There are a lot of people who believe that the only way a person can be charged with child endangerment in the state of Pennsylvania is if they deliberately hurt a child, or intend to. This is because most people view the charge as part and parcel of child abuse. However, this is not the case. Any time the welfare of a child is put in jeopardy when supervised by an adult, Pennsylvania law considers it child endangerment.
This common misconception often means that a child’s guardian or parent is surprised when they are investigated for the crime.
If you were reported by a third party who was hoping to make your life difficult, the charges you face could be exaggerated or false. A Pittsburgh domestic violence defense attorney can fight for you, protecting you from the harsh punishments that come with a conviction for child endangerment.
Endangering the Welfare of Children Definition
Pennsylvania’s criminal code, Chapter 18, Section 4304 defines endangering the welfare of children the following way: Any person supervising the welfare of a child under the age of 18, be it a guardian, a parent, or any other person, who violates a duty of protection, support, or care and thus knowingly endangers the child’s welfare is guilty of child endangerment. Any person who supervises or employs someone in charge of a child’s welfare is also covered by this law.
Also, under Pennsylvania law, a person who prevents or interferes, in an official capacity, with the creation of a report of the suspicion of child abuse can be charged with child endangerment. It doesn’t matter if it was one violation or many. Multiple violations will be charged as several individual offenses, or may be considered a felony under course of conduct.
Examples of Child Endangerment
Child endangerment is more common that most people think it is. Any incident that compromises the safety of a child can be considered endangering the welfare of the child, so it’s an easy offense to be arrested for.
The general standard used by the court is to look at behavior that the average guardian or parent would probably believe presented too great a risk to the child or was wrong. Since this term is so broad, here is a list of things that will result in a child endangerment charge in Pennsylvania:
- DUI with a child in the car
- Squalid home environment
- Doing illegal drugs in a child’s presence, or possessing illegal drugs in a child’s presence
- Not getting medical attention for a sick or injured child
- Allowing a child to ride, without safety restraint of some kind, on the back of an ATV or other open-air motor vehicle
- A fight with a spouse that accidentally injures a child
Child Endangerment Penalties in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, the punishments received for child endangerment depend on the details of each individual case. In general, it is a first-degree misdemeanor. Penalties include a $10,000 fine and a prison term of 5 years.
But, if the prosecutor is able to prove, without the shadow of a doubt, that the offender has shown a pattern of this kind of behavior, also known as a course of conduct, the offense becomes a third-degree felony. Penalties go up … to a $15,000 fine and a prison term of 3 ½ years.
Either way, you need a Pittsburgh domestic violence defense attorney to defend you and protect your rights and your future.