Pennsylvania goes to great lengths to protect children, so the criminal process is tough on those charged with child endangerment. Worse, the statute is broad regarding who can be arrested for endangering the welfare of a child and what types of behavior violate the law. Conduct you didn’t expect to run afoul of the law may lead to a conviction, which is why it’s critical to get effective legal help from knowledgeable Greensburg child endangerment attorneys.
At Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, our family crimes lawyers in Greensburg know that facing child endangerment charges in Westmoreland County is distressing. Still, there are ways to dispute the allegations and gain a favorable outcome. Please contact us and set up a free and confidential consultation right away.
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Child Endangerment in Westmoreland County, PA
Multiple factors can violate Pennsylvania’s statute on endangering the welfare of a child, including the role of the accused and the types of conduct that constitute a crime.
Identity of the Person Arrested
You may face charges if you’re the parent, guardian, or anyone in a supervisory role over a child under 18. In addition, you could be arrested if you employ someone else to provide care or support for a child, with the knowledge that you’re putting the child in danger. If you occupy an official position related to child protective services, you could also be arrested for child endangerment if you interfere with the reporting process regarding child abuse.
Conduct that May Endanger the Welfare of a Child
The statute covers certain obvious acts that put a child’s safety at risk, even if no injury or harm results. However, the law also applies to situations where non-action places a child in danger.
Child Endangerment Can Take Many Forms – Because there’s a fine line in defining acts and omissions prohibited by the law, some examples of child endangerment include:
- Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, with a child in the vehicle;
- Possessing, manufacturing, or using controlled substances in the presence of a child;
- Supplying alcohol to a minor;
- Leaving a child in a car while shopping, dining, running errands, or other tasks;
- Engaging in an argument with your spouse that leads to accidental injury to the child;
- Unreasonable corporal punishment that results in bodily injury;
- Leaving a child alone and unsupervised in a hazardous area;
- Failure to procure necessary medical attention for a child’s illness, injury, or medical condition;
- Leaving a child alone without sustenance for more than a day in extreme conditions;
- Not reporting suspected child abuse when you’re under a duty to do so; and,
- Other acts that endanger the child’s welfare, safety, and well-being.
Child Endangerment Penalties
If you’ve been arrested, you are probably very concerned about what happens after you have been charged with child endangerment. Though an arrest is not the same as a conviction, it’s important to get some answers to your most pressing questions.
What punishment does a child endangerment charge carry?
Endangering the welfare of a child is a first-degree misdemeanor under Pennsylvania law unless other circumstances are present that elevate the crime. For instance, if you have a criminal history, either with endangering a child or violent crimes, your current offense may be charged as a felony. In addition, if the child is under six years old, the crime in question will be increased by one grade.
Will I go to jail for a child endangerment misdemeanor?
Though it’s possible to get probation with the help of a child endangerment attorney, who is negotiating on your behalf, a judge can order up to five years’ in custody and/or a maximum fine of $10,000.
How is child endangerment a felony?
The statute provides for a third-degree felony if:
- You engage in a course of conduct that puts the child’s safety at risk; or,
- Your acts create a substantial risk of injury or death to the child.
For a conviction on third-degree felony charges, you could be sentenced up to seven years’ incarceration and a $15,000 fine. In situations where your acts create a risk of injury and are part of a course of conduct, the crime becomes a second-degree felony. A conviction at this level could result in a 10-year sentence, $25,000 in fines, or both.
Hiring Child Endangerment Lawyers is Essential
Though the charges are serious and the potential sentence could be harsh, there are multiple strategies for fighting the allegations. A child endangerment lawyer knows how to get a child endangerment charge dismissed or reduced to a more manageable level, which could involve attacking the accusations against you. A prosecuting attorney must prove that you’re guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the highest burden in criminal law. A lapse in judgment or making a mistake relating to a child’s welfare may not be enough for a prosecutor to get a conviction. This is especially true when the error didn’t cause actual harm to the child.
In addition, the knowledge element can be critical because the reasonable person standard applies. For example, if you’re arrested for employing someone that endangers a child, there must be evidence that you knew the offender could cause a risk of harm. Therefore, you may not be convicted if someone in your position, under the same circumstances, would have acted just as you did.
Contact Our Greensburg Child Endangerment Attorneys for More Information
If you’ve been arrested for child endangerment and want to know about your rights and options, at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC , we can explain how the law works. We have decades of combined experience in all types of criminal law matters, including those related to endangering the welfare of a child.
For more information, please call (724) 834-1275 or contact us online to set up a free and confidential consultation today. Our child endangerment lawyers represent clients in Greensburg and throughout Westmoreland County, and we’re here to serve your legal needs.