Criminal charges for endangering the welfare of a child can be complex and difficult to wrap your head around. The offense is an independent criminal charge but is often entangled with other crimes involving children and abuse.
Endangering the welfare of a child is a broad criminal charge that may encompass a great many wrongful acts regarding children. Abuse, sexual offenses, neglect, and more can lead to charges for endangering the welfare of a child. Defendants charged with this crime often had custody of the alleged victims, although people without custody may also be charged. The statute for endangering the welfare of a child is also the statute for child pornography offenses, making the law especially complicated.
If you are facing criminal charges for allegedly endangering the welfare of a child, contact our New Jersey criminal defense attorneys immediately. Call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956 for a free initial case evaluation.
What Is Endangering the Welfare of a Child in New Jersey?
Under N.J.S.A. § 2C:24-4, a person can be charged with endangering the welfare of a child. This is a serious criminal offense that is often charged as a felony. Exactly what constitutes endangering the welfare of a child can be hard to pin down because the law here is so broad. Our New Jersey criminal defense lawyers can help you understand the nature of the charges against you.
This offense may encompass a variety of dangerous behavior in which children suffer. It may include physical harm and sexual abuse. New Jersey’s statute for child endangerment is also the statute for child pornography
Generally, a person charged with this offense has assumed responsibility and care for the child involved. However, there may be circumstances in which you can be charged for endangering someone else’s child.
Even so, this does not necessarily mean you must have legal custody of the child to be charged with child endangerment. People without custody of a child, like teachers, babysitters, or daycare providers, can also be charged. Even other people with no relationship with the child may be charged with child endangerment.
How Are Child Abuse and Endangering the Welfare of a Child Related in New Jersey?
Many cases of endangering the welfare of a child stem from alleged instances of abuse or neglect. Abused and neglected children are legally defined under N.J.S.A.§ 9:6-1, § 9:6-3, and § 9:6-8.21. Under child endangerment laws, anyone with a legal duty of care for a child may be charged with endangering the welfare of a child if they harm the child. The harm must cause the child to become abused or neglected as defined under the three previously mentioned statutes.
A variety of actions or omissions to act may constitute abuse or neglect, including but not limited to the following:
- Dangerous child labor
- Unnecessarily severe corporal punishment
- Inflicting unnecessary mental or physical pain
- Failure to provide food, shelter, or clothing
- Failure to provide medical treatment
- Failure to provide for an education
- Infliction of physical injuries that create a substantial risk of death
- Sexual abuse
Abuse and neglect are broad terms that may encompass far more actions or inactions than listed here. Anyone who has a duty of care for a child and causes that child to become abused or neglected as defined by law can be charged with a third-degree crime for endangering the welfare of a child.
Our Atlantic City criminal defense lawyers can help you determine if your alleged actions constitute abuse and endangering the welfare of a child. People are very protective of children, and differences in parenting styles or cultural differences sometimes cause people to overreact to discipline and punishment.
Endangering the Welfare of a Child and Sexual Offenses in New Jersey
Criminal charges for endangering the welfare of a child often overlap with various sexual offenses. Sexual offenses against anyone, but especially against children, are extremely harsh. These kinds of cases are often very emotionally charged, and you might need a good attorney to stand up for your rights. Our Ocean City criminal defense lawyers can help you.
If a defendant is convicted of endangering the welfare of a child in their custody or care because they engaged in sexual conduct with them, they will be guilty of a second-degree crime. Such an offense is punishable by at least 5 and no more than 10 years in state prison. Sexual conduct may include sexual abuse and other acts that might not neatly fit within the statutes of other sex crimes, such as the criminal sexual contact statute or the sexual abuse statute. For example, making a child watch pornography could be charged as endangering the welfare of a child.
You can also be charged if you engage in sexual conduct with a child not in your custody or care. Ordinarily, charges for endangering the welfare of a child apply to people who have assumed care of a child, like a parent, guardian, teacher, or someone similar. Even if you do not have responsibility for a child but are convicted of engaging in sexual conduct with them, you may be guilty of a third-degree crime and sent to prison for at least 3 years and up to 5 years. You might also face penalties for other charges like aggravated criminal sexual contact and aggravated sexual assault, which both come with harsh prison terms.
Child Pornography and Endangering the Welfare of a Child
The statute for endangering the welfare of a child is also the statute used to charge defendants with crimes related to child pornography. In fact, charges for endangering the welfare of a child in relation to child pornography may be charged as a first-degree crime and punished by at least 10 and up to 20 years in state prison. You may also be required to register as a sex offender. Our New Jersey criminal defense attorneys can help protect your rights and assert the best defense possible.
A defendant can be charged with a first-degree crime if they cause or allow a child to engage in a sexual act or pose in a sexually suggestive manner knowing the child will be recorded or photographed. In this case, the person taking the photos or making recordings can be charged with a second-degree crime of endangering the welfare of a child. You may also be charged for creating, distributing, or possessing child pornography.
You can even face charges for endangering the welfare of a child if you have nothing to do with the child in question personally. For example, someone who downloads child pornography can still be charged with endangering the welfare of a child even if they are never face-to-face with any children depicted in the illicit material.
Call Our New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorneys for Help
If you fear you will be charged with endangering the welfare of a child, contact our Cape May criminal defense attorneys for help immediately. Call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956 for a free case evaluation.