Child Abuse Law in California

child abuse in californiaChild abuse is more than just physical injuries. Physical abuse can be visible; however, other types of abuse, such as emotional abuse, also lead to deep scars. The most important thing to prevent the child abuse is to intervene and break the cycle of violence towards a child. Under California Law, it is a crime to willfully inflict upon a child any cruel or inhuman corporal punishment or an injury resulting in a traumatic condition. Parents, guardians and caregivers have to take care of a child and this legal responsibility consists of ensuring that child is free from unreasonably dangerous situations. It should be noted that California laws differ California Child Endangerment from a crime of the Child Abuse in California.

Below, we invite you to find out the criminal definition of the California Child Abuse, current information on California child abuse criminal prosecutions as well as we are ready to provide answers to your initial questions concerning attempted murder charges in California for free.

1. California Child Endangerment Laws
2. Legal Defenses to California Child Endangerment
3. Penalties for California Child Endangerment
4. Related Offences

1. California Child Endangerment Laws

According to California Penal Code 273(d) PC, any person who willfully inflicts upon a child any cruel or inhuman corporal punishment or an injury resulting in a traumatic condition is guilty of child abuse.

In order to prove that the defendant is guilty of child abuse crime, the prosecutor must prove that:

  • The defendant willfully inflicted cruel or inhuman physical punishment and/or an injury on a child
  • The defendant willfully inflicted cruel or inhuman physical punishment and/or an injury caused a traumatic physical condition to the child
  • The defendant acted in a negligent way when he or she caused or permitted the child to be endangered
  • When the defendant acted, he or she was not reasonably disciplining a child.

In order to understand better some terms of the definition, we should clarify their meaning below.

Child
Under the term of a child, we understand any person under the age of 18 years. Only persons under 18 years can suffer from this crime. A person becomes one year older as soon as the first minute of his or her birthday has begun. Moreover, it does not matter their physical conditions in comparison to offender. Example: a 17 years old guy can be more powerful than his 35 years mother; despite of it he can still be subjected to the inflicted cruel physical punishment caused a traumatic physical condition.

Wilful
A wilfully committed act means that a person does it willingly or on purpose.
Example: James kicked his son because his mother’s vase was broken. The child did not do it intentionally but the father got angry and kicked the son.

Great bodily injury
It means significant or substantial physical injury. Great bodily injury is greater than minor or moderate harm.

Unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering
It is pain or suffering that is not reasonably necessary or is excessive under the circumstances.
The following acts can be considered as inhuman treatment: throwing a vase at a child, shaking or hitting a child, etc.

Criminal negligence
It involves more than ordinary carelessness, inattention, or mistake in judgment. Another saying, the defendant acted with criminal negligence when:

  • He or she acted in a reckless way that creates a high risk of death or great bodily harm
  • A reasonable person would have known that acting in that way would create such a risk.

Inhuman physical punishment and/or an injury caused a traumatic physical condition

The reasonable discipline is lawful and in doing so the adult can use reasonable punishment, including even reasonable corporal punishment. However, it is unlawful for a parent to inflict unjustifiable punishment upon a child. Nonetheless, a parent can spank a child for disciplinary purposes with an object other than the hand. BUT such punishment must be necessary and not excessive in relation to the circumstances. Otherwise, corporal punishment is not lawful.

It is not required that a child obligatorily suffered great bodily harm. Nonetheless, if it happened, the fact should be considered along with all the other evidence, in deciding whether the defendant committed the offense.

2. Legal Defenses to California Child Endangerment

An experienced and professional California defense attorney can use various legal defenses in order to reduce or dismiss the charge. Below, we represent some of them.

NOTE: If the prosecution proves that the defendant has prior charges of child abuse. It is not sufficient itself to establish the crime as committed. The defendant can insist on lawfully disciplining the child. The prosecutor has the burden of proving that the force used for this purpose was not reasonable and consequently, the act was unlawful. Thus, if the court has a reasonable doubt that unlawful force was applied, the defendant must be found not guilty. If the court decides that the use of force was excessive or was not reasonably necessary, the defendant ill face serious problems.

It should be taken into consideration that certain categories of people, mostly professionals, such as teachers or physicians, are required by California law to make a report of child maltreatment. Thus, in California, it is mandatory to report suspicions of child abuse or neglect for some special categories of people. Such as teachers, social workers, doctors etc.

Any mandated reporter who fails to report an incident of known or reasonably suspected child abuse or neglect is guilty of a misdemeanor as well as the offender can face confinement up to six (6)months in a county jail or a fine of $1000 or both of them.

3.What kind of Penalties can I face?

Child endangerment may be either a felony or a misdemeanor, that is to say it is a “wobbler”. The charge depends on the criminal history of the person as well as circumstances of the offense.

In the table below, we represent the main penalties for California misdemeanor and felony child endangerment charges.

Misdemeanor Child Abuse Felony Child Abuse
  • Imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one (1) year
  • a fine up to $6000
  • and/or informal probation
    (otherwise known as “summary” probation) for a minimum of three (3) years under the following conditions:
    a) A mandatory minimum period of probation is 36 months.
    b) A criminal court protective order protecting the victim from further acts of violence or threats, and, if appropriate, residence exclusion or stay-away conditions.
    c)Successful completion of no less than one year of a child abuser’s treatment counseling program approved by the probation department.
    d) If the offense was committed while the defendant was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the defendant shall abstain from the use of drugs or alcohol during the period of probation and should be subjected to random drug testing by his or her probation officer.
  • sentencing of two (2), four (4), or six (6) years in California state prison
  • a fine up to $6000
  • and/or informal probation under the same conditions as the misdemeanor conviction.NOTE: under California law, a felony conviction of child abuse will result in a “strike” on your criminal record.

4. Related Offences

California Child Endangerment
Lewd Acts with a minor
DUI

The Margarian Law Firm aggressively protects the rights of criminal defendants in California. Each defense will be developed upon the facts of your individual case. Do not hesitate to contact us. You will get your legal assistance as soon as you contact us. We handle every aspect of your case, from the first step to the very last court hearing.

You may file your request online, by telephone or by mail. 818-553-1000

California Penal Code 273(d) PC

273d. (a) Any person who willfully inflicts upon a child any cruel or inhuman corporal punishment or an injury resulting in a traumatic condition is guilty of a felony and shall be punished by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 for two, four, or six years, or in a county jail for not more than one year, by a fine of up to six thousand dollars ($6,000), or by both that imprisonment and fine.
(b) Any person who is found guilty of violating subdivision (a) shall receive a four-year enhancement for a prior conviction of that offense provided that no additional term shall be imposed under this subdivision for any prison term or term imposed under the provisions of subdivision (h) of Section 1170 served prior to a period of 10 years in which the defendant remained free of both the commission of an offense that results in a felony conviction and prison custody or custody in a county jail under the provisions of subdivision (h) of Section 1170.
(c) If a person is convicted of violating this section and probation is granted, the court shall require the following minimum conditions of probation:
(1) A mandatory minimum period of probation of 36 months.
(2) A criminal court protective order protecting the victim from further acts of violence or threats, and, if appropriate, residence exclusion or stay-away conditions.
(3) (A) Successful completion of no less than one year of a child abuser’s treatment counseling program. The defendant shall be ordered to begin participation in the program immediately upon the grant of probation. The counseling program shall meet the criteria specified in Section 273.1. The defendant shall produce documentation of program enrollment to the court within 30 days of enrollment, along with quarterly progress reports.
(B) The terms of probation for offenders shall not be lifted until all reasonable fees due to the counseling program have been paid in full, but in no case shall probation be extended beyond the term provided in subdivision (a) of Section 1203.1. If the court finds that the defendant does not have the ability to pay the fees based on the defendant’s changed circumstances, the court may reduce or waive the fees.
(4) If the offense was committed while the defendant was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the defendant shall abstain from the use of drugs or alcohol during the period of probation and shall be subject to random drug testing by his or her probation officer.
(5) The court may waive any of the above minimum conditions of probation upon a finding that the condition would not be in the best interests of justice. The court shall state on the record its reasons for any waiver.

Copyright © 2014 The Margarian Law Firm. All Rights Reserved.