Fontana Child Neglect Attorney and Child Neglect Defense

Facing any type of criminal charge can be devastating. The implications of a conviction extend beyond prison time and fines. It can have a lasting impact on your reputation, your employment opportunities, and your ability to find housing. However, when the charges of a crime involve a child victim, the obstacles in front of the accused are often greater, as the prosecution will seek to maximize the penalties.

At My SoCal Lawyers, our attorneys know this to be true in cases of child neglect. While we empathize with the victims of such crimes, we understand that the charges that you or a loved one may face do not always reflect the facts. Our team investigates the circumstances of each case to build an argument that provides our clients with the defense that they deserve. From examining witness statements to reviewing police reports, our team completes a thorough review to ensure that the charges are accurate. We seek to help our clients get their charges reduced or dismissed.

Child Neglect vs. Child Abuse

Although both are forms of domestic violence, it can be falsely assumed that child neglect and child abuse are similar. However, the charges for each are different. Child neglect is specifically defined in Penal Code 270, and charges filed against the accused will likely be filed under this statute. However, the definition of neglect is specifically outlined in Section 11165.2. Under this section, child neglect is defined as:

  1. A person who is entrusted with the child’s health and welfare engaged in negligent treatment toward a child.
  2. Their actions specifically harmed or threatened that child’s well-being.

To prove that child neglect occurred, it must be shown that a parent or legal guardian was criminally responsible for their failure to provide for their child. To do this, there must be three key factors established. These include:

  1. The accused is the parent, legal guardian, or person who is legally responsible for the welfare of the child.
  2. There was a failure by that person to provide adequate welfare for the child.
  3. The failure occurred willfully or without a lawful excuse.

Those who are charged with the legal care of a child can include biological parents, a parent through adoption, grandparents, or other family members recognized by the legal system. Other forms of parenting may grow complicated, particularly for fathers. However, if a wife has a child while living with her husband, that child is considered the responsibility of the husband.

Many confuse neglect and abuse because they are both harmful to the child. However, the law sees them differently. Abuse is the intentional infliction of physical or emotional trauma toward a child by an adult. Neglect occurs when a child is intentionally denied the necessary essentials for survival. Such necessities include food, shelter, clothing, healthcare, medicine, etc. Neglect does not have to be ongoing and can occur in a singular occurrence.

Neglect can also occur in many forms in Fontana, CA. For example, a parent could take the child to a doctor for a severe medical emergency. The doctor prescribes medication, but the parent intentionally withholds the medication, causing the child to suffer. A parent could also be charged with neglect if they fail to provide medical care altogether if, for example, the child broke a bone or is suffering from a major illness.

Under California law, neglect is separated into two categories:

  • Severe neglect. Severe neglect occurs when a person charged with the legal responsibility of caring for and protecting a child fails to provide for the child, resulting in malnutrition or general unhealthiness after a medical diagnosis.
  • General neglect. If there is a failure to provide basic needs, but there is no physical injury or the threat of injury is minimal, then it is considered general neglect.

To be charged with child neglect, you must be the parent or legal guardian of a child. This means that you must have legal custody in one of two ways:

  • Physical custody. In this situation, you are the guardian with whom your child lives.
  • Legal custody. Under this definition, you are the guardian who has the right and responsibility to make and be involved in the decision-making for your child, including healthcare needs, education, and general welfare.

For those who are divorced, were never married, or have never had a formal custody agreement, you may not qualify under either definition. It is also important to understand that, if you have legal custody but are not with your child physically, you can still be held responsible for child neglect. The child does not need to be in your physical presence for charges to be filed against you.

Mandatory Reporting of Child Neglect

Investigating child neglect is a legal responsibility, and specific individuals have a legal duty to report such circumstances for investigation. Although they are defined differently by the law, child neglect is considered a form of child abuse, which people in certain occupations are mandated to report. Groups that must report such instances include:

  • Teachers
  • Aides of teachers
  • School administrators
  • Employees who work in licensed child daycare facilities or community facilities
  • Classified employees who are trained in identifying child abuse
  • Employees who work in group homes
  • Religious leaders, including priests, rabbis, ministers, or other such practitioners
  • Medical employees, including doctors, nurses, and psychologists

This list is not exhaustive, but it does show that mandatory reporters are those who work in occupations that oversee or work with children. Individuals who are responsible for mandatory reporting must do so to the local Child Protective Services.

For those who may be accused of child neglect, it is important to remember that these individuals are required to report the facts presented to them. The information provided is generally based on observations or specific statements by the child or another person who interacts with them.

Fontana Child Neglect Lawyer and Child Neglect Defense Attorney

The Role of Child Protective Services in Fontana, CA

Charges of child neglect can be difficult to navigate because they will almost certainly involve an investigation by the Department of Children and Family Services, in addition to Child Protective Services. These entities are responsible for investigating the reports provided by law enforcement or by mandatory reporters. Instinctually, you will want to engage in questioning and conversation with these entities to not only defend yourself but to protect your children as well.

It is imperative to remember that the answers you provide can have a significant impact on your future and on your case. The goal of these entities is to protect children, and they will likely do what they can to ensure that happens. If you are contacted by these groups, you have a right to representation, as you would in any criminal questioning. You have a right to have an attorney present during the questioning, and it is strongly encouraged that you use that right with an attorney who understands child neglect cases.

In many cases, the investigation by CPS/DCFS will not reveal all the details of the case, and they will then try to drive the conversation in a way that forces you to incriminate yourself. In addition, they are trained in child neglect laws and often know how the legal system will respond to specific information or procedural processes. Often, they will try to steer the conversation in that direction.

If you are contacted by such an agency, you will likely feel like you should cooperate because, if you do not, it appears like you may be guilty. However, you should engage as minimally as possible without the presence of your attorney, who can help guide you through the questioning. You should also ensure that you ask for clarification on the specific charges against you. If you are presented with generalizations, such as abuse or neglect, ask for the details so you can fully understand the accusations. In addition, ask that the conversation be recorded, and do not allow investigators into your home without a warrant.

Child Neglect Penalties

California uses the term “wobbler” to describe the potential penalties for child neglect. This is because the circumstances of the crime will determine if it is classified as a misdemeanor or as a felony, both of which will vary in the imposed penalties. Charging child neglect as a felony is rare, but it is not out of the question. This is often reserved for repeat offenders, but the circumstances of the case will determine the charges.

If the charge is classified as a misdemeanor, it will be a Class A charge, which will carry a punishment that includes:

  • Jail time for up to twelve months
  • Probation
  • Fines totaling up to $2,000

If the charge is a felony, punishments may include:

  • Up to twelve months in jail
  • Prison time of twelve months plus one day
  • Fines of up to $2,000

The evidence in your case will determine how it is charged as well as any additional charges that may be added. These charges could include child endangerment or child abuse, among others.

The legal penalties are not all that could impact your life. As with any criminal record, you could also find difficulty in securing housing or finding employment, and your tarnished reputation could impact your relationships with friends and family. Working with an attorney who is experienced in child neglect cases can help you improve the chances of having your case dismissed or your charges reduced.

Defending Child Neglect Charges

There is no standard defense for child neglect. However, there are some key strategies that could help in building a defense against these serious charges. Proving that the offense happened is the responsibility of the state, and an arrest should not be mistaken for a conviction. Your attorney can review the charges against you and help evaluate the evidence. They can then use this to plan the right defense for you. Common defense strategies may include:

  • False allegations. Often, this occurs because of other troubles in a relationship. A good example of this occurring is when an ex, or soon-to-be ex, is engulfed in a custody battle with you and is alleging neglect as a way to win the custody case.
  • This usually occurs when reports are filed by mandatory reporters after a child has spoken with them. Depending on the age or the mental capacities of the child, they may confuse timelines or improperly describe a situation. This is not an intentional act but simply a misunderstanding of events.
  • Legal excuse. In some cases, there may be a legally justified excuse for what may have occurred. Your specific actions may not have meant to cause harm. This can occur in cases where a parent is working several jobs to provide for their child’s basic needs. Charges that are filed against parents who are trying to provide for their child, but are unable to fully do so, are likely not going to be successful for the prosecutor.
  • You are not legally responsible for the child. The state law requires child neglect charges to be filed against the “parent of a minor child.”

Any charges are based on the circumstances of the case, and your attorney can evaluate your circumstances to help guide you through what to expect and the potential penalties you could face.

California Child Neglect Defense Attorney

Any case of child abuse or neglect deserves to be investigated. Children deserve the protection of those entrusted with their care, and those who break that trust should be held accountable. However, all accusations are not equal, and the circumstances surrounding such charges may not always be what they appear.

If you or a loved one has been accused of child neglect, get the representation that you deserve. At My SoCal Lawyers, we know that charges aren’t always what they appear to be. The circumstances of your case deserve to be investigated, and you deserve to have a defense that meets your unique needs. Our team thoroughly reviews each case. We look at the evidence against you and the legal process you have gone through, from arrest to questioning, to ensure that your rights were protected. We also interview potential witnesses to get a more complete understanding of the situation.

Our team understands the delicate nature of such charges and, with compassion and empathy, we help navigate you through the legal process. If you are facing child neglect charges, contact our team today and get the help that you deserve.