Most parents and caregivers would never even think about injuring or otherwise causing harm to a child in their care. Unfortunately mistakes can occur and circumstances can spiral out of control. In other circumstances good-faith actions to handle or defuse a difficult or awkward situation can, in hindsight, be perceived as actions that made the situation worse or placed the child into greater danger. However at the time of the event, caregivers do not have the benefit of seeing how the situation would play out or the time for calm, collected thought regarding each potential action’s foreseeable and unforeseeable consequences. However, in many cases where a child is injured or is otherwise endangered, criminal charges will follow.
The experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorneys of the Law Firm of John J. Zarych understand many caregivers who are simply trying to do their best can get caught-up in difficult legal situations fraught with extreme peril. Our team of defense attorneys have more than 45 years of combined experience protecting the rights of people accused of serious crimes. To schedule a free and confidential consultation at one of our law offices call toll-free (609) 616-4956 or contact us online today.
How is Endangering the Welfare of a Child Defined Under NJ Law?
In order to be charged with a crime your actions must fit a certain profile of criminalized behavior that is codified into the New Jersey criminal code. Endangering the welfare of a child through sexual conduct is codified in N.J.S. 2C:24-4. Per the test of the criminal law, the law applies to individuals who assume a legal duty to care for a child or one who is responsible for the care of a child. If those individuals engage in sexual conduct that would “impair or debauch the morals of the child” or if the acts cause the child hard and satisfy the definition of an abused or neglected child, a second degree crime may have been committed. If any other individual commits similar acts with a child under age 16, a third degree crime may be charged.
A broad array of perceived acts can be considered to endanger a child. These include:
- Sexual assault of a child
- Aggravated sexual assault of a child
- Luring or enticing
- Criminal sexual contact
- Statutory rape
- Criminal restraint or false imprisonment
- Promoting the prostitution of a child
- DWI/DUI with a minor in the vehicle
- Child molestation
- Child pornography
- Child abuse or neglect
Unfortunately the circumstances where charges of this type can arise are numerous. Second degree crimes can be punished with a prison sentence of up to ten years. A third degree offense can be punished with up to 5 years imprisonment, but a probationary sentence is also a possibility. Aside from these consequences, those who endanger a child due to sexual acts or through sexual behavior are also likely to be required to register under Megan’s Law.
Common Scenarios Where Child Endangerment Charges Can Be Filed
Nobody want to assume the worst or that others could potentially perceive their actions as criminally endangering the welfare of a member of the next generation. Unfortunately certain situations are fraught with danger. Some of these situations include:
- Domestic disputes that escalate to violence can see one or both caregivers face charges for endangering a child.
- Individuals who have pornographic materials but do not realize that some of the materials may depict underage individuals can face child endangerment charges.
- An adult man or woman with developmental disabilities who seeks friendship with children may have his or her actions misinterpreted as luring or other sexual advances.
- A camp counselor or teacher who is discovered helping a child with a bathroom accident may end up being accused of endangerment charges due to the child’s embarrassment and desire to hide his or her “accident.” Likewise, if the children change for swimming activities, actions by other campers can create difficult to handle situations.
- An exhausted caregiver who momentarily nods off only to find the child in a dangerous or deadly situation can also face child endangerment charges.
- Older teenage camp counselors in charge of watching younger teenaged campers are placed in a difficult situation that the law is not particularly responsive to.
In short, child endangerment charges can arise in a variety of circumstances and even in situations where the caregiver only wanted to do what was best for the child.
If you are facing serious criminal charges due to the alleged endangerment of a child, don’t gamble with your freedom and reputation. The experienced child molestation and abuse defense attorneys of the Law Firm of John J. Zarych have more than 45 years of combined experience defending honest people against serious charges. To schedule a free and confidential defense consultation, call us at (609) 616-4956 or contact us online.