Child endangerment is a complicated criminal charge because it encompasses two very different forms of child abuse. If you are charged under this statute, you should immediately contact an attorney for help.
Charges for child endangerment apply to physical child abuse and child pornography. Generally, you will face several pretrial hearings shortly after being charged. Arraignments, bail hearings, and preliminary hearings are all standard for most criminal charges. What happens at your trial depends on the specific kind of offense you are charged with. Your trial’s evidence, testimony, and arguments should be tailored to your unique circumstance. Child endangerment charges are extremely severe, and you should speak to a lawyer immediately.
If you have been charged with a crime related to child endangerment, what comes next may consist of high pressure, emotionally charged, and difficult criminal hearings. Our Atlantic City sexual offense attorneys can help you through this process. For a free case review, call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956.
What is Child Endangerment in New Jersey?
Child endangerment is a somewhat odd charge because it encompasses two very different forms of child abuse. First, the charge may apply to people accused of physically abusing a child. Typically, the abuse is sexual but does not rise to the level of penetrative sex. The abuse may also consist of neglect or other forms of abuse that cause the child to be considered an “abused child” within the meaning of the law.
Second, child endangerment charges apply to defendants accused of having, creating, or distributing child pornography. You do not have to be directly involved with a child to be charged with child endangerment related to child pornography. Simply having the pornography in your possession is enough. These charges are extremely severe and are serious felonies with significant prison time. Our Cape May sexual offense attorneys can help you decipher your charges and prepare for your trial.
Child Abuse or Neglect
According to N.J.S.A. § 2C:244(a), anyone with a legal duty of care over a child who engages in sexual conduct that debauches the child’s morals may be guilty of a second-degree crime. If the defendant did not have a legal duty of care over the child may be charged with a third-degree crime.
Similarly, a person with a legal duty of care for a child who harms the child in a way that would make the child an abused or neglected child within the meaning of the law may be charged with a second-degree crime. If they did not have a legal duty of care, the charges may be for third-degree crimes.
Essentially, this part of the child endangerment statute applies to people accused of abusing a child, sexually or otherwise. Various forms of child abuse may be charged under numerous different statutes. Our Egg Harbor sexual offense attorneys can review your case and determine if your charges for child endangerment are appropriate or if they should be reduced.
The second half of the child endangerment statute applies to cases of child pornography. Under N.J.S.A. § 2C:24-4(b), a person may be charged with child endangerment if they cause or allow a child to engage in a prohibited sexual act that is photographed, recorded, or part of an exhibition. The person who records the unlawful sexual act may be charged with a second-degree crime. A person may also be charged simply for possessing or distributing child pornography.
Child pornography charges often carry harsh prison terms and are met with intense backlash from the community. Additionally, a convicted defendant will have to register as a sex offender for many years, if not for life. With advancements in digital technology, child pornography crimes largely take place on the internet, and the police can use the internet to track down suspects.
What Happens After Being Charged with Child Endangerment in New Jersey?
After being charged with child endangerment, you will go through the standard pretrial hearings that almost all criminal defendants experience. You will be formally notified of your charges at your arraignment.
Also at your arraignment, you will be allowed to enter a plea. Generally, a defendant may plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest. A Guilty plea cuts the judicial process short, the defendant waives their right to a trial, and they skip directly to sentencing. Often, defendants plead guilty as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors for reduced charges.
A not-guilty plea means a trial must be scheduled, and you and your attorney must begin gathering evidence, preparing arguments, and considering pretrial motions. A no-contest plea is effectively the same as a guilty plea, but the defendant does not admit wrongdoing. Instead, it is an admission that the prosecutor will likely meet their burden of proof.
You and your attorney will also have to argue over bail conditions. Our New Jersey sexual offense attorneys can help you argue for the least restrictive bail possible for your case. If bail is granted, the terms are usually based on the severity of the offense, your risk to the community, and any possibility of a flight risk.
The preliminary hearing is when the prosecutors must establish that enough evidence exists to hold you over for trial. They do not have to present all the evidence, only just enough to warrant a trial. Our Galloway Township sexual offense attorneys can use this hearing to undermine the prosecutor’s case and hopefully have the charges dismissed for lack of evidence.
Fighting Charges for Child Endangerment in New Jersey
Typically, trials for serious crimes like child endangerment are held before juries. However, it may be possible to waive your right to a trial in favor of a bench trial. This might be a wise decision if the case is emotionally charged, and we are doubtful that jurors will reach a verdict based on the evidence and not anger.
How you fight your charges must be based on how you are charged. If you are charged with possession of child pornography, we can work to suppress the evidence of the pornography. For example, if the alleged pornography was illegally seized, we can suppress it and prevent it from being used against you.
If you would rather avoid a trial, we can help you negotiate a plea agreement. Prosecutors are sometimes reluctant to offer plea deals for child endangerment cases because the charges are so serious. If a deal is possible, we can help you negotiate to reduce your charges.
Call Our New Jersey Sexual Offense Lawyers for Help
Child endangerment charges tend to be met with swift action from law enforcement and significant outcry from the community. After being charged, you can expect to be put through multiple hearings before your trial. For a free case evaluation, call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956.