Child neglect occurs when a parent or guardian fails to meet the basic needs of their child. The basic needs of a child include sufficient:
- Medical care
For a parent or guardian to be convicted of child neglect, the prosecution must prove that the guardian did not have a “lawful excuse” for neglecting their child and that it was done knowingly. For example, if a parent is aware that their child is too young to care for themselves, and they knowingly go weeks or months without feeding them, they can be arrested for child neglect in California.
State law details two categories of child neglect.
General Child Neglect
General neglect occurs when a parent willfully does not meet the physical, emotional, or medical needs of their child. These basic needs include food, shelter, clothing, and more. A parent or guardian can be charged with general child neglect if they failed to provide or care for their child, but the child remained relatively unharmed. Examples of general neglect include, but aren’t limited to:
- Not supplying your children with food while knowing that they need to eat and are unable to get it themselves.
- Not feeding a child who is too young to feed themselves.
- Not obtaining proper clothing for a child (needs to be fit for the weather and their size).
- Willfully failing to have a proper home or place for your children to stay.
- Failing to supervise young children, resulting in their endangerment.
- Refusing to get medical care for a child who clearly needs it.
Severe Child Neglect
Severe child neglect can result in much harsher penalties than general neglect because it often comes with abuse charges. In cases of severe neglect, a parent or guardian fails to provide a child with their basic needs for so long that the child’s health becomes endangered.
California’s Penal Code also states that it is the responsibility of a parent or guardian to protect a child from malnutrition and other non-organic failure to thrive (NOFTT) conditions. This means that it’s their duty to ensure that a child that cannot care for themselves is receiving what they need.
Severe child neglect cases are classified by their intensity and the amount of harm that a child endured. In most situations, when a charge becomes severe child neglect, the child was physically injured or endangered in a serious way.
Potential Penalties for Neglecting a Child in California
While general child neglect is a misdemeanor in California, sometimes severe child neglect can be charged as a felony. The penalties an individual receives depend on the classification of their offense. The following are legal consequences that come with a child neglect conviction:
Most child neglect cases in California are considered general neglect, which is classified as a misdemeanor offense. However, child neglect offenses come with additional penalties on top of the state’s general misdemeanor consequences. Misdemeanor child neglect can result in:
- Fines of up to $2,000
- Jail time of up to one year
- Possible loss of child custody
While it is more uncommon, there are some instances when severe child neglect can be charged as a felony. This most often occurs when an individual receives parental rights from the court and then fails to care for their child.
- Fines of up to $2,000
- Up to one year of county jail time, in addition to one year and one day in state prison
- Loss of child custody or other parental rights
- Possible additional charges, such as child abuse or child endangerment
Why You Need an Experienced Defense Attorney
Child neglect cases are often full of conflicts, complex laws, and stereotypical opinions. This can make handling a case on your own extremely challenging. In situations like these, our team implores you to seek legal aid from a defense team that is dedicated to you. At My SoCal Lawyers, our team’s 70 years of combined experience has taught us how to handle cases efficiently and strategically. We have worked through countless criminal, personal injury, and domestic violence cases, giving us insight into how to properly represent defendants in child neglect cases. Our knowledge of California law, in addition to our vast experience, helps us offer legal assistance to our clients that is unmatchable. With the help of our lawyers, we can work together to find solutions to your unique situation.
My SoCal Lawyers: Murrieta’s Criminal Defense Team
If you or someone you know was accused of child neglect in California, it is essential that you hire a defense lawyer as soon as possible. Because child neglect and abuse charges can result in loss of custody, it’s important that you have a defense team that can represent your side of the situation. No matter the accusations, our attorneys are prepared to listen to what you have to say. To find out more about how we can assist Murrieta residents through child neglect cases, contact My SoCal Lawyers today.