Endangering the Welfare of a Child

Endangering the Welfare of a Child

There are several New York state laws intended to protect children. The Penal Code, Social Services Law, and Domestic Relations Law all have sections that make it a criminal offense to do anything considered detrimental to a child’s well-being. One of the most common offenses leveled at malicious or neglectful parents and guardians is Endangering the Welfare of a Child, a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.

Subsection 1 of New York Penal Law § 260.10 states that you can be charged with endangering the welfare of a child if you do either (or both) of the following:

  •  Knowingly act in a way that can harm the mental, physical, or moral welfare of a child under seventeen years of age
  • Direct or give a child permission to work at a job that poses a substantial risk to their health or life

According to this subsection, a child endangerment charge may apply if you:

  • Commit an act of domestic violence or sell drugs in a child’s presence
  • Provide alcohol or drugs to a child
  • Drive while impaired with a child in your vehicle

If you are charged with child endangerment under these circumstances, it is important to remember that no actual injury need have occurred. All the authorities have to do is prove that there was a potential for harm.

Subsection 2 applies when a parent or guardian (or someone standing in for either one) fails to:

  • Provide food, shelter, and medical care for a child
  • Exercise reasonable diligence to prevent someone under 17 from being neglected or abused or becoming a juvenile delinquent or person in need of supervision (as defined in the Family Court Act)

In addition to paying a fine or spending up to a year in jail, a conviction can result in your county’s Social Services Department filing a neglect petition in Family Court, as well as neglect investigations by New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services or Child Protective Services.

Although intended to protect children from harm, the statute is so broadly worded that sometimes decent and well-intentioned parents have been charged with child endangerment simply for disciplining their children. These cases typically arise based on overzealous CPS investigators or prosecutors.

If you have been charged with endangering the welfare of a child and / or become the subject of an ACS or CPS investigation, contact a New York criminal defense attorney immediately. They will review your case for the opportunity to advance defenses like the following:

  • No gross negligence was involved: All parents have errors in judgment at times, and not all parenting mistakes can or should be classified as willful disregard for their child’s welfare.
  • You applied a reasonable level of discipline: Legitimate and non-excessive corporal punishment is not illegal.
  • The allegations are unfounded: Many times child endangerment charges are based on unfounded allegations.

A New York child endangerment attorney will help you understand the charges against you, explain your defenses, and work diligently for the best outcome for your case. As soon as you are contacted by any agency, you should contact a criminal defense attorney. You should have a lawyer that can be at your side throughout any potential investigation. Call 212-951-1232 to speak with Julie Rendelman, a criminal defense lawyer and former prosecutor with over 20 years of legal experience. Visit www.RendelmanLaw.com to learn more about Ms. Rendelman’s services.