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What is Considered Child Endangerment in California? Important Information About PC 273a

What is considered child endangerment in California? Call the best criminal defense and best CPS defense lawyers in California.


Child endangerment charges have severe repercussions in California. Not only can a Juvenile Dependency case open up against you, but you could also be facing criminal charges. 

California Child Endangerment Laws

There are restrictions on what parents can and cannot do regarding interactions with their children. Even though parents often have a lot of freedom in how they choose to care for their children, there are laws that focus on the child’s best interests. 

In California, endangering children is seen as a domestic violence violation. Child endangerment violations are addressed under California Penal Code Section 273a. 

What Does the Law (PC 273a) Say?

Section 273a of the Penal Code defines child endangerment in California. PC 273a makes the following prohibited:

  • Willfully causing or allowing a child to experience unjustified bodily or mental pain;
  • Willfully causing or allowing a child’s person or health to be hurt; or
  • Willfully causing or allowing a child to be put in a position where their health is at risk.

Is Child Endangerment a Misdemeanor or Felony?

In California, child endangerment is a “wobbler” offense, which means that it can be prosecuted as either a felony or a misdemeanor. The prosecutor will look at the severity of the incident when deciding how to charge the crime. Whether the crime is charged as a misdemeanor or felony, the charge should be taken seriously.

Child’s Physical Condition

One of the most critical pieces of proof is the child’s physical state. Therefore, the government will usually bring in an expert who can explain how the injuries could have occurred based on their expertise and knowledge. 

In addition, the government usually brings in an expert to prove to the judge or jury that the way the defendant claims the injured occurred is improbable. 

Aside from apparent physical injuries brought on by the parent, the government will look to see if a child is gravely underweight or unwell and has not gotten medical attention. These factors will be considered evidence of neglect, which might amount to endangering the child.

Violations of PC 273a

 PC 273a looks at the severity of the offense, the possibility that the child might suffer a significant physical injury, and a child’s death or the possibility of death when determining the appropriate sentence. A felony conviction can lead to up to 6 years in prison, losing parental rights, and substantial fines. 

If nothing of the above-mentioned possibilities exists, the conduct would be considered a minor transgression or a misdemeanor crime in California. Penalties for misdemeanor child endangerment include the following:

  • Get a jail sentence of up to one (1) year
  • Taking domestic violence classes
  • Taking parenting classes
  • Paying a $1,000 fine
  • A juvenile dependency case opening-up
  • Losing parental rights

Juvenile Dependency Consequences of Child Endangerment Violations

Once the government gets involved, there is a risk that a juvenile dependency case will be opened and that Child Protective Services (CPS) may take your kids away.

Social workers will investigate to determine the following:

  • Whether any laws under WIC 300 have been violated
  • Whether the child is in danger
  • Whether your actions have jeopardized their safety or wellness,
  • Whether you are a fit parent 

If the social worker finds evidence of child endangerment in violation of WIC 300, a juvenile dependency case will be opened, and your parental rights will be on the line. 


If you have been accused of child abuse or child neglect, it is crucial to get an attorney as soon as possible.

You deserve to have a lawyer who will help you fight to get your children back. If you are dealing with a juvenile dependency case, child-welfare services case, or CPS case in Orange County, California, or Southern California, you need the juvenile dependency attorneys at ALL Trial Lawyers by your side.

Don’t risk calling the wrong lawyer. If CPS is investigating you, you do not have to deal with them alone. 

We know how the juvenile court process in California works. We have handled hundreds of juvenile dependency cases in Orange CountySan Diego CountyLos Angeles CountySan Bernardino County, and Riverside County.

We have an office located near you, and we’re ready to start working on your case.

Call us now to speak to a lawyer and for your free consultation. Call (866) 811-4255.

Dealing with a CPS case can be scary. You don’t have to face a CPS case alone.

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