Penal Code 270 PC Child Neglect

What is California Penal Code 270 PC Child Neglect?

It is against the law in California for parents to fail to provide their children with physical necessities.  This law is codified in the criminal law books as California Penal Code 270 Child Neglect.  You may sometimes also see California Penal Code 270 Child Neglect referred to as “failure to provide care”.

Let’s now explore the legal nuances and details of California Penal Code 270 PC Child Neglect.  Understanding the legal description of California Penal Code 270 PC Child Neglect is the first step in understanding the charges you face.  Later, we will explain some of the defenses to California Penal Code 270 PC Child Neglect. 

What is the legal description of California Penal Code 270 PC Child Neglect?

The legal description of California Penal Code 270 PC Child Neglect is important to understand for a variety of reasons.  First, the key issues contained in the legal description will be a point of evidentiary investigation throughout your criminal prosecution.  Hence, most of the negotiation between your California Criminal Defense Attorney and the prosecutor will be centered around whether or not there is evidence on these key issues.  Second, if the case goes to trial, the jury will be ultimately given the power to make a decision on these key issues.  Thus, the question of your guilt or innocence revolves around these issues.

There are three main ways you can end up with a conviction for California Penal Code 270 PC Child Neglect.  The first way is if you formally confess to a crime.  This is usually done by formally pleading guilty.  The second way is by accepting a plea bargain offer.  You may have committed a more serious crime but were willing to take a plea offer to California Penal Code 270 PC Child Neglect to avoid trial or more serious sanctions.  Here, you will plead guilty but it was because you agreed to do so based on negotiations with the prosecutor.  The third way is through a trial hearing, where a jury or judge makes the ultimate verdict about your guilt or innocence.

Before you can be convicted through a trial hearing, where a judge or jury makes the ultimate verdict regarding guilt, the prosecutor must prove all of the elements of the law.  Elements are simply just a fact related to the crime.  Each element has to be proven according to a minimal level of certainty.  For a California crime, each element needs to be proven “beyond a reasonable doubt”.  Remember, this rule that all the elements need to be proven before you can be convicted of a crime only applies to a trial hearing where a judge or jury makes the ultimate verdict on guilt.

For California Penal Code 270 PC Child Neglect, the elements are as follows:

  1. You are a parent of the victim child.
  2. You failed to provide your child with physical necessities.
  3. You committed the act in Element #2 purposefully.
  4. You have a lawful justification for committing the act in Element #2.

Now, let us examine each of these elements in detail.  Remember, each of these elements contain issues that will become central points of investigation and negotiation throughout your criminal prosecution.  If one of the elements is not heavily supported by evidence, your California Criminal Defense Attorney can use that to leverage a favorable plea bargain offer or even the dismissal of charges.  However, if the evidence is strong against you, your California Criminal Defense Attorney may prefer a strategy that utilizes procedural legal tools.  Or they might want to hire an investigator to spend more time building the evidentiary record in your favor.  One thing to remember, regardless of whether the evidence is strong or weak, is the uncertainty when it comes to juries.  Some juries may not give you the benefit of the doubt.  In these situations, it is important to have a California Criminal Defense Attorney who is skilled and experienced with trials.  Only then will they have the ability to pick a favorable jury or persuade juries, or even a judge, towards you favor.

Who is a “Parent” according to California Penal Code 270 PC Child Neglect?

California Penal Code 270 PC Child Neglect defines who constitutes a “parent” very broadly.  In all of the following scenarios, the defendant constitutes a parent under California Penal Code 270 PC Child Neglect:

  • You are both married to and reside with the mother of the victim (child).
  • A husband is automatically considered to be the parent of any baby his wife gives birth to if either of the following situations applies:
  • You are not sterile AND You live with your wife
  • The victim (child) was the result of artificial insemination AND You agreed to the artificial insemination (in writing).
  • You are considered to be the father of a baby even if your wife was having sexual intercourse with other persons, unless
  • You (or the mother) file a paternity suit no more than 2 years from the birth of the baby AND a judge rules that you are not the father of the baby.

You may still be legally considered the parent of a victim (child) even if you are divorced from your spouse or if you don’t have custody rights.  You can even be legally considered a parent if you never met the victim (child) or had not seen them since they were born.  However, you are not legally considered the parent if the child was legally placed for adoption.  This is also true if the baby was “safely surrendered”.  Keep in mind you are not relieved of liability if the child was formally labeled “abandoned” by a judge and legal guardianship was given to another person.  Additionally, there is no requirement that you be married to the other parent.  In fact, you don’t even have to have a relationship with other person.  A one-night hookup can result in you being a legal parent under California Penal Code 270 PC Child Neglect.

It is also possible to become a parent under California Penal Code 270 PC Child Neglect if you adopted through legal means a child or somehow took over legal guardianship/responsibility of the child.  This could occur through formal adoption.  It could also happen if you took legal responsibility over a child under California’s abandonment laws.  These laws are largely governed through the California Civil Code.  Hence, if you took responsibility over a child, you are under a legal obligation to take care of the child’s physical necessities.  Oppositely, you could be legally removed from such responsibilities (even if you are the child’s biological parents or previously adopted the child) if a judge has issued a declaration saying so.

It is important to know that California Penal Code 270 PC Child Neglect also is applicable to children who have not been born yet.  This means that a parent is legally required to provide for their unborn baby’s necessities or risk criminal sanctions.

What constitutes a Necessity according to California Penal Code 270 PC Child Neglect?

Under California Penal Code 270 PC Child Neglect, necessities refer to the child’s physical necessities.  These mainly include housing, food, clothing, and medical care. Under California Penal Code 270 PC Child Neglect, medical care may be substituted with remedial care. 

Remedial care refers to healthcare treatment completed through religious performance, such as prayer.  Hence, you are not liable under California Penal Code 270 PC Child Neglect for going to a religious healer in lieu of traditional medical treatment.  However, the remedial care provision does not apply to just any healer or any religion.  The remedial care must be given by a religious treatment worker who is part of an accepted religious organization.  Also, even though remedial care may remove you from liability under California Penal Code 270 PC Child Neglect, you might still be criminally liable under California’s other child protection laws.  This may include Penal Code 273(a) child endangerment or even under California’s homicide laws if the child dies.

Purposefully

Most criminal laws in California have a “mens rea” requirement.  This means many laws in California require a certain level of intent to be liable under that law.  You are only criminally liable under California Penal Code 270 PC Child Neglect if you committed the illegal actions purposefully.  This means you must have failed to provide for a child’s necessities on purpose.  If the illegal conduct happened accidentally or even negligently, you are not liable under California Penal Code 270 PC Child Neglect.

Lawful Justification

If you had a lawful justification for the allegedly illegal conduct, you cannot be held liable under California Penal Code 270 PC Child Neglect.  For example, if you do not have money to provide for the child’s necessities, then you might be removed from California Penal Code 270 PC Child Neglect.  However, the reason you don’t have money must be for a reason that is not your fault.  For example, if you lost your job and cannot pay rent and get evicted from your home, then this would be considered a lawful justification for not providing housing for your child.  However, the following reasons for not having money would not be considered a lawful justification for not providing for your child under California Penal Code 270 PC Child Neglect: you unreasonably spent money on other goods or services or you did not diligently try to find other work.

Furthermore, under California Penal Code 270 PC Child Neglect, a parent is required to prioritize their child.  This means that you do not avoid California Penal Code 270 PC Child Neglect liability even if another person or an organization such as a homeless shelter is supplying for the child’s wellbeing.  Hence, if a parent spends their money unreasonably, but the child is not suffering due to the altruism of another person, you may still be liable under California Penal Code 270 PC Child Neglect.

What are the potential punishments for a conviction under California Penal Code 270 PC Child Neglect?

California Penal Code 270 PC Child Neglect is considered a wobbler.  This means that the prosecutor has the option of charging you with either a misdemeanor or a felony.  This decision is made on the basis of your individual criminal history and the specific facts of the crime you are charged with.  If hired early enough in the process, before charges get formally filed at arraignment, your California Criminal Defense Attorney can negotiate with the prosecutor to charge a misdemeanor instead of a felony.  In fact, in some cases, your California Criminal Defense Attorney may even be able to persuade the prosecutor from not filing charges at all.

If you are charged with misdemeanor California Penal Code 270 PC Child Neglect, then the prosecutor will most likely be from the City Attorney’s Office.  The potential punishments for a conviction under California Penal Code 270 PC Child Neglect include: misdemeanor probation, a maximum of 1 year in a county jail, and/or a maximum fine of two thousand dollars.

If you are charged with felony California Penal Code 270 PC Child Neglect, the prosecutor will likely be from the District Attorney’s Office.  The potential punishments include any of the following: a maximum of 1 year in county jail or state prison, and a maximum fine of two thousand dollars.

Notwithstanding the strict legal language contained in California Penal Code 270 PC Child Neglect, parents are rarely charged with a felony under this law.  This is because the Supreme Court of the United States has found charging parents with felony California Penal Code 270 PC Child Neglect is often unconstitutional, especially if that parent has never been convicted before of neglect.  The Supreme Court’s reasoning was that they did not want to discourage men from seeking paternity over their children.  Additionally, the Supreme Court did not want to push men into a position whether they would have to pay child support, when it is unclear who the father is, or risk being charged with a felony if in the future it is found they are the father.  The most likely situation where a parent would be charged with felony California Penal Code 270 PC Child Neglect is if the dad lost a paternity suit and was convicted of California Penal Code 270 PC Child Neglect at least once in the past.

What legal defenses are available to combat charges of California Penal Code 270 PC Child Neglect?

The potential punishments for California Penal Code 270 PC Child Neglect are quite severe.  Fortunately, there are many available legal defenses to combat charges of California Penal Code 270 PC Child Neglect.  Your California Criminal Defense Attorney can review the specific facts of your case and then devise an efficient and effective legal strategy that takes advantage of all available legal defenses.  Keep in mind that in addition to legal defenses, your California Criminal Defense Attorney can also utilize a variety of procedural methods to fight for you.

Below are two of the most common legal defenses to California Penal Code 270 PC Child Neglect.

You are Falsely Accused:

There are many reasons why you are facing false accusations of California Penal Code 270 PC Child Neglect.  These type of cases are usually mixed in with larger family problems.  It is possible that your ex-partner wants to get a leg up in an upcoming divorce proceeding.  Or maybe they are angry that you re-married.  Regardless of the reason, your California Criminal Defense Attorney can utilize a variety of investigative tools and methods to bring the truth to light.

Mistaken Facts

Often times, California Penal Code 270 PC Child Neglect cases come to the attention of the police and prosecutors because somebody called in potential child abuse.  Often times, a report is made by someone with a mandatory duty to report.  For example, a nurse or teacher might inform the police after observing a patient or student.  If these people don’t report, they are liable to criminal charges of their own.  For this reason, people with these duties often make a report even if the reason to do so is weak or suspect.  As such, many people faces charges of California Penal Code 270 PC Child Neglect based on mistaken facts.  In order to combat this, your California Criminal Defense Attorney can build up the evidentiary record in your favor and to highlight any discrepancies in the police report.

Other common legal defenses to California Penal Code 270 PC Child Neglect include: You are not the parent of the child, You did not act purposefully, You have a legal justification for not seeking traditional medical care, or You cannot afford the expenses for the child’s necessities.

What should you do if you are charged with California Penal Code 270 PC Child Neglect?

Speak with an experienced California Criminal Defense Attorney as soon as possible.  The earlier you hire an attorney, the earlier they can build the evidentiary record in your favor.  Furthermore, your attorney can start persuading the prosecutor to reduce, dismiss, or even prevent charges from ever being filed.

Our Domestic Violence Lawyer will gladly go over your specific case, explain the likely legal issues, discuss any potential punishments, and review all potential legal defenses.

Call 424-276-6060 today for a free consultation.

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