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What is Child Endangerment?

January 28, 2021

By van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim

Almost ten years after the scandal broke in 2011, the criminal cases involving a former University coach and the University have made the news once again. A federal appeals court has reinstated the defendant’s conviction of child endangerment. The conviction was overturned in 2017 on constitutional grounds but after the most recent decision, the defendant will serve a two-month prison sentence.

In many cases, child endangerment involves an assault on a child, but that was not the case in the University’s presidents trial. This has led many to wonder what child endangerment entails in the state.

What is Child Endangerment in Pennsylvania?

Child endangerment is a very broad legal term to refer to any time a child’s health or safety is placed in jeopardy while an adult is supervising them. Most people think child endangerment only applies to child abuse, but even negligent acts could result in a person facing criminal charges.

In the University’s presidents case, he had children in his care as the president of the University. He was responsible for ensuring they were safe while in his care. When the coach’s scandal broke, however, he decided to handle the matter internally instead of notifying law enforcement. This is the action that caused two courts to determine that his conviction was appropriate. Other types of child engagement may include:

  • Driving drunk with a minor in the vehicle
  • Possessing or consuming illicit drugs in the presence of a minor
  • Leaving a child in a dangerous area without supervision
  • Corporal punishment that results in bodily injury to the child
  • Leaving a child in a vehicle unattended
  • Failing to seek medical attention when a child requires it
  • Forcing a child to live in unsanitary conditions

Due to the fact that child endangerment covers many different scenarios, it is a common charge in Pennsylvania. The consequences for those convicted are harsh and so, anyone facing charges should always speak to a criminal defense lawyer.

Defenses to Child Endangerment

Being charged with child endangerment is scary, but it is important to remember that defenses are available. One of the most common defenses in child endangerment cases is that the child was not in imminent danger. The definition of imminent danger is not entirely clear, but your lawyer will understand how to prove your actions did not jeopardize the health and safety of a child.

Child endangerment typically applies only to caregivers. As such, if you were not the child’s caregiver, it can serve as a defense to child endangerment charges. This defense is often used when the person facing charges previously cared for the child.

Although these are just two defenses used in child endangerment cases, there are others as well. A criminal defense lawyer will review the facts of your case and determine which defense is most appropriate.

Our Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Lawyers Can Help with Your Case

If you have been charged with child endangerment, our Allentown criminal defense attorneys can assist with your case. At van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim, we know these charges are all too common and that law enforcement is sometimes overzealous in laying charges. Call us today at (215) 486-0123 or contact us online to schedule a meeting with one of our attorneys.



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