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Child Neglect

Penal Code 270 PC - Child Neglect in California

California Penal Code 270 PC defines child neglect as a serious offense. It occurs when a parent or legal guardian willfully fails to provide necessities such as clothing, food, medicine, and shelter, thereby endangering the well-being of the child.

Child neglect is typically a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year and fines. PC 270 child neglect is sometimes related to domestic violence offenses.

Penal Code 270 PC - Child Neglect in California
PC 270 PC child neglect occurs when a parent or guardian willfully fails to provide basic necessities.

California state law is unwavering in its commitment to protecting children's rights to have their most basic needs met. If you are accused of willfully denying primary care to a child you are parenting or for whom you are legally responsible, the law is there to ensure justice and the child's safety.

If found guilty of PC 270 child neglect, you could face significant jail time and fines of up to $2000 per offense. This consequence underscores the seriousness of the offense.

As noted, the crime of child neglect occurs when a parent willfully and without lawful excuse fails to provide them with necessities such as clothing, food, medicine, and shelter.

The law also says that proof of abandonment or desertion of a child by a parent or failure to provide the necessary care is prima facie evidence. When deciding the ability of the parent to support their child, the court must consider income, social insurance benefits, and gifts.

A common exception to child neglect charges is when a parent cannot make enough income or does not have enough assets to provide for the child's basic needs. In this case, the parent has a 'lawful excuse' and won't be charged with a crime. This concept serves as a potential defense in child neglect cases.

Simply put, PC 270 says child neglect is willfully depriving a minor of necessary food, clothing, shelter, or medical attention. This law applies to any parent or legal guardian who fails to provide these basic needs for the minor child in their care.

The law makes it a crime for anyone who "willfully omits, without lawful excuse, to furnish necessary clothing, food, shelter or medical attendance, or other remedial care for his or her child." Notably, child neglect does not require any bodily injury to a child or disfigurement.

What Does the Child Neglect Law Say?

The full text of California Penal Code 270 PC child neglect law says the following.

"If a parent of a minor child willfully omits, without lawful excuse, to furnish necessary clothing, food, shelter or medical attendance, or other remedial care for his or her child, he or she is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars ($2,000), or by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding one year, or by both such fine and imprisonment.

If a court of competent jurisdiction has made a final adjudication in either a civil or criminal action that a person is the parent of a minor child and the person has notice of such adjudication.

Child Neglect

He or she then willfully omits, without lawful excuse, to furnish necessary clothing, food, shelter, medical attendance, or other remedial care for his or her child; this conduct is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding one year or in state prison for a determinate term of one year and one day, or by a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars ($2,000), or by both such fine and imprisonment.

This statute shall not be construed to relieve such parent from the criminal liability defined herein for such omission merely because the other parent of such child is legally entitled to the custody of such child nor because the other parent of such child or any other person or organization voluntarily or involuntarily furnishes such necessary food, clothing, shelter or medical attendance or other remedial care for such child or undertakes to do so.

Proof of abandonment or desertion of a child by such parent, or the omission by such parent to furnish necessary food, clothing, shelter or medical attendance, or other remedial care for his or her child is prima facie evidence that such abandonment or desertion or omission to furnish necessary food, clothing, shelter or medical attendance or other remedial care is willful and without lawful excuse.

The court shall consider all income, including social insurance benefits and gifts, in determining the parent's ability to support his or her child.

The provisions of this section apply whether the parents of such a child are or were ever married or divorced and regardless of any decree made in any divorce action relative to alimony or the child's support. A child conceived but not yet born is deemed an existing person in this section.

The husband of a woman who bears a child as a result of artificial insemination shall be considered the child's father for the purpose of this section if he consents in writing to the artificial insemination.

If a parent provides a minor with treatment by spiritual means through prayer alone, according to the tenets and practices of a recognized church or religious denomination, by a duly accredited practitioner, such treatment shall constitute "other remedial care" as used in this section."

Child Neglect - Quick Facts

To understand the reach of the child neglect law, consider the below quick facts about Penal Code 279 PC:

  • A "minor child" is any child under 18.
  • Unborn children are also included in the definition of "minor child."
  • A pregnant mother or expectant father could also be charged with child neglect for failing to provide primary care for the unborn fetus.
  • A "parent" of a minor child is legally responsible for the child's care.
  • A "parent" includes biological parents, adoptive parents, foster parents, or anyone else holding themselves out as a parent.
  • A "parent" also includes the husband of a pregnant woman, even if the child is not his if he currently lives with her.
  • You cannot be charged with child neglect if a court order has stripped you of your parental rights and responsibilities.
  • You are not exempt from criminal charges because you do not have legal custody or any responsibility for child support.
  • The term' lawful excuse' in the context of child neglect charges refers to situations where a parent has reasonably done everything possible to provide for the child but cannot do so. This concept serves as a potential defense in child neglect cases.
  • The term "other remedial care" refers to recognized alternative treatments, such as 'treatment by spiritual means through prayer alone by the practices of a recognized church or religious denomination.
  • This clause protects people whose religious beliefs prohibit them from seeking conventional medical care for their children, provided they seek remedial care when necessary.

Will Child Protective Services Get Involved?

A common question is whether Child Protective Services (CPS) takes your child if you are charged with child neglect. The most straightforward answer is yes, in severe cases.

Under normal conditions, CPS only removes a child from the home in cases of suspected abuse. Still, they consider it abuse to neglect to provide food, clothing, shelter, or medical care to a child, which falls under the definition of child neglect under PC 270.

Notably, CPS will usually only remove the child as a last resort. They will typically start by attempting to get support to care for the child within the home, and they will only remove the child if the child is still not being cared for with the additional support.

What Are the Related Crimes?

Several California laws are related to Penal Code 270 PC child neglect, including the following:

  • Penal Code 273d PC - child abuse. This law makes it a crime to impose physical injury or cruel punishment on a child, but reasonable corporal punishment is legal.
  • Penal Code 273a PC - child endangerment. This law imposes punishments for willfully exposing a child to pain, suffering, or danger. In other words, this statute punishes the possibility of harm to a child.
  • Penal Code 270.1 PC - school attendance. This truancy law makes it a crime when a parent or guardian provides inadequate supervision of a child's school attendance, which, in the context of the law, includes a minor six years or older and in grades kindergarten through eighth grade.

What Are the PC 270 Penalties?

Penal Code 270 PC child neglect is typically a misdemeanor offense, punishable by the following:

  • Fines up to $2000,
  • Up to one year in county jail per offense.

Sometimes, child neglect can be filed as a felony under the following circumstances:

  • You deny that the child is legally yours (paternity).
  • You are the legal parent.
  • You continue to neglect the child's basic needs.

While felony child neglect is rare, you could face a year in county jail and fines up to $2000 if convicted.

What Are the PC 270 Defenses?

Suppose you are accused of child neglect. A California criminal defense attorney can use some common legal strategies in that case.

Child Neglect Defenses

We can argue there was no willful neglect. To convict, the district attorney must prove you willfully neglected to provide for your child.

We can prove the neglect was unintentional. Maybe you suddenly lost your income, or we can argue that you had a "lawful excuse" for not providing the necessary care.

Maybe you are physically unable to make enough money to provide for your child or were involved in an accident that prevented you from providing care. Perhaps you can avoid a conviction for having a lawful excuse.

We could negotiate with the prosecutor for reduced charges or a case dismissal. Perhaps we can convince the prosecuting agency not to file formal criminal charges in the first place (DA reject). Contact us for more information. The Hedding Law Firm is based in Los Angeles, CA.

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