Looking after kids isn’t easy. Sometimes, it can be downright overwhelming. But when it comes to caring for a child, a one-time lapse in judgment can lead to your arrest. If you’ve been charged with endangering the welfare of a child in Pittsburgh, you likely feel ashamed, upset, and uncertain about the future. Crimes involving children are particularly sensitive, and a conviction can impact your reputation, record, and relationships.
Don’t let a past mistake define you. Worgul, Sarna, & Ness LLC‘s experienced child endangerment attorneys can evaluate your case and guide you. Call (412) 281-2146 today for a free consultation about your Pittsburgh child endangerment case.
Pennsylvania Child Endangerment Laws
The Pennsylvania Code § 4304 defines the offense of endangering the welfare of a child. However, there are important caveats that could easily be overlooked. An attorney’s insight can help you understand the types of endangerment charges you face and possible penalties.
Here are the key elements of child endangerment in Pennsylvania:
Who Can Be Charged With Child Endangerment?
A defendant’s relationship with the child is crucial in any child endangerment case. By law, only the following individuals can be charged with endangerment of a child in Pennsylvania:
- A parent or guardian of the child
- Any person who supervises the welfare of the child (i.e., a teacher)
- An employer or supervisor of the person in charge of a child’s welfare (i.e., a principal)
While this list includes a broad range of individuals, you might not fit into any of these roles. Our attorneys can closely analyze your case to determine whether it meets the requirements. Even if the prosecutors have a valid case against you, our team can craft a solid defense to fight these charges and help get you the most desirable outcome.
What is the Endangerment of a Child?
Child endangerment occurs when someone “knowingly endangers the child’s welfare by violating a duty of care, protection, or support.” Essentially, any willful acts that put a child’s safety at risk could fall under this criminal charge. The child must be under 18 at the time of the offense.
A person could also be charged with endangerment of a child if, in an official capacity, they prevent or interfere with a suspected child abuse report (as defined in 23 Pa.C.S. Ch. 63).
Endangering the Welfare of a Child Examples
Here are examples of conduct that could be considered child endangerment under Pennsylvania’s laws:
- 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 punishment that results in bodily injury
- Leaving a child alone and unsupervised in a hazardous area
- Failing 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
Plenty of other acts could endanger a child’s welfare, safety, and well-being. Even if your case does not apply to the above scenarios, prosecutors can use the broad nature of this law to their advantage and try to hold you accountable regardless. You need an aggressive defense attorney to fight back and help secure the best possible outcome for you.
Child Endangerment Penalties in PA
The penalties for child endangerment in Pittsburgh vary based on the specific offense. For example, a case where the child sustained a physical injury will likely be punished higher than a non-injury offense.
If no extenuating circumstances are present, endangering the welfare of a child is charged as a first-degree misdemeanor in Pennsylvania. This involves two to five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
If either of these factors apply to a child endangerment case, you could be charged with a third-degree felony:
- You engage in a course of conduct (a pattern of behaviors) that puts the child’s safety at risk
- Your acts create a substantial risk of injury or death to the child
In Pennsylvania, a conviction of third-degree felony charges involves up to seven years’ incarceration and a $15,000 maximum fine.
When 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 five- to 10-year sentence and up to $25,000 in fines.
Hiring a Pittsburgh Child Endangerment Lawyer 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 who 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.
Pittsburgh Child Endangerment FAQs
How can I defend against a child endangerment charge?
An experienced Pittsburgh child endangerment attorney will have the resources and insight you need to build a unique, effective defense. Our defense lawyers can attack the allegations against you in various ways. For example, we may be able to argue that you did not “knowingly” commit the offense and, therefore, did not act outside of how a reasonable person in your position would.
What if I employed someone who endangered a child?
If you’re arrested for employing someone who endangered 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.
It is imperative to report suspected child abuse immediately, and hire an attorney to protect your rights if you are arrested. Otherwise, you could face serious criminal charges, even if you were not the one to directly endanger the welfare of a child.
What if I accidentally endangered the welfare of a child?
Honest mistakes happen—especially when dealing with the chaos and responsibility of caring for a child. An accident shouldn’t ruin your life, and it doesn’t have to.
To prove child endangerment charges beyond a reasonable doubt, prosecutors must prove every element of a charge. A lapse in judgment or 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.
Contact Our Pittsburgh Child Endangerment Attorneys
If you’ve been arrested for child endangerment in Pittsburgh and want to know your rights and options, an attorney’s guidance will be invaluable. At Worgul, Sarna, & Ness LLC, our defense lawyers have decades of experience in all types of criminal law matters, including the most sensitive issues related to endangering the welfare of a child.