What are Some of the Grounds for Child Endangerment Charges?
Placing a child in danger is considered a criminal offense in every state of the Union, including New York. Some people have the impression that such a charge must include proof that the actions of the accused party must be deliberate. In fact there are a number of grounds for building a case for child endangerment. Here are some examples to keep in mind.
One of the more obvious grounds for endangerment are actions that are planned in advance and carried out even though it is obvious to the individual that doing so places the child at risk. For example, making the decision to take the child to a place where a great deal of danger is present would be considered a premeditated action. This could include taking the child along while visiting an area where illegal activities are known to occur, such as drug trafficking.
The same would be true when the action is designed to involve the child in some sort of scam. A parent or caregiver who chooses to dress the child in rags, place dark glasses over the eyes, and instruct the child to panhandle as a way to raise money increases the risk of physical injury to the child. There is also the matter of damaging the morals of the child, and running the risk of abduction.
Dangers in the Home
The failure to take adequate steps to protect the child from danger in the home are also grounds for criminal prosecution. Something as simple as not locking cabinets containing firearms, or making it easy for minors to find the keys to those cabinets could be interpreted as endangerment. Failing to secure sharp objects like knives leaves them accessible by children who do not understand they are something other than playthings.
Keeping illegal substances in the home are also among the possible charges. If the adults in the home have street drugs in the house, there is the potential for children to emulate the adults and try the substances. In some cases, the results can be fatal. Discovery of illegal substances in a home where children reside is likely to capture the attention of authorities quickly.
What About Intent?
The lack of intent to harm the child is not always a sufficient defense. If it can be proven that a reasonable person would readily see the danger, the fact that the parent or caregiver did not is moot. The charge will stand and the offender is likely to face consequences that are in line with the nature of the crime.
Understanding the Possible Penalties
Depending on the specific events cited in the charges, the decision may be to class the endangerment as a misdemeanor or a felony. A general rule of thumb is that situations that carry a higher degree of risk to the child will be classed as felonies. For example, leaving a child unsupervised in a locked vehicle may or may not result in an endangerment charge. If a charge is made, and the circumstances indicate a low amount of risk, the charge is likely to be classed as a misdemeanor.
The penalties can range from a warning coupled with a fine all the way through to time spent behind bars. The loss of parental rights is also a possibility, depending on the severity of the events. At all times, the focus is on the well being of the child and what could happen if the child remained in the care of the adult charged with endangerment.
When facing such a charge, seeking legal assistance is a must. A lawyer can examine the facts, relate them to legal precedents, and provide advice that is relevant to the events under scrutiny. Seek legal help as soon as the charges are leveled, and rest assured the lawyer will use every legal means to ensure all the facts are presented to the court.