How to Get Child Endangerment Penal Code section 273a Charge Dropped

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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. 

How to Get a Child Endangerment Charge Dropped

To get a child endangerment charge dropped, you need to present exculpatory evidence. This means showing proof that you did not commit the offense. You can gather this evidence yourself or hire a criminal defense lawyer to help you.

Additionally, you should explore possible legal defenses, such as demonstrating that you took reasonable steps to ensure the child’s safety or that your actions were not intentional.

It’s crucial to have a skilled San Diego criminal defense attorney on your side who specializes in child endangerment cases. They can navigate the legal process, negotiate with prosecutors, and advocate for your innocence effectively. Every case is unique, so it’s essential to seek legal advice promptly and explore all available options for defense.

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.

Contact a San Diego Criminal Defense Lawyer

Reach out now for personalized legal support and defense strategies. Act now – Your future matters.

Award-Winning Advocacy

Contact the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, by calling 619-234-2300

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.

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

Child Endangerment in California – FAQs

What Are Some Common Defenses Against Child Endangerment Charges?

Common defenses against child endangerment charges in California include lack of intent, lack of knowledge, challenges to the prosecution’s evidence, assertions of reasonable care, claims of false accusations, arguments regarding parental rights, presentation of alibis, and challenges to constitutional violations in the arrest or investigation process.

How Long Does It Take to Resolve a Child Endangerment Case in California?

The duration to resolve a child endangerment case in California can vary widely based on several factors, including the complexity of the case, the court’s schedule, and whether a plea agreement is reached or the case goes to trial. Some cases may be resolved relatively quickly, within a few months, especially if there’s strong evidence or if the defendant agrees to plead guilty.

However, more complex cases, or those involving extensive legal proceedings such as pre-trial motions, expert testimony, or appeals, can take significantly longer, sometimes stretching over a year or more before a final resolution is reached.

What Factors Do Prosecutors Consider When Deciding Whether to Drop Child Endangerment Charges?

Prosecutors consider several factors when deciding whether to drop child endangerment charges in California. These factors include the strength of the evidence against the defendant, the seriousness of the alleged offense, the defendant’s criminal history, the likelihood of securing a conviction at trial, the interests of justice, and any potential mitigating circumstances or defenses presented by the defense.

Prosecutors may also consider the wishes of the victim or their family, the impact of the case on community safety, and the availability of resources for prosecution. Ultimately, the decision to drop charges rests with the prosecutor’s discretion, and they weigh these factors carefully before making a determination.

Can a Child Endangerment Charge be Expunged?

In California, child endangerment charges can potentially be expunged from your criminal record under certain circumstances. Expungement, also known as dismissal, allows individuals who have completed their probation period successfully to petition the court to have their conviction set aside and their case dismissed.

However, eligibility for expungement depends on various factors, including the specific details of the case and whether you have fulfilled all the requirements of your probation.

Where You Can Find Our San Diego Office

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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