Charged with Child Endangerment in Houston?

Are you facing a charge of child endangerment or child abandonment in Houston? These are serious crimes in Texas and could potentially lead to a stiff prison sentence. On the other hand, many endangerment and abandonment charges can be successfully defended by an experienced Houston criminal attorney. If you were charged with child endangerment or child abandonment, call us for a free consultation.

What are Child Endangerment and Child Abandonment in Texas?

There are many different offenses related to domestic violence and child abuse. Abandoning or endangering a child are separate crimes, and do not require, for example, assault, or even an injury to a child.

These crimes are defined in section 22.041 of the Texas Penal Code. Under that section, the offenses consist of a number of different acts which, in a general sense, place a child at risk of harm. In either case, “child” is defined, for purposes of the statute, as a person under the age of 15.

Child abandonment consists of intentionally abandoning a child (under the age of 15) anywhere which exposes the child to “an unreasonable risk of harm.” In order to be guilty of the offense, the prosecution must also establish that you were responsible for or assumed the child’s care, custody or control. Abandonment under the statute consists of leaving a child in a place without providing care which is reasonable and necessary for the child, in a situation in which a reasonable adult would not leave a child of that age and ability. Here are some examples of child abandonment:

  • Leaving an infant on a doorstep or some similar place with no one to care for the infant;
  • Leaving a child home alone under circumstances, including the age of the child and the length of time he or she is alone, which exposes the child to a substantial risk of harm;
  • Leaving the child with a person who you know does not have the ability, either physically or mentally, to care for the child.

Child endangerment is defined as engaging in conduct that places a child under 15 in imminent danger of impairment (physical or mental), bodily injury, or death. You can be charged with endangerment if your conduct is intentional, or knowing, or reckless, or criminally negligent. Examples of possible child endangerment include:

  • Committing a crime while having a child with you.
  • Driving under the influence with a child passenger. This is also a state jail felony under the DUI laws.
  • Driving with a child who is not wearing a seat belt or in a car seat.
  • Leaving a child in the presence of an unsecured firearm.
  • Purchasing alcohol for a child.
  • Leaving an unsupervised child at a dangerous location, such as a construction site.
  • Using illegal drugs in the presence of a child.

These are just a few of the possible bases for a child endangerment charge.

Child Endangerment and Methamphetamine

Section 22.041 also contains special rules for methamphetamine and endangerment charges. It says that

  • if the conduct involves the manufacturing, possession or use of methamphetamine in the presence of a child, or
  • if meth is accessible to the child and a chemical analysis of the child’s blood, urine, etc. shows the presence of methamphetamine,

then there is a presumption that the conduct places the child in imminent danger of injury, impairment or death. The same presumption applies to the use of illegally possessed Penalty Group 1 controlled substances.

Classification of Child Endangerment and Abandonment

Child abandonment is generally a state jail felony. If it is alleged that you abandoned the child and did not intend to return to pick the child up, it is a felony of the third degree. And if you abandon the child in a situation in which the child is exposed to an imminent danger of impairment, injury or death, it is a felony of the second degree. Child endangerment is a state jail felony.

Defending Child Endangerment and Child Abandonment Charges

Endangerment and abandonment charges sometimes overlap, but the more important thing to note is that both offenses are felonies, which means that they carry the possibility of incarceration, and in some cases significant prison time.

Being accused, however, is just the beginning of the process, and there are numerous possible defenses to these charges. Some cases arise in the context of a divorce or custody battle. A false claim may be made by an adult seeking leverage or revenge against a spouse, former spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend or other acquaintance. There are also cases in which a child, perhaps prompted by an adult, makes up false allegations.

If you have been charged with child endangerment or child abandonment, you are facing a felony offense. At the Law Office of Nathaniel Pitoniak, we are aware of the need to deal decisively with these charges, to raise and pursue any possible defenses, and to provide you with the best chance of a successful outcome. Call us for a free consultation.