Abandoning or Endangering Child Law Image

Abandoning or Endangering Child

Abandoning or Endangering Child is a Texas crime that you can commit by either abandoning a child or exposing a child to imminent danger. The offense covers both Abandoning a Child and Endangering a Child. As described in more detail below, this law only applies to children younger than 15 years old, so that means fourteen years old or younger.

Have you been charged with Abandoning or Endangering Child? Call criminal lawyer Paul Saputo at (888) 239-9305.

The Abandoning or Endangering Child offense applies to parents, caregivers and anyone else who comes into contact with a child. The law imposes a more strict duty on someone who has care, custody or control over a child, but you can still get in trouble for a violation of this law if you don’t have any special relationship with the child if you place a child in imminent danger of a serious harm.

As described in more detail below, any conviction for this offense is a felony, and the felony grade ranges from a state jail felony to a second degree felony. Other specific offenses involving exposing children to harm are codified elsewhere in the Texas Penal Code, such as DWI with Child Passenger.

What does the law say about Abandoning or Endangering a Child?

Chapter 22 of the Texas Penal Code defines two ways for you to commit the offense of Abandoning or Endangering a Child. Section 22.041(b) describes Abandoning a Child under Texas law as follows:

A person commits an offense 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.

The law provides a specific definition of “abandons” in subsection (a).1
Section 22.041(c) describes Endangering Child under Texas law as follows:

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.

The law also describes three specific drug-related situations that are presumed to “place a child in imminent danger of death, bodily injury, or physical or mental impairment” in subsection (c-1).2

What is the difference between Abandoning and Endangering a Child?

The Abandoning or Endangering a Child offense (in Texas Penal Code Section 22.041) is comprised of two separate subsections. The first subsection is considered the Abandoning a Child offense and the second subsection is considered the Endangering a Child offense.

Abandoning a Child is defined in subsection (b) as intentionally abandoning a child under the age of 15 in a place where the child is exposed to an unreasonable risk of harm. To “abandon” a child means to leave the child in a place without providing them reasonable and necessary care or to leave a child in a situation that no other reasonable adult would leave a child of that age.1 This subsection also requires the state’s attorneys to prove that the child was under the custody, care or control of the adult charged, giving rise to the responsibility to provide reasonable and necessary care for the child.

Endangering a Child is defined in subsection (c) as intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence acting, or failing to act, in a way that puts a child under the age of 15 in imminent danger of death, injury, or impairment. There is no requirement that the child was under the custody, care or control of the adult charged. However, the offense requires more than just an “an unreasonable risk of harm.” The child must be placed in a situation where a serious danger is imminent. This might include something like dangling a child over a balcony, but it would probably not include leaving a child alone in a mall (a young child’s parent might get charged with Abandoning a Child under the mall scenario).

The law presumes that you endanger a child if you expose a child directly to methamphetamine or if you possess methamphetamine around a child or if you use a Penalty Group 1 drug around a child.2 What is a Penalty Group 1 drug?

Can I get in trouble for leaving my child at home alone?

You may be charged with Abandoning or Endangering Child for leaving your child at home alone if the child is under the age of 15 and the circumstances the child was left under were unreasonable. Unreasonableness is, unfortunately, an ambiguous word. This is what is known as a “community standard.” Ultimately, if you are charged with this offense, only a jury can give a final determination about whether you acted reasonably. Some examples of actions that have led the state to pursue Abandoning a Child charges are: leaving a 6-year-old child alone in a mall food court, leaving an infant alone in a bathtub, leaving a two-year-old alone in an apartment and leaving a newborn in a restroom.

What is the punishment for Abandoning or Endangering child?

The punishment for subsection (b) Abandoning Child is a state jail felony, punishable by 6 months to 2 years in state jail and a fine, if the person is found to have abandoned the child with the intent to return for it or a third degree felony, punishable by 2-10 years in prison and a fine, if the state finds there was no intent to return for the child.3 However, the punishment for Abandoning a Child can be enhanced to a second degree felony if there is a finding that the abandonment put the child in imminent danger of death, bodily injury, or physical or mental impairment.4 A second degree felony is punishable by 2-20 years in prison and a fine.

A conviction for subsection (c) Endangering a Child is punished as a state jail felony.5 Learn more about the Range of Punishments for felonies

Will CPS (Child Protective Services) get involved if I am charged with Abandoning Endangering Child?

The Texas Department of Family Services or Child Protective Services might also get involved if there is suspected abandonment or endangerment of a child because there are strict reporting requirements for law enforcement and medical professionals in Texas when there is a suspicion that a child has been abused or neglected. A CPS investigation can affect your right to adopt or care for your children in the future.

Are there any defenses to Abandoning Endangering Child?

There is one defense to the offense of Abandoning Endangering Child that is described in the statute and one exception to its application. One defense is that you were allowing enabling a child to participate in an “organized athletic event” where appropriate safety equipment and procedures were used.6 This protects, for example, a parent from being prosecuted because they allow their child to play in a school football game where the child could be hurt.

None of the statute applies to someone who leaves a child with any emergency infant care provider listed under Section 262.302 of the Texas Family Code.7 Under this section, parents are allowed to give up their child to a hospital or other similar place without being punished for abandonment if the child is under 60 days old.

Along with these defenses, a lawyer may be able to apply other defenses from the penal code or defense strategies to your case based on the specific facts of the case. Learn more about fighting criminal charges in general


Legal References:

1 Texas Penal Code Sec. 22.041(a) –

In this section, “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.

2 Texas Penal Code Section 22.041(c-1) describes drug-related activities that are presumed to endanger children:

(1) 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;

(2) 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

(3) 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.

Learn more about Penalty Group 1 Drugs

3 Texas Penal Code Sec. 22.041(d)

4 Texas Penal Code Sec. 22.041(e)

5 Texas Penal Code Sec. 22.041(f)

6 Texas Penal Code Sec. 22.041(g)

7 Texas Penal Code Sec. 22.041(h)

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