According to California law, you may face child neglect charges if you willfully fail to provide necessities to your child as long as you do not have a legal excuse. California Penal Code 270 PC outlines the crime of child neglect. California Criminal Lawyer Group assists persons who are facing child neglect charges in California.
Overview of Child Neglect
What are necessities under the California Penal Code 270 PC? Necessities include items of clothing, food, and shelter. A parent also has a legal duty to provide medical care and remedial care to their children. Remedial care mainly consists of spiritual cure/treatment, usually through prayers. Some parents who do not have faith in conventional/traditional medicine mainly rely on faith healers to pray for their kids. In a case where a parent opts to seek remedial care for his/her child, the care must be offered by a person from a known denomination or a known church.
It is important to note that if your child is very ill and you opt to go for remedial care instead of seeking medical treatment, you may still face charges according to California law. You may face charges for child endangerment under California Penal Code 273a. If you seek remedial care for your child and the child dies, you may face involuntary manslaughter charges under the California Penal Code 192 (b).
Definition of a Parent According to California Law
The California Penal Code 270 defines the term parent in broad terms. A person may qualify as a child's parent in several ways. Some of the most common ways include:
If you are Married to, or You Live with the Child's Mother
As a man, you are the father of every child, your wife bears as long as you are not sterile or impotent, and if you live with your wife. The law also considers you a child's father if your wife gave birth to a child through artificial insemination. You must have given consent to the artificial insemination procedure in writing.
Are you still a child's father, even if you are not the biological father of the child? Yes, even if your wife is getting intimate with other men, and you are not the biological father of the child, the law considers you the legal father. However, if you or the child's mother files legal proceedings for paternity within two years after the baby is born, the law may not consider you the child's father. A man is also not a child's father if the court determines that he is not the child's father.
You are Divorced from the Child's Mother
A man is still a child's father, even if he does not have custody rights on the child. A man may still be a child's father even if the child and the father have never met in person. Even if a man has not seen a child since the child was born, he is still the father. However, it is essential to note that if a baby has been legally given up the child to be adopted if a baby was surrendered safely in California, these standards may not apply. At times, the court may declare a child abandoned, and another individual may assume the legal responsibility of looking after the child. In such a case, the aspect of the child's biological parents may not apply. The law would consider the legal guardian of the child the child's father.
A defendant does not have to be married or even have a close or intimate relationship with the other child's parent to qualify as the child's parent. You may only have been with a child's mother on a one night stand, but legally, you will be the child's father, according to California Penal Code 270.
Adopting or Assuming Legal Responsibility of a Child
According to the law, you are a child's parent if you adopt the child and if you assume legal responsibility/duty for the child. California law has several mechanisms through which you can assume the duties of a child. You may assume the duties of a parent through the assumption of legal duty/responsibility as outlined by the California statutes relating to child abandonment. If you legally assume the responsibility of a child, you are under a legal obligation to provide for the necessities of the child. The court has a mandate to relieve parents, adoptive, or birth parents, the legal responsibility for their kids.
Can You Face Charges for Neglecting an Unborn Child?
Yes, According to California law, you may face child neglect charges if you fail to provide for your unborn child. The legal parents of an unborn child have a legal obligation to cater to all the needs of the unborn child. One way of taking care of an unborn child is by seeking the proper prenatal care for the child.
Lawful Excuse for Not Providing to a Child
In some instances, a parent might have a legal excuse for not providing to the needs of a child. For instance, if a parent is not able to earn enough money through no personal will or on purpose, the law may not hold him/her liable for not providing for the child's needs. For instance, if you lose your job as your company goes into recession, you may not face child neglect charges for failing to provide to the needs of your child. However, if you deliberately refuse to work and cater to the needs of your child, you may face child neglect charges.
When are you at fault for having inadequate money to cater to the needs of your child? At times, the law may hold you at fault for having limited money to cater to the needs of your child. For instance, you may face child neglect charges if you choose to use cash on other uses, and you forget about the welfare of your child. You may also face child neglect charges if you do not actively search for work, and as a result, you are unable to provide for the needs of your child.
What if another party provides support to your child, can you still face charges? Yes. If you neglect your child and another party like a food bank, a church, another person, or the other parent comes in and helps the child, you may still face child neglect charges. Under the California Penal Code 270, the law requires you to make your child a priority. Before you allocate your money to other uses, you have to ensure that you take care of your child.
Punishment for Neglecting a Child
The crime of child neglect is a wobbler, according to California law. This means that the prosecutor may choose to charge the crime as a misdemeanor or as a felony, depending on the facts of the crime. If the prosecutor chooses to charge the crime as a misdemeanor, you may face charges that include misdemeanor summary probation. The court may also recommend a jail time that does not exceed one year in a California County jail. You may also have to pay a fine that does not exceed $2,000.
The crime of child neglect may also attract felony charges. Felony charges for child neglect mainly apply to cases of California paternity suits. If the court had previously ruled that you are a child's father, and you still fail to provide for the needs of the child, you might face child neglect charges. The penalties for felony child neglect may include serving jail time of up to one year in a California county jail. You may also serve a one-year plus one-day imprisonment in a California prison. The court may also require you to pay a fine that does not exceed $2,000.
Limitations in Child Neglect Cases
Even if defendants may face felony child neglect charges for failing to offer care to their children, the scenario is rare. A court in the State of California maintained that felony charges on fathers might violate the Equal Protection statute of the U.S constitution, especially if a defendant does not have prior charges for child neglect.
The court observed that if it charged men with the harsh felony child neglect charges, it might discourage fathers from making efforts to admit paternity. It might also make some men pay for child support wrongly or unfairly for fear of being pronounced by the court as a child's father and latter face felony child neglect charges. A defendant may face child neglect charges if he had earlier lost in a child paternity lawsuit and if he has at least one prior conviction for failing to provide childcare.
Fighting Child Neglect Charges
With the help of an experienced attorney, you can successfully fight child neglect charges. According to California law, many defenses adopted for child neglect cases revolve around the aspect of lacking having a legal excuse or lacking willfulness. Some of the common defenses for a crime under California Penal Code 270 include:
You were Falsely Accused
It is common for one parent to accuse the other parent falsely of child neglect. This mainly happens when a parent is trying to seek revenge on the other parent. For example, the custodial parent may accuse the other parent of child neglect in order to get an advantage during divorce proceedings. However, in most cases of false accusations of child neglect, the lying party is always driven by jealousy and revenge. If you are facing false allegations of child neglect, you do not have to worry. You only need to contact an experienced attorney to help bring out the truth and fight the charges on your behalf.
Wrong Observation/Mistake of Fact
At times, a mistake of fact may make a parent face wrong accusations of child neglect. Several authorized reporters of child neglect cases exist. The authorized reporters include nurses and doctors, school administrators, and teachers. Clergies and social workers have also authorized reporters of child neglect. It is common for authorized reporters of child neglect to make wrong observations and conclude that a parent has neglected his/her child. An authorized reporter may claim to have noticed signs of child neglect, yet you had not neglected your child.
The law tasks the authorized reporters to report any case of child neglect in accordance with the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act. If an authorized reporter sees a case of child neglect and fails to report to the authorities, he/she may face misdemeanor charges. Therefore, authorized reporters report even the smallest signs of child neglect. If an authorized report accuses you of child neglect, yet you take care of your child, you can challenge the allegations in court with the help of an experienced attorney.
You are not the Child's Parent
You are not responsible for taking care of a child if you are not the legal parent of the child, and if you are not legally responsible for the child's care. You might assert that you are not the child's parent if the mother of the child gave birth while married to another person. If another person lawfully adopted the child, you can point out that you are not the child's father. If you are not the child's biological parent and the child's mother did not conceive through artificial insemination, you may prove that you are not the child's parent. You may also prove that you are not the child's parent if the child's mother conceived through artificial insemination, and you had not given written consent.
You Did not Act on Purpose/Willfully
You might not face child neglect charges unless you failed to take care of your child on purpose. Willfully failing to provide for the needs of your child means that you acted on purpose. For instance, you may face charges if you willfully divert your money to other users and forget your child. You may also face charges if you choose not to look for employment or not to work and get money to support your child.
According to California law, if failing to provide for the needs of your child was not your fault, you cannot face child neglect charges. For instance, you may not face charges if you did not realize that your child required medical attention. If you genuinely could not manage to pay for the needs of your child, you cannot face child neglect charges according to California law.
Legally Excused from Seeking Conventional Medical Care
Some parents do not believe in conventional medical care. A parent may opt to seek alternative healing for his child, such as faith healing. Under these circumstances, you may not face child neglect charges as long as the faith healer/practitioner is well known by his/her religious organization or the church. The religious organization from which you seek faith healing must be recognized. You can only seek alternative healing or faith healing if a child is not critically ill and is not at the risk of succumbing to the illness. Seeking alternative healing for a very ill child or a child who is dying may lead to additional charges.
You Could Not Manage to Provide to Your Child
If you have tried all means and you are still not able to provide for the needs of your child, you may obtain a lawful excuse for child neglect. This would mean that the lack of finances to support your child is not through your own fault. It is important to note that if you are a non-disabled parent, you should place the requirements of your child first and seek meaningful work.
Some of the valid reasons that could make you unable to provide for the needs of your child include a serious ailment. If you are ailing and unable to work, the court may exempt you from providing for the needs of your child. You may also be an employed parent, but you only have finances to offer for some of the necessities of your child, but not all. If it is evident that you are doing all you can depending on the finances you have, you may not face child neglect charges. If you are out of work and all your efforts to find meaningful work have failed, you may not face child neglect charges for failing to provide for the needs of your child.
Several offenses are related to the crime of child neglect According to California law. You may face charges for the related offenses alongside child neglect charges or in the place or instead of child neglect charges. Some of the related offenses include:
The California Penal Code 273 d outlines the crime of child abuse. Under Penal Code 273 d, it is unlawful to inflict corporal punishment or injury on a child. The law prohibits imposing cruel punishment or physical injury on a minor. If you spank your child and inflict bruises on him or her, you may face child abuse charges. You may also face charges if you subject a child to unreasonable punishment. For instance, you may face child abuse charges if you force a child to walk on his/her knees until the knees bruises.
According to California law, a child abuse crime is a wobbler that may attract either a misdemeanor or felony charges. If the court charges you with misdemeanor child abuse, the applicable penalties may include imprisonment not exceeding one year in county jail. The court may also require you to pay a penalty that does not exceed $6,000. For a felony child abuse, the applicable penalties may include imprisonment ranging from two years, four years, or six years. If you have a prior conviction under California Penal Code 273 d within the preceding period of ten years, you may face an additional four years imprisonment on your sentence.
To face child endangerment charges under California Penal Code 273 a, you do not need to impose physical injury on a child. You may face charges for this offense if you place a child in a situation, which may endanger his/her health and well-being.
According to California law, the crime of child endangerment is a wobbler and may attract misdemeanor or felony charges. A crime of endangering a child may seem like a less serious crime compared to the crime of child abuse. However, it is essential to note that the crime of child endangerment attracts heavy charges, just like the crime of child abuse. In fact, in most instances, a crime under Penal Code 273a also goes by the name of child abuse.
Deprivation/Denial of Custody
California Penal Code 278.5 PC outlines the crime of child custody deprivation. If you are the non-custodial parent, you may face charges if you deny the custodial parent custody over his/her child. A custodial parent may also face charges under California Penal Code 278.5 PC for depriving the custodial parent visitation rights. A custodial parent refers to the parent who has legal custody over a child. A non-custodial parent is a parent who does not have a legal right over the child.
The crime of deprivation/denial of custody is a wobbler offense and may attract misdemeanor or felony charges. For a misdemeanor crime, the defendant may serve an imprisonment of up to one year in county jail. The court may also require the defendant to pay a fine that does not exceed $1,000.
For a felony crime under the Penal Code 27835 PC, the applicable penalties include imprisonment. Imprisonment may range from eighteen months, two years, or three years. You also pay a fine that does not exceed $10,000. Other penalties may include reimbursement of the victim or the government's/state's costs of trying to trace and reunite the child with the right custodian.
Other related crimes to the crime of child neglect According to California law include the crime of child abduction or child-stealing under the California Penal Code 278 PC. Child abduction is a wobbler offense and may attract felony or misdemeanor charges. Domestic violence is also a related crime, especially if you commit domestic violence against a minor.
If you are facing charges for child neglect, you may face hefty penalties, including imprisonment. To help fight the charges, you will need to work with an experienced attorney. At California Criminal Lawyer Group, we assist persons facing child neglect charges to fight the charges. With proper legal defense, the court may reduce your charges to a lesser crime or dismiss your charges. Contact us at 408-622-0204 and speak to one of our attorneys today.