What is Child Neglect in California?

What is Child Neglect in California?

You are probably familiar with the terms “child abuse” and “domestic violence,” but there’s another term that you may not be as familiar with, it’s “child neglect.” Child neglect is separate from child abuse, but we assure you, it can be just as serious. Depending on the circumstances of the case, child neglect in California can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony under Chapter 2 of the California Penal Code.

When parents, grandparents, and caregivers hear the word “neglect” they often connect it to a child who doesn’t have enough food in the cupboards of their home, a child’s bed without appropriate sheets and blankets, a child who wears ripped and stained clothing, and a child whose parents fail to take them to the dentist. While those are all neglectful conditions, child neglect in the legal context is much more than that.

Child Neglect Under the CA Penal Code

Under Sec. 273(a) of the California Penal Code it reads: “Any person who, under circumstances or conditions likely to produce great bodily harm or death, willfully causes or permits any child to suffer, or inflicts thereon unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering, or having the care or custody of any child, willfully causes or permits the person or health of that child to be injured, or willfully causes or permits that child to be placed in a situation where his or her person or health is endangered, shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or in the state prison for two, four, or six years.”

Here are some examples of how someone can be charged with child neglect under this section in California:

  • A mother knows that her friend is abusing her toddler, but the mother leaves her child with the abusive woman for weeks at a time so she can run off with her new boyfriend.
  • A daycare provider locks a three-year child in a dark closet for eight hours straight, letting the child scream, go without food and water, and soil his clothing.
  • A woman leaves her three small children home alone all day, knowing they have direct access to a swimming pool in the backyard that could lead to drowning.
  • A man works in a meth lab and decides to bring his children to work and let them roam freely around the drug manufacturing equipment.

Under Section 273(b) of the Penal Code, if someone places a child in danger in circumstances that are not likely to cause serious bodily injury or death, or if they willfully cause or permit the child to be injured, or if they inflict unjustifiable mental suffering, they commit a misdemeanor.

Next: California Search Warrants

Facing child neglect charges? If so, it is no laughing matter, especially if you’re a parent who faces incarceration and being torn from your child. Contact us to explore your legal defenses.

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