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Child endangerment charges can turn your life upside down.

Not only do you have to deal with a serious criminal offense, but you might also have to fight for custody of and visitation with your children.

You’re in a tough situation, and you might wonder how to get a child endangerment charge dropped so you can get your life back on track.

San Diego criminal attorney Kerry Armstrong and his associates with the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, know that you might feel helpless.

However, their tremendous experience could help get your child endangerment charges dropped.

Criminal defense attorney Kerry L. Armstrong holds the rare distinction of being certified in criminal law by the State Bar of California’s Board of Legal Specialization.

With hundreds of trials and decades of experience under their belts, Kerry L. Armstrong and his team will give you the defense you deserve.

What Is the Child Endangerment Definition Under the California Penal Code?

Penal Code section 273a defines child endangerment.

Penal Code section 273a states that child endangerment is willfully putting a child in a situation where the child might die or suffer great bodily harm.

This section also describes child endangerment as permitting or inflicting unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering on a child.

Penal Code section 273a further states that permitting or putting a child’s health in danger is child endangerment as well. A child is someone younger than 18 years old.

You may wonder, “Is child endangerment a felony or misdemeanor?”

This is an important question to ask your lawyer because it will help you understand the significance of the crime with which you are charged. 

Child Endangerment Penalties/Punishment

In California, “wobblers” are crimes that a prosecutor could charge as either a misdemeanor or felony.

Penal Code section 273a(a) is a wobbler, which means the penalty can “wobble” between felony or misdemeanor penalties. 

If the court determines the facts warrant a misdemeanor charge, then you could go to county jail for up to one year.

However, you could go to the state prison for either two, four, or six years if the judge decides to punish you as a felon.

Penal Code section 273a(b) is a child endangerment misdemeanor charge exclusively.

Under this section, you could spend one year in the county jail for child endangerment if the act endangered the child’s health.

Thus, the difference between Penal Code section 273(a) and (b) is in the severity of the harm the child suffered. 

If you are convicted, the judge examines the facts of the case and your criminal record to figure out a just and proper punishment—which may or may not include incarceration. 

The judge could grant you probation instead of sending you to jail. With that said, Penal Code section 273a(c) requires the judge to impose the following probationary sanctions:

  • A probationary term of at four years;
  • A protective order that prohibits you from having any contact with the victim(s);
  • Completion of a child abuser’s program;
  • Payment of all associated fees;
  • A court order to remain drug and alcohol-free; and 
  • Mandatory submission to random urine tests.

The judge can waive some of these requirements in the interest of justice. 

Charges Related to Child Endangerment

Child abuse and neglect are charges related to child endangerment.

Penal Code section §270 criminalizes the failure of a parent to care for their child. Caring for a child means providing food, shelter, clothing, medical care, or other remedial care.

Child neglect is a misdemeanor that carries up to one year in jail and a $2,000 fine. 

If a criminal court finds that a parent continues to neglect their child, the crime could be charged as a felony or misdemeanor.

The accused could go to state prison for one year and one day. Or, instead of sending you to prison, the court could order a one-year county jail sentence. 

Child abuse Penal Code sections 273ab and 273d protect a child from physical abuse committed by the people who care for them.

Under Penal Code section 273ab, a person could serve 25 years to life for killing a child under eight years of age.

This charge is appropriate if the person used force that was likely to produce great bodily harm. This charge does not replace a murder charge but it carries the same prison sentence.

Similarly, a person who has care or custody of a child under eight and assaults the child with such force that the child goes into a coma or becomes paralyzed faces a life sentence.

The law allows the person a chance at parole.

Award-Winning Advocacy

Contact the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, by calling 619-648-3250

Trial Lawyer of the Year award-winners Kerry Armstrong and Dan Greene believe in fighting for justice.

We are dedicated criminal defense lawyers who pride ourselves on helping people when they need it most.

Call us today to talk about your case and discuss how to get a child endangerment charge dropped before it’s too late.

Author Photo

Kerry L. Armstrong


Attorney Kerry Armstrong opened up his law firm in June 2007. Mr. Armstrong attended Thomas Jefferson School of Law, San Diego, California, and received his B.S. from Middle Tennessee State University. Kerry L. Armstrong became certified by the State Bar of California’s Board of Legal Specialization for criminal law in August 2020, making him one of the few criminal defense attorneys with a criminal law legal specialization certificate in San Diego County.  Between 2014 – 2019, Mr. Armstrong was selected for inclusion in the California Super Lawyers list, an honor only awarded to 5% of the nation’s attorneys.

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