Abandoning or Endangering Child Charges in Fort Worth and Tarrant County
If you have been arrested in Tarrant County or have become the target of a criminal investigation for the criminal offense of abandoning or endangering a child, contact Jeff Hampton with The Hampton Criminal Defense Attorneys, PLLC immediately for a free consultation to explain your legal rights and options under Texas law.
One of the most common situations where a Tarrant County citizen is charged with abandoning or endangering a child is when a parent, grandparent or babysitter leaves their car and forgets that their sleeping child is in the car seat exposed to the extreme heat of our North Texas summers.
Although it may have been an innocent mistake, this fact scenario can place you in a position of being arrested, charged, and prosecuted for a serious felony offense in Tarrant County, Texas. I strongly encourage you to call my law office or another experienced child endangerment defense lawyer for help.
Texas Law Defining Child Endangerment
Under Texas Penal Code, Section 5: Offenses Against the Person, Section 22.041, the following elements of Abandoning or Endangering a Child must be proven by the State of Texas beyond a reasonable doubt to sustain a criminal conviction against a citizen of Tarrant County:
a person commits the offense of abandoning or endangering child if, having custody, care, or control of a child younger than 15 years, he intentionally abandons the child in any place under circumstances that expose the child to an unreasonable risk of harm.
A person also commits the crime of Abandoning or Endangering a Child if he intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence, by act or omission, engages in conduct that places a child younger than 15 years in imminent danger of death, bodily injury, or physical or mental impairment.
Texas Laws Regarding Child Abandonment
Abandonment is specifically defined under Texas law. The term “abandon” means to leave a child in any place without providing reasonable and necessary care for the child, under circumstances under which no reasonable, similarly situated adult would leave a child of that age and ability. Essentially, the State of Texas will be required to prove that you abandoned the child in a place or condition that created an unreasonable risk of harm to occur to the child.
Does Texas Law Require You To Have A Special Relationship With The Child In Order To Be Charged?
No! Although the Abandonment and Endangerment laws do apply to parents and caregivers, a special family relationship is not required. The law looks to see who had care, custody, or control over the child at the time of the act. There is a strict duty of care (to provide reasonable and necessary care to the child) placed upon any adult that has care, custody, or control over the child at the time of the incident.
Is Leaving My Child At Home Considered Abandoning or Endangering A Child?
There is not an easy answer to this question because it is very fact specific. If you left your child under 15 years of age at home by themselves in circumstances that were deemed to create an “unreasonable” risk of harm to occur to the child, you could be arrested and charged with Abandoning or Endangering a Child.
The real question is what is reasonable or unreasonable under the law? The answer to this question will vary depending upon who you ask! Because the word is ambiguous and open to interpretation, Texas criminal law places a standard of reasonableness based upon what is acceptable in the community. The only way to determine if the community believes the actions were “reasonable” is to have a jury trial or a determination made by a grand jury.
This is critical in your decision making regarding who you hire as your criminal defense attorney. The best criminal attorneys in Fort Worth, Texas know that Abandoning or Endangering a Child Cases should be presented to a grand jury for a possible quick dismissal. Every felony in the State of Texas must be presented to a grand jury for indictment. If you hire an experienced and aggressive criminal defense lawyer, they can prepare an evidence packet detailing the favorable evidence for your case establishing reasonable doubt to possibly resolve your abandoning or endangering a child case quickly.
Upon hearing your criminal attorney’s evidence, the grand jury could leave the charge as a felony, lower it to a lesser misdemeanor criminal offense or no bill the case. A no bill is what every criminal lawyer should be striving for because it is complete exoneration of the criminal charges and allows for eligibility for an expunction of all arrest and criminal records.
If your case makes it past the grand jury process and the prosecutor continues to be unreasonable regarding your case, your criminal defense attorney can set the case for a jury trial. At a jury trial, the jury can determine if your actions were “reasonable” under the law. In fact, the jury would be required to believe that not only did the State of Texas prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt, but they would also be required to reach a unanimous verdict. If a single juror has doubt regarding the case being proven by the prosecutor, there could be a not guilty verdict or a mistrial.
Every case is unique but as a general rule, jury verdicts have found that the younger the child, the higher the duty of care the jurors expect from the person exercising care, custody, or control over the child. For example, if a 2-year child is left alone in a home without supervision for six hours, it would be likely that the police would arrest for the crime of Abandoning or Endangering a Child. However, a 12-year-old left at home for several hours would NOT be considered Abandoning or Endangering a Child. Leaving an infant in a bathtub unattended for an hour would be seen as Abandoning or Endangering a Child but leaving an 8-year-old child in a bathtub would likely not be seen as a crime.
Texas law also outlines certain factual situations where it is presumed that a person engaged in conduct that places a child in imminent danger of death, bodily injury, or physical or mental impairment:
- The person manufactured, possessed, or in any way introduced into the body of any person the controlled substance methamphetamine in the presence of the child;
- The person’s conduct related to the proximity or accessibility of the controlled substance methamphetamine to the child and an analysis of a specimen of the child’s blood, urine, or other bodily substance indicates the presence of methamphetamine in the child’s body; or
- The person injected, ingested, inhaled, or otherwise introduced a controlled substance listed in Penalty Group 1, Section 481.102, Health and Safety Code, into the human body when the person was not in lawful possession of the substance as defined by section 481.002(24) of that code.
Defenses To Abandoning Or Endangering A Child In Texas
If you have been arrested and charged with the crime of Abandoning or Endangering a child in Texas, your first move should be to hire the best criminal defense attorney in Fort Worth, Texas to prepare a legal defense that will give you the best opportunity to get your case dismissed. Your second move should be to thoroughly research Texas law on your crime and have a basic understanding of your legal defenses so that you are prepared to partner with your criminal defense lawyer to get your criminal case dismissed.
The Child Was Participating In An “Organized Athletic Event”
The Texas Penal Code provides an exception to the criminal statute if you were enabling or allowing the child to participate in an “organized athletic event” where safety equipment and organized procedures were followed. This provision protects parents and legal guardians from prosecution if their child is seriously injured in a football game or other sporting activity.
The Child Was Abandoned At A Safe Zone Under Texas Statute
If a child was abandoned with an emergency infant care provider as defined in the Texas Family Code, Section 262.302, criminal prosecution is prohibited. If the child is under 60 days old, a parent or guardian is permitted to leave the child at a hospital or other approved emergency infant care provider.
Lack of Criminal Intent
As we examined above, the State of Texas will be required to prove that you intentionally abandoned the child in any place under circumstances that expose the child to an unreasonable risk of harm. What if you had no intent to abandon the child? What if the child wandered off and became lost? What if someone else directed the child to a set of circumstances that exposed the child to an unreasonable risk of harm?
It is critical to recognize that the State of Texas must prove the criminal intent element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Failure to do so will result in a not guilty verdict at a jury trial or a dismissal of charges by the prosecution. Additionally, your criminal defense attorney may be able to make a presentation to the grand jury to show your side of the story and potentially have your case no billed, making you eligible for an expunction of your arrest and criminal case records.
Punishment, Prison Time & Fines for a Child Endangerment Conviction
If the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office alleges that you intentionally abandoned a child under circumstances that exposed the child to an unreasonable risk of harm but you intended to return for the child or they allege that you intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence, by act or omission, engaged in conduct that placed a child in imminent danger of death, bodily injury, or physical or mental impairment, the crime will be classified as a State Jail Felony, punishable by a term in a state jail prison facility of not less than 180 days, but not more than 2 years and a fine of up to $5,000.
If the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office alleges that you intentionally abandoned a child under circumstances that exposed the child to an unreasonable risk of harm but you never intended to return for the child, the crime will be classified as a 3rd degree felony, punishable by a term in prison of not less than 2 years, but not more than 10 years and a fine of up to $10,000.
If it is alleged that you intentionally abandoned a child under circumstances that exposed the child to an unreasonable risk of harm and you abandoned the child under circumstances that a reasonable person would believe would place the child in imminent danger of death, bodily injury, or physical or mental impairment, the crime will be classified as a 2nd degree felony, punishable by a term in prison of not less than 2 years, but not more than 20 years and a fine of up to $10,000.
Contact a Defense Attorney for Child Endangerment or Abandonment Charges
It is important that your abandoning or endangering child case be managed correctly and that you have the help of an experienced Fort Worth criminal defense attorney. It is critical to obtain legal counsel that has experience successfully managing felony criminal cases. An effective child endangerment lawyer should have at least a decade of experience managing serious criminal allegations.
The Hampton Criminal Defense Attorneys, PLLC is a team of six Former Prosecutors with over 85 years of criminal law experience and over 550 criminal jury trials in Tarrant County and other courts in North Texas. We have managed thousands of felony cases and tens of thousands of misdemeanor cases in Texas, and we stand ready to defend your freedom and your clean criminal record.
If you choose to hire me, I will aggressively fight for you by thoroughly investigating your case and exploring all possible defenses and options available to you under the law. I will work to seek a resolution that will prevent this criminal allegation from becoming a conviction on your criminal record.
Contact the Hampton Criminal Defense Attorneys, PLLC now to schedule a free consultation to determine your rights and legal options.