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Endangering the Welfare of a Child

Endangering the welfare of a child is a vague offense in the sense that it may apply to any number of actions or behaviors, but overzealous police and prosecutors often will make this charge for conduct that should not be criminal, such as leaving an older child home alone for a short period of time. 

In addition, due to the emotional nature of the accusation, it is common for charges to be based on false reports that are part of an ongoing child custody matter or other family dispute. Due to the nature of the charge, it is not one you want on your record, and a conviction may result in serious consequences, including the removal of your children from your home and custody.

Lawyer for Child Endangerment Charges in Manhattan

If you face charges of endangering the welfare of a child under Section 260.10 of the New York Penal Code, contact a skilled lawyer who will seek the best possible results for you. At Greco Neyland, PC, we represent people facing charges of endangering the welfare of a child and other related legal issues. Given the vague nature of this crime, you will want an attorney experienced in New York criminal law who can find a way to explain that your conduct was not criminal.

You need a Manhattan criminal defense lawyer who can give your situation the personal attention it requires for the best result — not a public defender with a huge caseload. At Greco Neyland, PC, we spend the time to thoroughly research each person’s situation in order to construct the best possible individualized defense.

With Greco Neyland, PC, you will have a former prosecutor fighting on your side. We know how the opposing side thinks because we used to be on that side. We use that knowledge to put our clients and their families in the best possible position going forward. We represent clients in Manhattan, Brooklyn and New York City’s other boroughs. Call us today at (212) 951-1300 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.


Information Center for Child Endangerment in New York


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Endangering the Welfare of a Child in New York

A person, including a nonparent, can be charged with endangering the welfare of a child if he or she is accused of acting in a way likely to be injurious to the physical, mental or moral welfare of a person under the age of 17; or directing or authorizing a person under the age of 17 to engage in an occupation involving a substantial risk of danger to his or her life or health. (See N.Y. P.L. § 260.10.)

Typically, nonparents are charged with this offense when there is an accusation of:

  • Sexual contact with an underage person
  • Providing alcohol or drugs to an underage person
  • Driving while intoxicated with underage people in the car
  • Committing violence in the presence of a child
  • Dealing drugs in the presence of a child

Often, a charge of child endangerment is included with other, more serious charges, since the standard for conviction is lower than many serious crimes. 

For example, sexual contact with or sexual language directed at an underage person may result in a conviction under this statute even if there is not enough evidence to prove a more serious sexual offense such as rape. In other cases, this charge is leveled against those whose conduct is viewed as morally reprehensible by society but is not specifically criminalized by other laws.

While the standard for conviction is lower for nonparents, it is still possible for a person with no duty of care to be convicted of violating this law for leaving a child alone — depending on the age of the child and the length of time the child was left alone. 

For example, a person was convicted of this charge for leaving a 7-year-old alone in a locked apartment for 2 ½ hours, even though the person had no legal duty to care for the child. (People v Watson, 182 Misc2d 644, 700 NYS2d 651 (Crim Ct, Bronx Co 1999))

A parent, guardian or other person legally charged with the care or custody of a child can be charged with endangering the welfare of a child if the person is accused of refusing to exercise reasonable diligence in the control of a person under the age of 18 to prevent him or her from becoming any of the following:

  • Abused
  • Neglected
  • A juvenile delinquent
  • A “person in need of supervision”

Most often, this offense is charged against parents accused of failing to provide their child with sufficient food, shelter, sanitation, or medical care. However, many actions and situations that people might not normally think of as especially dangerous to a child, particularly an older child, have resulted in a charge of endangering the welfare of a child, such as:

  • Driving recklessly or drunk with a child in the car
  • Failing to “exercise reasonable diligence” in getting a child to school (since truancy can be a basis for designating a child as a “Person in Need of Supervision”)Fighting with another adult in the presence of a child, or even within earshot of the child, especially if it is domestic violence
  • Foul or insulting language in front of a child, especially if directed at the child and/or taking place on a repeated basis over a period of time
  • Leaving a child at home alone
  • Leaving a child unattended in a vehicle
  • Presence of a weapon in the same room as a child
  • Presence of drugs in the same room as a child
  • Providing alcoholic beverages to an underage person
  • Spanking or other corporal punishment
  • Taking a child outside in cold weather in light clothing

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Penalties for Endangering the Life of Child in New York

A person may be charged and convicted of violating this law even if no harm actually comes to the child. All the prosecution must demonstrate is that the accused person behaved in a way likely to result in harm and had knowledge of that likelihood of harm.

Generally, four factors are considered by a court when determining whether leaving a child alone is “endangerment”:

  • The age of the child
  • The maturity of the child
  • How long the child was left alone
  • The reason why the child was left alone

Endangering the Welfare of a Child is a Class “A” misdemeanor. If convicted, you face the possibility of one or more of the following:

  • Up to a year in jail
  • Removal of the child from the home
  • Loss of child custody
  • Protective order limiting your contact with the child

A charge of endangering the welfare of a child can lead to family court actions and investigations by Child Protective Services (CPS) or New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services (ACS).

Due to the emotional nature of child abuse issues, it is common for police, CPS, prosecutors, and even judges to overreact and err on the side of stricter enforcement, lest they are accused of “being soft on child abuse.”

Government authorities are often primarily afraid of being accused of “failure to act” if a child later suffers harm after coming to the attention of the authorities, whereas they face little chance of consequences for arresting or prosecuting a person who has not really placed a child in serious danger.


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Defending Charges of Endangering the Welfare of a Child

Due to the vague nature of the crime of child endangerment, there are many ways to contest the prosecution’s case, depending on the nature of the allegations. For example, if you are accused of fighting or using drugs in front of a child, the child may not have actually observed the behavior, or the child may have been too young to comprehend what was going on.

This statute uses the term “knowingly,” meaning that a conviction requires that the accused actually knew about the endangering condition. Unlike some negligence cases, it is not enough to demonstrate that the accused should have known about the condition.

Claims by a child may be unreliable or unsupported by any other evidence.

If you are a member or adherent of an organized church or religious group which prescribes prayer as the principal treatment for illness and treated or caused such ill child to be treated in accordance with those tenets, this is a defense to a charge of child endangerment under New York Penal Law § 260.15. However, religious exemptions are not available for other acts that violate this law, for example arranging a marriage involving an underage person. 

Simply having drugs in the same apartment as a child should not be enough for a conviction. Courts have ruled that there must be some facts in the allegation to show a connection between the presence of drugs and potential or likely harm to children. (People v Grajales, 179 Misc2d 793, 686 NYS2d 608 (Crim Ct, Bronx Co 1999))

If you are an occasional caregiver, such as a babysitter, you should not be expected to know about special medical needs of a child if you were not told about the condition and it would not be obvious to an ordinary person.

Even leaving an elementary age child or younger at home alone should not necessarily result in a conviction for endangering the welfare of a child. Some examples of when the court has ruled in favor of the parent are:

  • Leaving a child aged six at home alone for an hour in the middle of the night. (People v Seward, 173 Misc2d 1020, 662 NYS2d 731 (City Ct, Mt Vernon 1997))
  • Leaving a child aged seven alone for a few hours in an extremely messy environment. (People v Mantley, NYLJ, June 2, 1994 (Crim Ct Richmond Co))
  • Leaving children aged one and two at home alone for a half hour. (Augustine v Berger, 88 Misc2d 487, 388 NYS2d 537 (Sup Ct Suffolk Co 1976))

You may also be able to strike a plea deal to a charge such as harassment or disorderly conduct that will not be as adverse as a conviction for child endangerment. Typically, plea deals will involve your agreement to attend some sort of mandatory counseling such as:

  • Parenting skills program
  • Substance abuse program
  • Anger management program

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Resources Related to Endangering the Welfare of a Child in New York

New York Penal Law, Part 3, Title O, Article 260.10 — Read the New York state law related to endangering the welfare of a child as well as other laws related to children in Section 260.

New York Child Protective Services — NYCPS maintains a child endangerment state hotline that can be reached by calling (800) 342-3720; Mandated Reporters: (800) 635-1522.

New York Child Protective Services
Sheila J. Poole, Acting Commissioner
Capital View Office Park
52 Washington Street
Rensselaer, New York 12144-2834
Phone: (518) 473-7793
Fax: (518) 486-7550

New York City Administration for Childen’s Services — The Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) protects and promotes safety and well-being of New York City’s children and families by providing child welfare, juvenile justice, and early care and education services.

Safe Horizon — Safe Horizon’s Child Advocacy Centers (CACs) are child-friendly facilities for children who have endured sexual or severe physical abuse. Located in each of the five boroughs of New York City, they each provide critical help to families in crisis.

Manhattan Child Advocacy Center
1753 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10035

Jane Barker Brooklyn Child Advocacy Center
320 Schermerhorn Street
Brooklyn, NY 11217

Bronx Child Advocacy Center
1775 Grand Concourse, 5th Floor
Bronx, NY 10453

Staten Island Child Advocacy Center
130 Stuyvesant Place
Staten Island, NY 10301

Queens Child Advocacy Center
112-25 Queens Boulevard
Forest Hills, NY 11375


Attorneys for Child Endangerment Charges in New York City – Greco Neyland PC

If you were arrested for endangering the welfare of a child in New York City, you need an advocate on your side to challenge the charge and fight hard on your behalf. The skilled attorneys at Greco Neyland, PC are experienced in criminal defense related to domestic issues and will work with you to obtain the best possible result in your case.

These charges also come with serious consequences. Under the SORA guidelines, endangering the welfare of a child is considered a sex crime “because it generally involves sexual misconduct, especially when it is part of a plea-bargained disposition” (Sex Offender Registration Act: Risk Assessment Guidelines and Commentary, at 14 [2006] ).

We serve clients throughout the five boroughs of New York City, including Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx. We understand the importance of family and do all we can to keep yours vital and intact, no matter what charges you may be facing.

Contact the dedicated lawyers at Greco Neyland, PC today by calling (212) 951-1300 to schedule a free consultation. We’re here to help in your time of need.

 

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