Child endangerment is charged as a serious crime, and endangerment takes many forms. From allowing a pre-teen to drive a car, leaving a five-year-old alone while the parents go out for dinner, to issues of malnourishment, child endangerment affects thousands of children throughout Pennsylvania and millions across the country. As such, law enforcement comes down hard on any allegation of abuse or neglect, whether there is any real endangerment going on or not. A recent story that made national news included a California couple that had 13 children, all of which were essentially being held against their will, as reported by CNN. Of the 13 children, eight were over the age of 18, though authorities believed at first that all 13 were children due to their small sizes. All of the children had been malnourished for years, tied up in prison-like conditions, and tortured throughout their lives. The couple themselves ate well, and even fed the family pets plenty of food, showing that finances were not the cause of malnourishment. One of the children finally escaped out of her bedroom window and found help.
Child Malnourishment in Pennsylvania
The story above is an extreme example of child endangerment and malnourishment, and exacerbates public fear. Most cases do not involve false imprisonment of adult children, torture, and abuse all wrapped into one. However, much lesser offenses can constitute child endangerment, and child endangerment is a felony in Pennsylvania. Under statute 4304, child endangerment is knowingly endangering “the welfare of the child by violating a duty of care, protection or support.” It is also an offense to prevent or interfere with the making of a report of suspected child abuse.
- Third Degree Felony – The defendant acted in a way that endangered the welfare of the child;
- Third Degree Felony – The defendant acted in a way that endangered the welfare of the child and created a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury;
- Second Degree Felony – The defendant acted in a way that endangered the welfare of the child and created a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury;
- Increased Felony Charge – If the child was below the age of six, the third degree felony will be upgraded to a second degree felony, or a second degree felony will be upgraded to a first degree felony.
A Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyer is Here to Help
Whether a family member, friend of your child, ex-spouse, or neighbor reported an incident, law enforcement will undoubtedly take the allegations very seriously. Even if you know for yourself that the claim is completely unfounded and possibly just a ruse of the child’s other parent to gain custody, you need to treat this situation just as seriously as the police will. You need to talk to an attorney as soon as possible because not only could you lose custody over your children, but you could end up in prison. Contact a Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer at van der Veen, O’Neill, Hartshorn, and Levin at once.