, unsupervised;
· Bodily injury as a result of unreasonable corporal punishment;
· Serving alcohol to an underage minor;
· Leaving a child unattended in a vehicle;
· Failure to report suspected child abuse;
· Allowing a child to ride on the back of an ATV with no safety restraint system;
· Neglect of a child in an overly hot or cold room for more than 24 hours with no water or food;
· Failure to seek medical attention for the child, or
· Forcing a child to live in squalid conditions.
You might be surprised to know just how common endangering the welfare of a child really is. This is largely due to the fact that any situation in which the safety of a child appears to be compromised could be misconstrued as child endangerment. The courts will usually apply the standard of the behavior of an “average” parent or guardian. This means they will determine if you behaved in a manner which is substantially similar to the way another reasonable parent or guardian would have behaved.
Penalties for Child Endangerment in the State of Pennsylvania
The details surrounding your particular charges will have bearing on the penalties you could receive in the event of a conviction. Child endangerment is a first-degree misdemeanor, and if you are convicted of the offense, you will face a maximum of five years in prison and a fine as large as $10,000. If it is shown that your behavior constitutes a pattern, or course of conduct, you could face a third-degree felony, and, if convicted, could face a minimum of three and a half years in prison, up to a maximum of seven years, plus a fine up to $15,000.
Defenses to the Crime of Child Endangerment in Pennsylvania
While your defense will depend on the circumstances surrounding your charges, your Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney may choose one of the following defenses on your behalf:
· The child was not in imminent danger—the definition of imminent danger is somewhat subjective, therefore your attorney may argue that your actions did not rise to the level of child endangerment.
· You don’t fall in the category of parent, guardian or caregiver for the child in question. This could be an issue if you previously served as the child’s caregiver, but no longer serve in that capacity.
· In the case of a newborn, if you delivered the child to a safe haven, you cannot be charged with child endangerment.
What to Do if You Have Been Charged with Child Endangerment
As with virtually any criminal offense, if you have been charged with child endangerment, you should immediately hire an experienced Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney. In the meantime, it is imperative that you not speak to anyone—particularly the police officer or prosecutor—until you have spoken to your attorney. You should have been Mirandized at the time of your arrest, and you should absolutely take your right to remain silent very seriously.
Anything you say can be taken out of context, and used against you, therefore staying silent is simply the best thing you can do to help your attorney build a solid defense on your behalf. You should also take care not to speak to others about your case, and not to post anything on social media about your charges. If you are a person who works in an official capacity, and you did not report suspected child endangerment, you could face—in addition to criminal penalties—employer-initiated penalties, and possible termination from your job.
It is important to note that accusations of child endangerment are not always based on fact. Perhaps you are in the middle of a bitter custody dispute with your ex, who has made false accusations against you with a goal of gaining total custody.
Child Endangerment Information
What is Child Endangerment?
In Pennsylvania, a person can be charged with child endangerment if he or she knowingly endangers the child’s welfare by violating a duty of care, protection or support, according to 18 PA.C.S. § 4304. This can apply to any parent, guardian, teacher or other person in charge of supervising the welfare of a child under age 18, according to state law.
A person also can be charged with child endangerment if he or she prevents or interferes in an official capacity with the making of a report of suspected child abuse. For instance, if a spouse knows the other has endangered a child and does not report it, he or she also could be charged with child endangerment.
This law makes one incident of child endangerment a crime, as well as repeat offenses. This means a person could face criminal charges whether only one act or multiple acts violated the law. However, multiple acts could be charged as a felony.
Examples of Endangering a Child
Endangering the welfare of a child does not have to be related to a domestic violence incident, although it can be. In fact, the charge could be applied to several different situations, and it often is more common than some people may believe. Any time a child is in danger, whether it is minor or serious, the charge could apply.
Some of the most common instances that lead to charges of endangering a child include:
- Domestic violence dispute causing accidental injury to a child
- Driving under the influence with a child as a passenger in the vehicle
- Leaving a child in a hot vehicle or a hot room for extended period of time
- Possessing, consuming or dealing in illegal substances in the presence of a child
- Neglecting the health of a child or failing to seek medical treatment
- Poor living conditions, such as filth
- Failing to provide food and water to a child for an extended period of time
Actual harm does not have to be done to the child for the court to argue child endangerment charges. The prosecution only has to prove there was the potential for harm. For instance, if a couple possesses illegal drugs in a home with children, but no child was harmed, the threat of danger could be enough to constitute criminal charges.
Child endangerment charges could apply whether the actions or situation were intentional or not. To obtain a conviction for child endangerment, a prosecutor does not have to prove that a parent or caregiver intentionally meant to expose the child to a dangerous situation. If a child is injured, it could be considered child abuse. An attorney can help you argue against the charges.
Penalties for Endangerment of Children
The penalties for child endangerment cases are determined based on several factors in the case. For example, if a person has a history of child endangerment, he or she could face enhanced penalties. Generally, an offense is a first-degree misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
If there is a proven pattern of child endangerment, the charge can be upgraded to a third-degree felony, according to 18 PA.C.S. § 4304. This could mean up to seven years in prison and up to $15,000 in fines.
Additionally, if a parent or guardian is convicted of child endangerment, depending on the facts of the case, he or she could lose parental rights. In some scenarios the other parent could be awarded sole custody, or the child could be forced to live with another member of the family. A court then would appoint a new guardian for the child.
Endangering the Welfare of Children Defense Lawyer in Chester County
Your freedom and your children are important. If you are facing child neglect or child endangerment charges, contact a domestic violence defense attorney at Ciccarelli Law Offices. Our lawyers can examine the facts of your case and work with you to achieve a favorable outcome. We understand the sensitivity of your case and we will handle it with the utmost importance. Call (610) 692-8700 today.
Getting the Help You Need from Your Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorney
Once you have hired a skilled Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney, he or she will carefully review every aspect of your charges, to determine whether there is evidence to substantiate your charges. If you are being falsely accused, your attorney will work hard to discredit your accuser, or if your charges are the result of a misperception of your actions, your attorney will look for witnesses and evidence who can help prove the truth. It is important that you provide your attorney with every single detail you can remember, so he or she can build a strong defense for you.
The sex crimes defense attorneys of Ciccarelli Law Offices have successfully represented individuals throughout the state of Pennsylvania that have been accused of sexual assault crimes. Our Chester County based law firm is based at 304 North High Street, West Chester PA 19380 and serves clients in Kennett Square, Downingtown, West Chester, Coatesville, Exton, Chester Springs, Chadds Ford, Landenberg, Honey Brook, Oxford, Malvern, Parkesburg, Phoenixville and Paoli. Contact us now at (610) 692-8700 or call toll free (877) 529-2422. Don’t wait—contact an attorney immediately.