Yes, there are laws about the health and safety of minors in California. These laws are called child endangerment laws. Child endangerment occurs when an individual places a minor child who is in their care in a dangerous situation which will likely lead to death or serious harm to the child. The charge of child endangerment can be paired with other criminal charges such as assault and/or DUI, or driving under the influence.

The age of majority, or the age at which a child is no longer considered a minor, varies from state to state. Many states consider an individual under 18 years of age to be a minor. In recent years, some states have amended their laws to raise that age to 21.

The laws, definitions, and penalties for child endangerment vary from state to state. However, in every state, it is a serious offense. Child endangerment may be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the jurisdiction and facts of the case. Sentences may vary widely, but the circumstances of the offense will be considered.

Therefore, the more outrageous the circumstances of the crime, the greater the punishment is likely to be. This is especially true in cases where the risk of child endangerment is ongoing. If convicted of this very serious charge, parents may lose custody rights to their children.

There are also other laws regarding the health and safety of minors in California. These include contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Child endangerment laws and contributing to the delinquency of a minor laws may overlap.

What are the Three Ways California Defines Endangering Children?

California defines endangering children in three ways. These are as follows:

  • Allowing or causing a minor child to suffer unjustifiable mental anguish or pain;
  • Permitting or willfully causing a minor child to be injured; and/or
  • Permitting or willfully causing any minor child to be placed in a dangerous situation.

“Willfully” is defined in California as committing an act on purpose or without being forced to do so. The law does not require an individual to have intent to cause harm to a minor child or intent to commit a crime.

California broadly defines a dangerous situation to include:

  • The negligent leaving of a minor child with anyone with a history of abusive conduct;
  • Leaving any type of dangerous weapon where the minor child can access it; and/or
  • Failing to obtain necessary medical attention for a minor child.

What Are Examples of Child Endangerment?

An adult who is responsible for caring for a minor child is responsible for their well-being. If the adult places the minor child in harm’s way, either by accident or purposefully, they may be charged with a crime. There are many examples of activities which may be considered child endangerment by an adult, such as when the adult:

  • Leaves a minor child in an unsafe neighborhood or area;
  • Fails to supervise a minor child due to alcohol or drug intoxication;
  • Leaves a minor child alone in a vehicle, especially in hot weather;
  • Leaves a minor child with a known abuser;
  • Drives while intoxicated with a minor child in the vehicle;
  • Serves alcohol to an underage driver;
  • Has weapons in the home accessible to minor children;
  • Leaves a young minor child unsupervised in the care of another young minor child;
  • Manufactures drugs in a home where a minor child lives;
  • Fails to report suspected abuse of the minor child;
  • Engages in sexual activity in front of the minor child; and/or
  • Does not observe property vehicle safety for the minor child, including using car seats and booster seats.

Child endangerment can also result not only from the actions listed above by an adult but also from the adult’s failure to act. For example, if the minor child requires daily medication and the adult responsible for the care of the minor child fails to administer the medication, it could be considered child endangerment. This is especially true in cases where the minor child must have medication to survive, such as insulin.

How Does California Define Delinquency of a Minor?

California defines the contributing to the delinquency of a minor as allowing minor children to engage in criminal behavior. Acts that are considered contributing to the delinquency of a minor vary from state to state. Examples contributing to the delinquency of a minor may include:

  • Purchasing alcoholic beverages for an underage minor child;
  • Purchasing cigarettes for an underage minor child;
  • Allowing underage minor children to use illegal drugs or alcohol in the presence of a responsible adult;
  • Persuading a minor to assist in the commission of a crime;
  • Assisting an underage minor without a permit or a license to drive a vehicle;
  • Providing an underage minor with a fake ID so they may enter an establishment with an age requirement;
  • Providing a minor child with illegal drugs; and/or
  • Accompanying a minor child while they commit a crime.

How Can I Be Charged with This Crime?

In California, one way an individual can be charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor is by permitting a minor’s delinquent behavior or failing to act in response to a minor’s delinquent behavior. An individual may be charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor if, as a result of the adults actions or failure to act, the minor child:

  • Becomes a juvenile delinquent;
  • Becomes a dependent of the state’s juvenile court system; and/or
  • Becomes a habitual truant.

What Other Ways Can I Be Charged with This Crime?

An individual can be charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor in other ways as well in California. If an individual contacts a minor child under 14 years of age to lure the minor child away from their parents, they may be charged with this crime. However, in order to be charged with this crime, the individual must have had no preexisting relationship with the minor child.

What are the Penalties for Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor in California?

In California, there are different ways an individual can be charged with contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile. Depending on the charges, conviction for this crime may carry different penalties. Contributing to the delinquency of a minor is considered a misdemeanor offense in California.

If an individual is charged with misdemeanor contributing to the delinquency of a minor, they may face different sentences depending on the facts of the case. If the minor child is a delinquent, the individual faces up to 1 year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.00. Mandatory probation of up to 5 years may also be ordered by the court.

If an individual is convicted of attempting to lure a minor child away, the penalties may include 6 months in jail, a fine of up to $1,000.00, and mandatory probation. If the court finds that the individual engaged in “lewd or lascivious conduct” with the minor child, the individual may have to register as a sex offender.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Help Me with California Delinquency of a Minor Charges?

Yes, in California delinquency of a minor charges are very serious and may have lasting and severe consequences. A California criminal lawyer can review your case and provide legal advice. A criminal lawyer can also represent you during any court proceedings, ensure your rights are protected and advise you if any defenses are available in your case.

If you believe your minor child has been endangered by an adult, a California criminal lawyer can help you protect your rights and your minor child’s rights. A criminal lawyer can review your case and determine if a crime has occurred.