Child endangerment can take many forms, but if you start looking at enough cases, you’ll notice that many of them have something in common. Check out these recent examples to see what we mean:
- A San Francisco high school administrator was recently arrested for child endangerment and intoxicated driving. She called 911 to report that her keys had been stolen and was asked to leave a restaurant after causing a disturbance. When police arrived, they found the keys in her purse and observed that she was under the influence of alcohol. They advised her to find a different ride home and not drive. However, the woman left the scene in her car, so the police pulled her over and arrested her for drunk driving. Because two children were passengers in her vehicle, she is also facing child endangerment charges.
- A North Chicago man was arrested in March on several counts. They include driving under the influence, speeding, improper lane usage, failure to restrain a child in a safety seat, and six counts of child endangerment.
- A woman from Luzerne County allegedly left her child unattended in a vehicle. Police were called to a parking garage in Wilkes-Barre when a 20-month-old child was found in the woman’s vehicle. The police arrested her on charges of child endangerment when she allegedly got blood work done and left the child alone in the car for at least 90 minutes.
Did you note the common denominator? Every single case involved a vehicle.
Many Texas child endangerment cases involve automobiles, too – but why?
In this post, we’ll detail the different ways the law says you can endanger your child in a vehicle, and what you can do if you have been charged with child endangerment.
Methods of Child Endangerment
Texas law prohibits several kinds of behaviors that could endanger a child. The statute reads this way:
“A person commits an offense 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.”
Here are the ways the law can apply when you’re in a vehicle:
Speeding, tailgating, changing lanes or other forms of reckless driving put you, your child, and others at risk. You could face traffic violations along with child endangerment charges if your child is riding with you.
When you operate a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or another controlled substance, you can face drunk driving charges. If a child is riding with you in the vehicle while you are under the influence, you could face child endangerment charges on top of aggravated drunk or drugged driving charges.
No seatbelt or car seat
Seatbelts and car seats are required under Texas law. If you are pulled over for a traffic violation and your child is not restrained by a seatbelt or using a car seat according to age and weight guidelines, you could face child endangerment charges.
Leaving a child in the car
If you leave a child under 7 alone in a vehicle for more than five minutes, it is an offense punishable by Texas law, and the court could prosecute you for placing your child at unreasonable risk.
Penalties for Child Endangerment in Texas
If a person leaves a child with an intent to return, the penalty is a state jail felony. A conviction will result in incarceration of 180 days to two years in the Texas state jail system and a fine of up to $10,000.
If a person leaves a child with no intent to return, the penalty is a third degree felony. A conviction will result in 2-10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
If the child is abandoned under circumstances that place the child in imminent danger, the penalty is a second degree felony. A conviction will result in 2-20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Beyond these criminal penalties, you also face challenges from Child Protective Services, including the possible removal of your child from your care. Because of this, it is vital for you to contact a knowledgeable Texas defense attorney as soon as charges are filed against you. Call today for a free consultation.
About the Author:
After getting his Juris Doctor from the University of Houston Law Center, Jeff Hampton began practicing criminal law in Texas in 2005. Before becoming a defense attorney, he worked as a prosecutor for the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office – experience he uses to anticipate and cast doubt on the arguments that will be used against his clients. Over the course of his career, he has helped countless Texans protect their rights and get the best possible outcome in their criminal cases. His skill has earned him recognition from the National Trial Lawyers (Top 100 Trial Lawyers) and Avvo (Top Attorney in Criminal Defense, Top Attorney in DUI & DWI, 10/10 Superb Rating), and he is Lead Counsel rated.