Child Endangerment - Definition, Examples, Cases, Processes (2022)

The term “child endangerment” is used to describe an act, or the failure to perform an act, that puts a child’s safety in danger. Examples of child endangerment can include any threats to a child’s physical, mental, or emotional wellbeing. Child abuse that is the result of child endangerment is typically charged as a misdemeanor, though abuse that results in serious mental or physical effects is tried as a felony. To explore this concept, consider the following child endangerment definition.

Definition of Child Endangerment


  1. An act, or a neglect to perform an act, that causes a child to suffer physical, emotional, or psychological abuse.



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Child Endangerment Laws

Child endangerment laws differ, depending on the state, as do the consequences for these crimes. However, there are certain elements of child endangerment laws that, more or less, remain the same no matter what state you live in.

For example, child endangerment laws do not typically apply to cases wherein parents have simply made a mistake, like leaving a child in a locked car with the engine running while they made a quick trip into a store. Child endangerment laws refer to people who deliberately put children in situations that would more than likely put them in danger.

If a mother were to take drugs or drink alcohol, and then drive with her child in the car, this would be a better example of child endangerment. She is more likely to get in an accident that would injure the child, and she was aware that what she was doing was dangerous for her child but did it anyway.

Child Endangerment Charges

Depending on the severity of the situation, child endangerment charges can be classified as either a misdemeanor or a felony. Whether a person is charged with a misdemeanor or a felony depends on whether the child was exposed to substantial danger or was put into a potentially dangerous situation. Some states make the decision to charge individuals with a felony child endangerment charge based on whether the child suffered a physical injury as a result of the individual’s actions, or inaction.

Penalties for child endangerment vary by state. In many jurisdictions, a person convicted on a misdemeanor charge will typically spend perhaps a year in prison. If he is convicted on a felony charge, however, he may face up to 10 years, or possibly more.

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A person convicted on either a misdemeanor or felony can also be sentenced to probation. Probation typically lasts about a year, and during that time, the individual is required to complete Court-ordered activities, such as participating in family counseling and avoiding becoming involved with any other illegal activity. If someone on probation is caught doing something illegal, the court can then sentence him to jail time.

Someone convicted of a misdemeanor or felony may also be ordered to pay a fine in connection with his sentence. For a misdemeanor, the fines can be up to $1,000. For a felony, however, the fines can be $10,000 or more. Also, in the case of child endangerment, a sentence may include the stripping of the person’s parental rights. If there is no other parent present to care for the child, then the child would be appointed a legal guardian or, failing that, be placed with the state until a legal guardian can be appointed.

Reporting Child Endangerment

Many states have toll-free numbers for people to call for reporting child endangerment if they believe a child is being abused or neglected. The State Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Numbers list provides phone numbers for each state for the purpose of reporting child endangerment. In some states, it is actually required by law that a person report to their local agency if they suspect a child is being subjected to abuse. The case outlined below covers this in more detail.

There are laws in place to protect those who report what they believe to be child endangerment in the event they are, in fact, wrong. So long as the report is made in good faith – for example, that it isn’t just a spiteful neighbor making a report in order to get back at the neighbor she had a fight with – then the report will be taken seriously, and the person will not be penalized for making a false report. And, of course, in the event of an emergency, individuals are advised to call 9-1-1, rather than their state agencies.

DUI Child Endangerment

The penalties suffered for a DUI child endangerment charge are typically more severe. As mentioned above, this is because the individual knowingly drove the car, with a child as a passenger, after consuming enough alcohol to become intoxicated. DUI is a crime already, let alone DUI with a child in the car.

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Typically DUI child endangerment is charged as two separate crimes in the same case. A person driving with any minor in the vehicle under 18 years of age can be charged with child endangerment. The penalty for child endangerment alone in this case may include a short incarceration in jail, in addition to whatever penalties are handed down by the court for the DUI charge. Further, while it is rare for a child to be taken away from his parent after a DUI charge, any crime involving a child is automatically reported to Child Protective Services.

Child Endangerment Example Involving a Prostitute’s Boyfriend

An example of child endangerment can be found in the case of Ohio v. Clark, which was decided in June 2015. Here, Darius Clark acted as a pimp to his girlfriend, sending her to Washington, D.C. to work for him. While she was gone, Clark was in charge of her two children: a three-year-old son (“L.P.”) and an 18-month-old daughter. While at preschool one day, the three-year-old’s teacher noticed bruises on his body. The boy identified Clark as his abuser.

After authorities investigated the situation and found bruises on the 18-month-old as well, Clark was arrested. He was charged with four counts of assault, two counts of child endangerment, and two counts of domestic violence. During the criminal trial, the State produced the statements the boy made to his teachers as proof that Clark was guilty of abuse. The trial court ruled that the boy would not have to testify against Clark, as Ohio law dictated that the statement could be entered as evidence without the need for a young child to have to testify against his attacker.

Clark was ultimately convicted on all charges, except for one of the assault charges. He appealed his conviction and tried to have the boy’s statements struck. The argument was that, since the boy did not testify, then accepting his statement into evidence was actually a violation of the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment. Clark’s lawyers actually argued that he should have the right to confront his accuser…a three-year-old boy.

If that’s not crazy enough, the appellate court actually agreed with Clark and overturned the trial court’s decision! The case then escalated to the Ohio Supreme Court, and the Ohio Supreme Court also upheld it! Justice was finally served when the case reached the United States Supreme Court. In a unanimous decision, the Court struck down the Ohio Supreme Court’s decision.

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Justice Alito, speaking for the Court, agreed that while statements are normally inadmissible if the party does not testify, there are some exceptions to that rule. If the situation is, in fact, one that calls for an exception to be made, the statement would be guided by state or federal rules, not the Confrontation Clause. And, in this case, the Court did not believe the child’s statement was one that should have been considered a form of testimony.

Said the Court:

“L. P.’s statements occurred in the context of an ongoing emergency involving suspected child abuse. When L. P.’s teachers noticed his injuries, they rightly became worried that the 3-year-old was the victim of serious violence. Because the teachers needed to know whether it was safe to release L. P. to his guardian at the end of the day, they needed to determine who might be abusing the child.Thus, the immediate concern was to protect a vulnerable child who needed help…L. P.’s teachers were not sure who had abused him or how best to secure his safety. Nor were they sure whether any other children might be at risk. As a result, their questions and L. P.’s answers were primarily aimed at identifying and ending the threat…

“The Court also found that the child’s young age makes it unlikely that he could understand the idea of criminal prosecution or testifying against a witness. Thus, the statement made by the child was in the context of wanting to be safe from harm, rather than trying to induce a legal process. This is not undermined by the teacher’s requirement under mandatory reporting laws to inform the police. Instead, the statement was said in response to questions asked in good faith by teachers looking out for the wellbeing of their student.”

Related Legal Terms and Issues

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  • Felony – A crime, often involving violence, regarded as more serious than a misdemeanor. Felony crimes are usually punishable by imprisonment more than one year.
  • Misdemeanor – A criminal offense less serious than a felony.
  • Prosecution – The lawyers who argue that the person being accused of a crime is guilty.
  • Prostitution – The practice of engaging in sexual activity in exchange for money or other payment.
  • Testimony – A declaration or statement of a witness under oath, usually in court.


Child Endangerment - Definition, Examples, Cases, Processes? ›

Examples of child endangerment can include any threats to a child's physical, mental, or emotional wellbeing. Child abuse that is the result of child endangerment is typically charged as a misdemeanor, though abuse that results in serious mental or physical effects is tried as a felony.

What is an example of endangerment? ›

Examples of situations that have resulted in reckless endangerment charges include: Leaving a loaded firearm where children can access them. Throwing rocks and other objects at moving cars. Throwing heavy objects off the roof or out the window of a tall building.

What is an example of child neglect? ›

A child's basic needs, such as food, clothing or shelter, are not met or they aren't properly supervised or kept safe. A parent doesn't ensure their child is given an education. A child doesn't get the nurture and stimulation they need. This could be through ignoring, humiliating, intimidating or isolating them.

What happens if you get charged with child endangerment in PA? ›

Endangering the welfare of children is a first-degree misdemeanor in Pennsylvania. If convicted, you face up to five years in jail and a $10,000 fine. However, the typical sentence for a first-time offender is up to one year.

What is considered child endangerment in California? ›

The crime of child endangerment is described under California Penal Code 273a PC as willfully exposing a child to unjustifiable pain, suffering, or danger. You can face criminal charges under this statute if you subject a child to an unreasonable risk of being harmed, even if they are not physically injured.

What does child endangerment mean? ›

Child endangerment is defined as exposing a child to danger, pain, or undue suffering. It is not legally dependent on whether the child suffers injury or death. A particularly important note is that you can be charged with child endangerment even if your actions were not intentional.

What is another word for endangerment? ›

In this page you can discover 10 synonyms, antonyms, idiomatic expressions, and related words for endangerment, like: imperilment, jeopardy, danger, hazard, peril, risk, safety, nonnative, impoliteness and self-mutilation.

What are the four types of abuse? ›

Most States recognize four major types of maltreatment: physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse. Additionally, many States identify abandonment, parental substance use, and human trafficking as abuse or neglect.

Which of the following are examples of neglect? ›

Neglect occurs when a person, either through his/her action or inaction, deprives a vulnerable adult of the care necessary to maintain the vulnerable adult's physical or mental health. Examples include not providing basic items such as food, water, clothing, a safe place to live, medicine, or health care.

Is endangering the welfare of a child a felony in PA? ›

(i) An offense under this section constitutes a misdemeanor of the first degree. (ii) If the actor engaged in a course of conduct of endangering the welfare of a child, the offense constitutes a felony of the third degree.

What is the sentence for endangering the welfare of a child in PA? ›

C.S. §4304. Endangering the welfare of children is a misdemeanor of the first degree (M-1) in Pennsylvania and carries a maximum penalty of 5 years in jail and $10,000 fine.

What is a f3 felony in PA? ›

Third-Degree Felony

A conviction for a felony in the 3rd degree in Pennsylvania includes from 3.5 to 7 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000. This includes crimes such as: Bribery. Possession of child pornography.

Is it legal to slap your child in the face in California? ›

As previously discussed, corporal punishment of a child in California is illegal if it is cruel, inhuman, or causes a traumatic condition. Therefore, if a parent hits a child in a manner that is cruel, inhuman, or causes external or internal injuries, they may be arrested.

What is willful child cruelty? ›

Willful cruelty or unjustifiable punishment of a child means a situation where any person willfully causes or permits any child to suffer, or inflicts thereon, unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering, or having the care or custody of any child, willfully causes or permits the person or health of the child to be ...

Is child endangerment a felony or misdemeanor in California? ›

Charged as a misdemeanor, child endangerment can carry up to one year in county jail. Charged as a felony, child endangerment can be punished by two years, four years, or six years in state prison.

Is neglect a crime? ›

It is an offence for an individual who has the care of another individual by virtue of being a care worker to ill-treat or wilfully to neglect that other individual.

Can you go to jail for leaving a child home alone in California? ›

If the court determines that you shouldn't have left your child, child neglect charges will be filed against you. In California, child neglect is a misdemeanor. If found guilty, you could face: Up to a year in jail.

Can you go to jail for leaving a child home alone in Texas? ›

If the individual abandoned the child but intended to return, it is a state jail felony punishable by six months to 2 years in a state jail facility and a potential fine up to $10,000.

What do you mean by threatened? ›

1 : to show an intention to do harm or something unwanted He threatened to quit. 2 : to give warning of by an indication The clouds threatened rain. Other Words from threaten.

What part of speech is endangering? ›

ENDANGER (verb) definition and synonyms | Macmillan Dictionary.

What is the antonym of endangered? ›

What is the opposite of endangered?
23 more rows

What is a sentence for endangerment? ›

Endangerment in a Sentence

The careless mother was charged with child endangerment after leaving her toddler alone in the sweltering sedan for several hours. 2. Poachers brought on the endangerment of several species of rhino by hunting them for their horns.

What is animal endangerment? ›

A species is classified as endangered when its population has declined at least 70 percent and the cause of the decline is known. A species is also classified as endangered when its population has declined at least 50 percent and the cause of the decline is not known.

What is the main cause of endangered species? ›

The main modern causes of extinction are the loss and degradation of habitat (mainly deforestation), over exploitation (hunting, overfishing), invasive species, climate change, and nitrogen pollution.

What is an endangerment site? ›

What is an Endangerment Site? Endangerment (or cautionary) sites are places where careless massage could damage some of the body's most delicate tissues.


1. Reaching Out: Child abuse, when and how to report.
(Cook Children's Health Care System)
2. Recognising Indicators of Child Abuse Demo
3. Can your wife / girlfriend / spouse / ex drop domestic violence charges against you?
(Robert Gouveia Esq.)
4. Interviewing the Child Client: Approaches and Techniques for a Successful Interview
5. InBrief: The Science of Neglect
(Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University)
6. The Three Reasons People Lose Custody of Their Children in Family Court
(Modern Law Divorce and Family Law Attorneys)

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