Child Endangerment PC 273(a)(a): Comprehensive Guide to Understanding Legal Implications and Consequences


In the complex landscape of child endangerment charges, understanding the nuances of specific laws such as Child Endangerment PC 273(a)(a) is crucial for both legal professionals and the public.It is important to know that criminal charges do not just stem from bodily harm. For example, just leaving a child in a dangerous situation such as a car can result in a Child Endangerment charge under the theory of criminal negligence. This is especially true in cases of child abuse, where the stakes are high and the implications profound.


Child Endangerment PC 273(a)(a), a pivotal piece of legislation in California, addresses the serious issue of child abuse that could lead to great bodily harm or death.

This detailed overview sheds light on the various scenarios under Child Endangerment PC 273 which an individual can be charged with this offense, the crucial elements required for conviction, and the potential defenses available.

Through a series of examples and explanations, it provides a comprehensive look at how Child Endangerment PC 273 is applied in real-life situations against a person who is accused of being a child abuser, ranging from willful infliction of pain to circumstances of criminal negligence by leaving a child in a dangerous situation and endangerment in custody. This information is vital for anyone navigating the legal system in cases related to child welfare and protection.

The following are Jury Instuctions and what the court tells the jury to look for when deciding whether someone should be convicted of child abuse.

Overview of Child Endangerment PC 273(a)(a)

The defendant is accused of child abuse that could cause great bodily harm or death. Although the child does not have to actually suffer bodily injury, but the chance of him or suffering is enough. This grave charge necessitates the prosecution proving certain elements for a conviction.

Crucial Elements for Conviction on Child Endangerment PC 273

The prosecution must demonstrate one of the following scenarios against the alleged child abuser:

Alternative A – Inflicting Pain

  • Willful Infliction: The accused intentionally caused unjustifiable physical pain(bodily harm) or mental pain to a child.
  • Example: A parent deliberately burns a child’s hand as a form of punishment, causing physical pain that is excessive and not justifiable as a disciplinary measure.

Alternative B – Causing or Permitting Suffering

  • Willful Cause or Permission: The accused intentionally caused or allowed a child to endure unjustifiable bodily harm or mental pain.
  • Example: A guardian is aware that a child is being physically bullied at school but takes no action to intervene or report the situation, thereby permitting ongoing mental and physical suffering.
  • Injury in Custody: While responsible for a child, the accused intentionally caused or allowed harm to the child’s health or person.

Alternative C – Injury in Custody

  • Example: A babysitter, in charge of a child, knowingly allows the child to play with dangerous household items, leading to the child’s injury.

Alternative D – Danger in Custody

  • Danger in Custody: While in charge of a child, the accused intentionally placed the child in a potentially harmful situation (Criminal Negligence).
  • Example: A parent leaves a young child alone in a car on a hot day, knowingly putting the child in a situation with a high risk of heatstroke or death.(Criminal Negligence)

 In all cases, it must also be established that:

  • Circumstances of Harm: The accused’s actions were likely to cause significant harm or death.
  • Example: A caregiver gives a child medication not prescribed to them (criminal negligence), which could have resulted in serious harm or death due to potential allergic reactions or overdoses.

Additional Elements of Child Endangerment PC 273 (If Relevant)

  • Criminal Negligence: Required in Alternatives B, C, and D.
  • Example for Alternative B: A teacher notices signs of abuse on a child but chooses to ignore them, failing to report or take action, thereby neglecting the child’s welfare.(Criminal Negligence)
  • Example for Alternative C: A foster parent fails to seek medical attention for a visibly ill child in their care, resulting in worsening of the child’s condition.(Criminal Negligence)
  • Example for Alternative D: A guardian allows a child to stay in a home where illegal drugs are openly used and where violent behavior frequently occurs, endangering the child’s safety and well-being.(Criminal Negligence)
  • Parental Discipline: The act wasn’t a reasonable disciplinary measure.
  • Example: A parent uses extreme physical force as punishment for a minor misbehavior, like spanking a child to the point of bruising for not completing homework, which is excessive and not considered reasonable discipline.

Definitions for Clarity for Child Endangerment PC 273(a)(a)

  • Willfully: Done intentionally or on purpose.
  • Likely to Cause Great Bodily Harm or Death: High probability of serious injury or death.
  • Great Bodily Harm: More than minor or moderate injury.
  • Child: Anyone under 18 years of age.
  • Unjustifiable Pain or Suffering: Excessive or unnecessary pain or suffering.
  • Criminal Negligence: A significant deviation from the standard of care.

Penal Code 273a: Key Elements

  • Circumstances Leading to Harm: Situations posing a risk of serious injury or death.
  • Intentional Acts or Omissions: Deliberate actions or neglect.
  • Inflicting Suffering: Causing unnecessary physical or mental pain.
  • Responsibility of Caregivers: Breach of the

Punishments and Penalties for Child Endangerment PC 273(a)(a)

Penalties vary based on the severity of the offense and can range from imprisonment in county jail (not exceeding one year) to state prison for more severe cases (two, four, or six years) and in addition you will have to take child abuse classes during your period of probation. . The court considers the extent of harm or potential harm to the child in determining the sentence. This crime is what they call a wobbler offense in California, in that it can be charged either as a misdemeanor child endangerment case or a felony offense. A lot of this depends on the bodily injury aspect that was suffered. 

Examples of Penal Code Child Endangerment PC 273(a)(a)

  • A parent leaving a young child unattended in a car on a hot day, posing a risk of heatstroke.
  • A caregiver physically assaulting a child, causing injuries.
  • A guardian exposing a child to ongoing domestic violence or substance abuse, resulting in mental trauma.

Legal defenses against accusations under Penal Code 273a might include:

 Lack of willful intent to harm or endanger the child.

  • The accused was not responsible for the child’s care or custody.
  • The actions were a part of reasonable disciplinary measures and did not cause physical harm or mental suffering.

Mandatory Reporting and CPS with Child Endangerment PC 273(a)(a)

California law requires certain professionals, like teachers and medical practitioners, to report suspected child abuse cases. Once these reports are in then a CPS worker will go to school to interview the child.

In Orange County If this happens then OC Social Services and Child Protective Services will have a social worker at school and a police officer will also show up to interview the child in danger or children for the bodily injury.

This then kicks off a full investigation for child endangerment  to determine whether there is a ordinary negligence, criminal negligence (child neglect), or willful abuse.  Eventually the child could end up be taken to Orangewood Home and Dependency Proceedings  can start if the suspicions are substantiated and parental rights possibly terminated. This means minor child being taken from the home and placed in a foster family. The offending parent will then be arrested for child abuse and the remaining parent will be questioned about their negligence or knowledge of what was going on. It is important to have a criminal defense attorney available during this part of the case for getting the family reunified. 

Scenario 1: Excessive Physical Discipline

A parent in an upper-middle-class family spanks their child with such force that it leaves bruises and welts. Neighbors hear the child’s cries and report it to authorities. This could be viewed as causing unjustifiable physical pain under Penal Code 273a because there is bodily injury involved. This will result in Child Protective Services doing an interview with the child and the school for excess corporal punishment. The parent will be facing felony child abuse charges. 

Scenario 2: Emotional Abuse

A child is subjected to constant verbal abuse, including being called derogatory names and being told they are worthless by their parents. This causes the child significant emotional distress and could be seen as mental suffering under the law. Even without the bodily injury, Child Protective Services can still make the case that the parent is running afoul of child endangerment laws because of the emotional damage. Child custody will be an issue in dependency court and a criminal court can result in a child endangerment conviction. 

Scenario 3: Neglect Due to Overdiscipline

A parent grounds their teenager for months, forbidding any contact with friends or access to electronic devices, as punishment for a minor infraction. The isolation leads to the teenager developing depression and anxiety. This might be considered as placing the child in a harmful situation. This is another case where bodily injury is not needed. Emotional harm and depression are sufficient grounds for Child Protective Services to start an investigation on the minor child for a charge of child endangerment. They can go under the theory of disregard for life and exposing the child to a risk of harm. 

 Scenario 4: Withholding Food as Punishment

Parents decide to punish their child for poor grades by withholding meals. The child is often sent to bed hungry and begins to show signs of malnutrition. This could be viewed as willfully causing or permitting the child’s health to be injured and the government will argue that it is dangerous human life and b doing this you are presenting an unreasonable risk to the health of the minor child. In otherwords you are acting inconsistent with the ordinary care of a resonaable person in child care. This results in the distrcit attorney moving forward with the case in the absence of any acts of violence. 

Scenario 5: Failure to Protect from Harm

A child expresses fear of being left with a particular family member due to past incidents of inappropriate behavior. The parents dismiss the child’s concerns and continue to leave them in this person’s care, where the child is subsequently harmed. This could fall under willfully permitting the child to be placed in a situation where their health or person is endangered.

This is another scenario where there does not need to be bodily injury to happen. If the behavior was no appropriate and a reasonable person should have seen it then there is a duty for the parent to know about this. It can be argued that a careful person would have taken the child out due to the child expressing fear. Hence the argument will go along the lines of a criminal offense is there because of the risk of unjustifiable injury. A formal filing will take place because of a mistake in judgment even in the absence of physical abuse. 

Scenario 6: Dangerous Home Environment

A family, despite having the means, lives in a home with hazardous conditions like exposed wiring, easily accessible toxic substances, and unsecured firearms. A child in the home gets injured due to these hazards. The situation could be seen as endangering the child’s health or safety.

The state can argue that the bodily injury suffered here would not have happened with a reasonable person. In otherwords, the person who has the home here and left the conditions the way they were with children around had excercised ordinary negligence. A careful person such as a parent with a higher regard for human life would not have this momentary lapse in judgement. In this type of scenario parenting classes would be a condition of probation.  

Scenario 7: Physical Punishment Resulting in Injury

During a disciplinary action, a parent throws an object at the child, resulting in a physical injury that requires medical attention. Even if this was an isolated incident, it could be seen as an act of willfully causing injury to the child’s health.

The bodily injury is concerning even the parent wasa  good one and this is a one off incident. An argument can be made that a careful person with regard for human life would not have done this. As a result, this should be a felony child endangerment case because of the acts of violence invovolved.  This type of scenarios happens often in Orange County, California. 

Physical abuse will result in the children being sent to a hospital for medical treatment. In addition to this, the custody of child will be taken away from potentially both parents. 

Each of these scenarios presents a situation where the actions of parents or guardians could potentially fall under the purview of Penal Code 273a due to the risk or actual infliction of physical or mental harm to a child. The law requires a careful examination of the facts and circumstances of each case.

 Consequences Child Endangerment PC 273(a)(a)

Abuse is a serious offense, and if convicted under Penal Code 273aa, the consequences can be severe. This article aims to provide an overview of the potential punishments and legal considerations for those facing such charges.

  1. Misdemeanor Offense: Child abuse can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances. A misdemeanor conviction typically involves less severe punishment than a felony. However, it can still result in a jail sentence, fines, and mandatory counseling or community service.
  2. Felony Conviction: If the offense is charged as a felony due to the severity or nature of the abuse, the consequences are more severe. A felony conviction can lead to a longer jail sentence, higher fines, and more stringent conditions upon release.
  3. Period of Probation: Whether as a misdemeanor or felony, probation is a common component of sentencing for child abuse. The term of probation varies but generally lasts several years.
  4. Conditions of Probation: These may include mandatory counseling, community service, no contact orders with the victim, and regular check-ins with a probation officer. Violating these conditions can result in additional penalties or imprisonment.
  5. Formal Probation: For more severe cases, especially felonies, the court may impose formal probation. This type of probation is more rigorous and involves closer supervision by a probation officer.
  6. Initial Consultation: If you’re facing charges under Penal Code 273aa, it’s crucial to seek legal advice immediately. An initial consultation with a criminal defense attorney can provide guidance on your rights, potential defenses, and the legal process ahead.

It’s important to remember that each case is unique, and the specifics of the charges and the individual’s background will influence the outcome. Legal representation is vital in navigating the complexities of the criminal justice system and in ensuring that your rights are protected throughout the process.

Conclusion on Child Endangerment PC 273

Penal Code 273a reflects California’s commitment to protecting children from abuse and neglect. It covers a broad spectrum of abusive or neglectful behaviors, emphasizing the legal responsibility of caregivers and the importance of safeguarding children’s welfare. The law serves as a deterrent and a tool for legal intervention in cases where a child’s well-being is at risk.

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