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Adult caregivers face child endangerment charges for failure to protect a child from dangerous, inappropriate, or unhealthy situations. This includes either placing a child into such conditions or allowing a child to remain there. Some states punish child endangerment offenses separately from child abuse, whereas other include child endangerment as a type of child abuse.
What is Child Endangerment?
Child endangerment may be classified as either a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on certain aggravating or mitigating circumstances. Human fallibility plays a role in this distinction. In other words, courts recognize that people make mistakes. If a child suffers harm due to the negligent or reckless conduct of an adult caregiver, the defendant may only face misdemeanor charges. If, however, the caregiver's conduct is intentional or willful, felony endangerment charges are likely.
Another factor that determines whether the defendant faces felony or misdemeanor charges is the degree of risk. A higher degree of risk results in higher charges. States vary in this, as well, but typically, if the level of risk might reasonably lead to great bodily harm, death, or mental suffering, a felony child endangerment charge results. Even when the child suffers no harm, you may face felony charges. For example, drivers convicted of DUI with a child in the car usually face felony DUI charges as well as felony child endangerment charges.
What Are The Penalties for Child Endangerment?
As in all things legal, penalties for child endangerment vary widely by state. Additionally, states set their own guidelines for whether the offense is a felony or misdemeanor, as well as which aggravating or mitigating factors apply. Punishments for child endangerment include prison, probation, fines, and lost or restricted parental rights.
In some instances, defendants face additional charges. In addition to the DUI example listed above, some states levy child abuses charges.
Will I Go To Jail for Child Endangerment?
Misdemeanor child endangerment convictions may not require jail time. If they do, the maximum sentence is typically 12 months. A felony conviction, however, typically includes mandatory prison time. The minimum felony conviction sentence in most states is one year, with an average maximum sentence of 10 years, though 20 years is not unheard of in particularly egregious cases or in the case of repeat offenders.
First offense misdemeanor cases likely receive no more than probation.
Will I Get Probation For Child Endangerment?
Some defendants convicted of child endangerment receive probation, typically lasting one year. Probation usually includes requirements the defendant must meet. In the case of child endangerment, these requirements may include family counseling, parenting classes, and reporting regularly to a probation officer.
Any violation of the terms of your probation typically results in revocation of the probation and court-ordered imprisonment. Additionally, if the convicted person was the child's parent, failing to fulfill the requirements of probation may result in lost or restricted parental rights.
How Much Are The Fines For Child Endangerment?
Again, these vary according to the charges (felony or misdemeanor) and the state in which the conviction occurs. On average, a misdemeanor child endangerment conviction carries up to $1,000 in fines, while felony conviction fines may reach $10,000 or more.
Will I Lose My Parental Rights?
If the person convicted of child endangerment is the child's parent or legal guardian, the court may restrict or even strip the parent of his or her parental rights. If the parent's rights are revoked, the court appoints a new guardian, placing the child with a state child services agency until such guardian is appointed.
Typically, this penalty does not exist within a state's penal code. Rather, this is an additional consequence of a child endangerment conviction. This punishment typically results in convictions with higher degrees of risk. Child endangerment situations in which a reasonable person would expect the child to suffer great bodily harm, death, or mental suffering constitute the high-risk scenarios that often result in revocation of parental rights.
If you face child endangerment charges, you are at risk of incarceration, significant fines, and possibly loss of parental rights. Schedule a free consultation with a criminal defense attorney today, preferably one with experience defending people accused of child endangerment. Bring all pertinent information to your initial consultation, as well as pen and paper to record the attorney's answers to your questions.