Endangering Welfare of Children

Pittsburgh Child Endangerment Attorney

In Pennsylvania, parents, guardians and those who are in a position where they are meant to supervise -- even briefly -- the welfare of a child (e.g., nannies, teachers, etc.), may be held criminally liable for child endangerment and face severe penalties if they expose the child to an unreasonable risk of harm.

Endangering the welfare of children is a serious criminal offense that may, in some instances, be prosecuted as a second-degree felony with commensurate penalties.  Conviction for child endangerment can not only give rise to significant penalties that include a prison sentence, fines, and court-imposed counseling, but may lead to a loss of custody if the Commonwealth calls into question your fitness as a parent.

If you’ve been charged with endangering the welfare of children, we encourage you to contact a Pittsburgh child endangerment attorney at McKinney Law for guidance.  We will evaluate your case and help you determine the next steps for moving forward with criminal litigation.

What Behavior Qualifies as Child Endangerment?

The child endangerment offense is encoded in Section 4301 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, which ascribes liability where a parent, guardian or other person supervising the welfare of a child under 18 years of age, or a person that employs (or supervises) such a person:

  1. Knowingly endangers the welfare of the child by violating a duty of care, protection, or support; or
  2. Prevents or interferes with the making of a child abuse report (in an official capacity).

What constitutes a violation of the duty of care, protection, or support can be confusing for first-time litigants, but it’s important to note that it is dependent on the “total circumstances” of the case.

Parents, guardians, and supervisors must act reasonably given the circumstances to avoid exposing the children under their care to an excessive risk of harm.  Whether they have acted in accordance with their duties is determined by evaluating whether a reasonably prudent person in the same or similar circumstances would have acted as the defendant did or would see it as a reasonable course of behavior.

For example, doing drugs around a child would likely be deemed endangerment.  Neglecting to feed a young child for days at a time would also be deemed child endangerment.

Penalties for Child Endangerment

Child endangerment may be prosecuted as a first-degree misdemeanor, third-degree felony, second-degree felony or even a first-degree felony.

Normally, a child endangerment offense will be prosecuted as a first-degree misdemeanor with penalties of up to five years imprisonment and up to $10,000 in fines.

If the defendant engaged in a course of conduct (i.e., pattern of behavior) endangering the welfare of a child, it will be prosecuted as a third-degree felony with penalties of up to seven years imprisonment and up to $15,000 in fines.  Alternatively, if the defendant created a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury, the offense will be prosecuted as a third-degree felony.

If the defendant engaged in a course of conduct that created a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury, it will be prosecuted as a second-degree felony with penalties of up to 10 years imprisonment and up to $25,000 in fines.

Finally, if the child being endangered was under the age of six at the time that the offense was committed, the grading of the offense will be upgraded once.  So, for example, if a father is driving drunk with his toddler in the backseat, the third-degree felony will likely be upgraded to a second-degree felony.

Contact McKinney Law for a Free Consultation With an Experienced Pittsburgh Child Endangerment Attorney

Ready to discuss your case with a qualified Pittsburgh child endangerment attorney?  Call us at (412) 520-3301 or submit a case evaluation form through our website to schedule a free and confidential consultation with an attorney here at McKinney Law.

Our attorneys have extensive experience handling a range of complex criminal disputes, including those that involve emotionally-fraught conflicts, such as child endangerment and other serious offenses against the family.  We understand the difficulties inherent to such cases and the need for a sensitive and comprehensive approach.