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What is Considered Endangering the Welfare of Children?

January 07, 2020

By van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim

A 39-year-old mother has been charged with endangering the welfare of children after co-sleeping with her child. The mom smoked marijuana and then went to bed with her two-month-old daughter. The bed they slept in was eight inches higher on one side than the other. Mom allegedly slept on the higher side, with her child on the lower side. Tragically, she rolled over on the child, who later died at the hospital. Now, the mother faces charges of criminal homicide and endangering the welfare of a child.

In Pennsylvania, endangering the life of a child can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances. In either case, a conviction will certainly hold jail time for those accused, so individuals need the help of an experienced Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyer.

Endangering the Welfare of Children Defined

According to 18 Pa.C.S. Section 4304, it is against the law for a parent, guardian, or anyone else supervising a child under the age of 18 to violate the duty of care, protection, or support owed to that child. People that employ or supervise an individual that violates the duty of care, protection, or support, may also be charged with endangering the welfare of children if the child becomes harmed.

The statute defines the person supervising a child as a person other than a parent or guardian, such as an educator or caregiver of the child.The statute also defines preventing or interfering with a report of suspected child abuse as endangering the welfare of children.

Examples of endangering the welfare of children include:

  • Driving under the influence with a child in the vehicle
  • Using controlled substances around children
  • Failing to seek medical treatment for a sick child
  • Accidentally hurting the child while fighting with a spouse
  • Squalid conditions in a home

In Pennsylvania, endangering the welfare of children is a serious crime and often charged in conjunction with other crimes, as in the recent case.

Penalties for Endangering the Welfare of Children

When enduring the welfare of children is charged as a misdemeanor, it still carries with it a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of $10,000. However, there are circumstances that can upgrade this crime to a felony.

One of these circumstances is if the accused engaged in a course of conduct, meaning there was a pattern to them endangering the child. When this is the case, the charge is upgraded to a felony of the third degree. If, while committing the act, the accused put the child at risk of death or serious bodily injury, the charge is also upgraded to a felony of the third degree. If the prosecution finds that both circumstances apply, the charge is upgraded to a felony of the second degree.

Facing Charges? Call Our Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorneys

Endangering the welfare of children is an offense taken very seriously in Pennsylvania. If you’ve been charged, you need the help of our Allentown criminal defense attorneys at van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim. We have the necessary experience to refute the arguments of the prosecution and build you a solid defense to give you the best chance of a successful outcome. Call us today at (215) 486-0123 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation so we can get started on your case.



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