Residents of a Canyon Country apartment complex got a scare recently when they witnessed a small child standing dangerously in front of an open window and banging on the screen. According to eyewitnesses, the little girl was heard screaming and crying as she pounded against the screen of a second-story window. With the sliding glass open, the flimsy screen was the only thing keeping the child inside the apartment.
Neighbors quickly phoned 911, and emergency response teams were dispatched to the location. Deputies from the Santa Clarita Sheriff’s Station were attempting to get into the apartment through the door, but were having trouble, so a fire truck with a ladder was brought in to get the girl to safety. Fortunately, one of the deputies was able to gain entry to the apartment and get the girl from the window. The child appeared to have been left unattended and, once located, her parents were both arrested and charged with child endangerment. They were taken to the SCV Sheriff’s Station to undergo booking and processing and were held in lieu of $100,000 bail.
Child endangerment is covered under California Penal Code 273(a) PC and is defined quite simply as willfully exposing a child to pain, suffering, or danger. Anyone can be charged with violating PC 273(a) – not just parents.
More often than not, the charge is pressed against an adult who has a child under the age of 18 in their care.
Per its definition, child endangerment may sound a lot like child abuse, but they are, in fact, two different things covered by separate penal codes. Child abuse is covered under California Penal Code 273(d) and is described as imposing physical injury or cruel punishment on a child. The major difference between child endangerment and child abuse is that, in cases of child endangerment no actual harm has to happen to the child. In cases of child abuse there typically needs to be some sort of injury to the child.
Child endangerment can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances of the case and the defendant’s prior criminal history (if any). If charged as a misdemeanor, the possible penalties include misdemeanor probation and/or up to 6 months in county jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines. For felony charges, the penalties include 2, 4, or 6 years in California state prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000 and/or at least 4 years of formal, felony probation.