Although you have wide latitude in how you can raise your child, if you fail to provide him/her with necessities like food and shelter without a lawful excuse, you could be guilty of child neglect.

The prosecutors and judges take child neglect charges seriously. If you are under investigation or arrested as a suspect in a child neglect case, reach out to a reliable defense attorney without delay. Aside from the possible stiff penalties, a child neglect charge conviction can impact several aspects of your life, including losing child custody rights.

At Restraining Order Law Firm, our profound attorneys have significant experience handling a wide range of child crimes, including child neglect, and we can help you obtain the best results. If you are charged with an alleged child neglect offense in Los Angeles, you can rely on our team of attorneys for legal guidance and representation in court.

We will intervene and investigate the case to explore defenses that could work in your favor for a lighter charge or case dismissal.

Child Neglect Offense at a Glance

Despite the enforcement of harsh laws to protect children, the offense of child neglect is a concerning problem nationwide. According to Penal Code (PC) 270, you commit the offense of child neglect when you (the parent or legal custodian) willfully fail to provide necessities like food, water, shelter, medicine, and clothing to your child. Below are examples of child neglect cases:

  • A mother fails to provide his 8-year old boy with medical attention when he is ill.
  • A foster parent fails to feed a 6-year-old girl in their care, making her malnourished.
  • A father fails or ignores his/her responsibility to provide her daughter with appropriate clothing, for example, warm clothes when it is cold or winter.

In simple terms, child neglect is any careless, inattentive, or negligent treatment against a child that could endanger his/her health and welfare.

What to Expect at Various Court Stages if You Are Under Arrest for Child Neglect

Upon an arrest for an alleged PC 270 violation, it would help to know what to expect at various stages of the court system to prepare what you need in advance for the best possible outcome. In most cases, after an arrest on suspicion that you are a culprit in a child neglect case, the police hold you in the detention facility until your first court appearance.

Briefly explained below is what to expect at various court stages if you are in trouble with the law for a PC 270 violation:

Arraignment Hearing

Although the criminal justice system begins with an arrest, the arraignment hearing will be your first encounter with the judge. Depending on whether your arrest occurred on a weekday or weekend, the arraignment hearing should occur no later than 72 hours after the arrest. During this hearing, the judge with jurisdiction over your case will do the following:

  • Inform you of the alleged child neglect charge.
  • Inform you of your constitutional rights, including rights to a defense attorney, the right to stay or silent, and the right to a speedy trial.
  • Inform you of your plea options, including not guilty, guilty, and no contest.
  • Determine your eligibility for a release on bail based on the following factors:
  1. Likelihood of returning to court to challenge the allegations you are up against.
  2. The severity of the alleged violation.
  3. Whether you have a record of skipping bail.
  4. Your behavior in court.

If you are eligible for a release on bail, the court will allow you to secure your freedom on the condition that you return to court for the scheduled hearings and abide by the set terms and requirements.

The Pretrial Hearing

Before your trial, the court could require you to attend a pretrial hearing to determine whether your case qualifies to stand trial based on the available evidence the prosecutor has against you. At the pretrial hearing, the prosecutor and your attorney will exchange their evidence and negotiate a favorable plea deal.

A plea bargain deal is an agreement between the prosecutor and your attorney where you, the defendant, agree to enter a no-contest or guilty plea in exchange for a lighter sentence or case dismissal.

Although most cases will resolve at this stage of the court system, your case will progress to trial if that is impossible. The purpose of the pretrial hearing is to discuss motions and issues that require resolving before the trial hearing.

The Trial Hearing

If a plea bargain deal is not an option at pretrial, you should be ready to challenge the alleged PC 270 violation at trial. At trial, you can decide to have a judge or a jury determine whether the allegations you are facing are true.

If your attorney is familiar with the local judges and prosecutors and how they treat these kinds of cases, he/she will likely opt for a trial by judge, also known as a bench trial, for the best possible outcome. Whether you decide to go for a bench or jury trial, the prosecutor has a legal burden to prove the following elements of the crime to secure a conviction against you under PC 270:

  • You Were The Parent of the Child

According to PC 270, a parent includes biological parents, foster parents, adoptive parents, and anyone who holds themselves as a parent, including the husband of any lady who gives birth to a baby while he/she is living with her. To secure a conviction against you for a PC 270 violation, the prosecutor must provide evidence to show that you qualify as the parent of the child in question.

  • You Failed or Refused to Provide Basic Necessities to the Child

As a parent, you are under a legal obligation to provide all the necessities a child needs for his/her well-being and health, including:

  1. Shelter.
  2. Medical care, including dental care.
  3. Clothing.
  4. Food.
  5. Remedial care.

Your Failure to Provide Was Willful and Without a Lawful Excuse

To secure a conviction against you for a PC 270 violation, the prosecutor must convince the court that you willfully failed to provide necessities to your child without a lawful excuse. You commit an act willfully when you do so willingly and on purpose. On this element, the prosecutor must also prove you did not have a lawful excuse to fail to provide the required necessities to your child.

 According to PC 270, you have a lawful excuse to fail to care for your child if:

  • You are unable to earn money to feed your child.
  • You do have assets or properties to pay for your child's needs.
  • All of the above is not your fault.

If you have a job with a steady income, the prosecutor could argue that you deliberately failed or refused to provide necessities to your child for a conviction under PC 270.

The trial is the most emotional and challenging stage of the legal justice system because the court's decision at this point could have life-changing consequences. However, with the help of a defense attorney, you could stand a chance to obtain the best possible outcome, including a case dismissal or a lighter charge.

Penalties for a PC 270 Violation Conviction

A PC 270 violation conviction can attract both criminal and administrative penalties. In most cases, the prosecutor will file a PC 270 violation as a misdemeanor, resulting in the following potential penalties upon conviction:

  • A fine not exceeding $2,000.
  • Up to one year of jail time.

While it is rare, the prosecutor could file a PC 270 violation as a felony if you willfully fail to provide necessities to your child upon request by the court to do so. For instance, this could happen when the court determines in a paternity lawsuit that you are the child's legal parent and have refused to care for him after this verdict.

As a felony, a PC 270 violation conviction will attract the following legal penalties:

  • A county jail term not exceeding one year or
  • Up to one year and one day in the state prison.
  • Up to $2,000 maximum fine.

Instead of a jail term, the court could sentence you to misdemeanor or felony probation, but you must be ready to comply with particular terms and conditions, including:

  • Consent to attend parenting classes.
  • Attend a counseling session.
  • Agree to regular meet-ups with the court-appointed probation officer.
  • Agree to remain alcohol and drug-free.

If you are unsure what to do and not to do while on probation, do not hesitate to speak with your attorney because violating these conditions will result in a probation violation. Upon your arrest for allegedly violating your probation conditions, the court will hold a hearing to determine whether the allegations are true beyond a reasonable doubt. If you are guilty of probation violation, the court could decide to:

  • Revoke your probation and sentence you to jail for the maximum time required for a PC 270 violation conviction.
  • Reinstate your probation but with harsher conditions.

A skilled defense attorney can increase your chances of qualifying for misdemeanor or felony probation to avoid the detrimental consequences of serving your sentence behind bars.

Other Life-Changing Impacts of a PC 270 Violation Conviction

On top of the above standard legal penalties, a PC 270 violation conviction will attract the following long-lasting consequences:

Loss of Child Custody

Child Protective Services (CPS) could remove the minor if you are guilty of child neglect under PC 270. However, before removing the child from your custody, the CPS will provide the necessary support to keep the child at home. If the CPS determines that you cannot stay with the child at home after their support, they will make arrangements for foster care.

Loss of Your Gun Rights

If you are guilty of a felony PC 270 violation, you will lose your rights to own, buy, or carry a firearm because it is illegal for a felon to own a gun under PC 29800.

A Criminal Record

A PC 270 violation conviction will remain on your criminal record and appear on any background check, limiting your ability to secure reliable employment and housing unless you obtain an expungement.

An expungement can remove several negative consequences associated with a conviction and give you a fresh start after serving your sentence and paying all your dues for a PC 270 violation conviction.

Defenses to Challenge the Alleged PC 270 Violation

If you are under arrest for a PC 270 violation, there are a few viable defenses a seasoned attorney can use to challenge the charge for the best possible outcome, including:

You Did Not Neglect the Child Willingly

You could avoid a PC 270 violation conviction if you argue the neglect was unintentional. For instance, if you suddenly lost your job or income, the court could agree to dismiss or reduce the alleged violation.

You Had a Lawful Excuse for Failing to Provide Care to Your Child

Recall that it is not illegal under PC 270 if you have a lawful excuse for failing to provide necessities for your child. Your attorney can argue that you had a lawful excuse for failing to provide necessities to your child if you sustained a severe injury in an accident, limiting your ability to care for the child for weeks.

Pictures of the accident, your injuries, and your medical bills could be helpful to prove this element of the crime for the best possible outcome.

You Were Accused Falsely

Unfortunately, people accuse others of offenses they did not commit, and child neglect is a crime ripe for false accusations. For instance, your co-parent can falsely blame you for failing to care for your child because she wants more money from you after a nasty divorce.

In that situation, your attorney can argue that you are a victim of false accusations for the best possible outcome on the alleged PC 270 violation.

You Acted Within Your Constitutional Rights

As a parent, you have a constitutional right to discipline your child as you deem fit. What could be a simple punishment can be misinterpreted as child neglect by a third party.

Offenses Related to Child Neglect

There are several crimes related to child neglect laws under PC 270 because they have similar elements that the prosecutor must prove to secure a conviction against you. They include:

Child Abuse

According to PC 273d, you commit the crime of child abuse when you willfully inflict cruel corporal punishment on a child, resulting in a distressing condition. Here are examples of behavior that could attract child abuse charges:

  • Punching your 14-year-old boy in the face for poor performance or misbehavior.
  • Slapping a child hard enough to leave a swollen mark on his/her face.

Since child abuse is a wobbler offense, a conviction could result in misdemeanor or felony penalties. If charged as a misdemeanor, a PC 273d violation conviction will attract the following punishment:

  • A fine not exceeding $6,000.
  • Up to one year of jail time.
  • Misdemeanor probation.

However, when the prosecutor files a PC 273d violation as a felony, a conviction will carry harsher penalties, including:

  • A fine not exceeding $6,000.
  • Two, four, or six years of jail time.
  • Felony probation.

Child Endangerment

Depending on the facts and circumstances of your case, the prosecutor could file child endangerment charges against you alongside or instead of child neglect. Although many refer to it as "child abuse," child endangerment is a separate crime under PC 273a(a).

According to this law, you commit the offense of child endangerment when you willfully place or allow someone to place a child in situations that endanger his/her life or health. Below are examples of what could attract a charge under this statute:

  • Drunk driving with a child in your car.
  • Leaving a loaded firearm where your 7-year-old boy can easily access it.
  • Refusing to seek medical care for a sick child.

The penalties you will face upon a PC 273a(a) violation conviction will depend on whether there was a risk of severe bodily injury or death to the child. If there is no possibility of either, a child endangerment conviction will carry the following misdemeanor penalties:

  • A jail term not exceeding one year.
  • Up to $1,000 maximum fine.
  • Misdemeanor probation.

If the child were at risk of severe injury or death, the child endangerment case would become a wobbler offense. When charged as a felony, a PC 273a(a) violation conviction will attract the following potential penalties:

  • A fine amounting to up to $10,000.
  • Two, four, or six years of jail time.
  • Felony probation.

Find a Los Angeles Defense Attorney Near Me

Our attorneys at Restraining Order Law Firm have helped several people challenge child neglect charges in Los Angeles, and we can help you obtain the best possible outcome. You can count on our experienced attorneys for the legal representation you need to secure the best possible outcome on the alleged PC 270 violation.

Call us at 424-600-7691 for an obligation-free consultation with our profound and skilled defense attorneys.