California statutes allow parents to bring up their children how they deem necessary if they do not endanger or abuse them. You can choose the parenting philosophy you want to adopt with your child without violating the law. However, when you deliberately or without a legal excuse withhold necessities like food, shelter, education, clothing, medicine, or care for a child younger than 18, you will face misdemeanor charges for child neglect. The offense is often committed by parents who hardly see or do not interact with or provide for their children intentionally or without any lawful justification.

Nonetheless, not every parent charged with failure to provide in Bakersfield does so willfully or without a legal pretext. Some charges are false, while others are based on miscommunication, which does not deter the prosecutor from prosecuting the case. You need a professional to prove your innocence and prevent a sentence. At Koenig Law Office, we understand the operations of law enforcers and are ready to prove to the court that you have not neglected your child.

Understanding Child Neglect

Children require protection because they are the most vulnerable members of society. California protects its children through various statutes, one of which is PEN 270, which explains child neglect. When you intentionally or devoid of any legal explanation, fail to provide basic requirements to your children, you will be guilty of a misdemeanor PEN 270 violation. Necessities per the statute include food, clothing, remedial, and medical care.

When you lack faith in traditional medicine, you should opt for remedial care, which involves faith healers performing spiritual treatment through prayers. If you opt to provide this type of care, you must seek help from a healer in a recognized denomination or church.

You should understand that when your minor is sick and choose to take them for remedial attention instead of conventional medicine, you could face counts for child endangerment. And if the child dies while seeking remedial care, you risk involuntary manslaughter charges.

Neglect has two definitions under California laws. The first is general neglect, where you face counts for failing to offer your minor adequate necessities, even if the failure to provide does not cause physical harm. On the other hand, severe neglect occurs when you fail to protect the children you are responsible for from medically diagnosed severe malnutrition or failure to grow well. 

Child Neglect Elements

The court will find you guilty if the prosecutor demonstrates that:

  1. You are the Parent of a Child

The designation of a father or parent under PEN 270 is broad. First, the prosecutor can demonstrate that you are the parent to a child when you are in a marital or cohabit with the minor’s mother. You will be the father to any baby your wife delivers if you live with the wife and are not infertile or impotent. Besides, if you gave consent to artificial inception in writing, the law considers you the father of the child born through the procedure.

Note that you will be guilty of child neglect even when you are not the child’s biological father. If your wife has an extramarital affair with another lover and you are still married or living with her, you will still be the father unless you or the wife files for a paternity proceeding within 24 months of the child’s birth. You seize to be a child’s father when the court declares so.

Another way the prosecutor can demonstrate to the court that you are a child’s parent is if you have dissolved the marriage to the minor’s mother. Even without custody or interacting with the child, the court considers you the father. They would rule you as the father even if the child were born after a one-night stand.

Nonetheless, you will not be the father if you give up the minor for adoption through the standard procedures provided under the law. Again, when you cease enjoying your parental rights after a court ruling that gave the responsibilities to someone else, you will not be considered a parent to the child. Under these circumstances, you will be a former foster parent or caregiver. 

Also, the prosecutor will show you are a child’s parent if you adopted or assumed the duties of caring for a baby. Once you take the legal responsibility of caring for a minor, you become a parent.

Lastly, you will be guilty of child neglect if the prosecutor proves you are the father to an unborn child and have failed to provide.

  1. Your Minor is Under 18

The prosecutor must prove the child in question is younger than 18 years. Also, the law protects unborn babies. Therefore, you could be guilty of a PEN 270 violation if you fail to provide necessities for your unborn child.

  1. You Willfully or without Legal Justification Neglected the Minor

Willfully means failing to provide for the child was intentional or on purpose. However, willful action is not the same as negligence. Therefore, the prosecutor must show your conduct of not providing necessities was intentional.

Alternatively, you will be convicted if the prosecutor shows you had no lawful justification for neglecting the minor. PEN 270 requires parents to do everything reasonable to provide necessities for their children. However, the law excuses you for not providing for your child if you do not make enough money or lack the assets or income to provide for the minor’s necessities. If failing to provide is not your fault, you are not guilty. Nonetheless, you will be guilty of neglect when you neglect your minor because you have unreasonably opted to spend money on yourself or refused to look for work actively.

Even if, after neglecting your child, someone takes up the responsibility to provide for the minor’s necessities, you will be guilty. Your child’s welfare is a priority and should be allocated money before you spend it. The law will punish you even when a food bank, church, or other parents assume your responsibility to provide necessities.

When the court presumes you had no lawful excuse for neglecting your minor, you will assume the burden of proof. You must show the court that you lost a job, face recession effects or your paycheck is insufficient to provide the child’s necessities.

You must understand that despite child neglect being different from domestic violence crimes like physical, emotional, and sexual abuse of a child, it negatively impacts a minor’s well-being, mental health, and welfare. Maltreatment, including not availing emotional support and supervision, can significantly hinder a minor’s life leading to mental health problems, controlled substance abuse, and joining criminal gangs. Therefore, it is crucial for you, as a parent or guardian, to be available to supervise and offer emotional support to your children during their development to protect them from various impairments. 

Reporting Child Neglect Cases

Neglect is a form of child abuse, and the law makes it mandatory to report all known or alleged neglect cases. The people mandated to report these incidents are:

  • Administrators
  • Teachers assistants
  • Nurses, doctors, and psychologists
  • Classified employees trained to find ad report abuses cases
  • Employees of licensed child day care or community care facilities
  • Group home workers
  • Religious representatives like priests

These reporters are required by law to identify and report abuse or neglect cases. Even with this, more is needed to inform their supervisor of a child neglect case alone. The verbal report must be followed by another in writing to Child Protective Services, the police, or the local Welfare Department.

The Responsibility of the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS)

DCFS investigates child abuse, neglect, adoption, foster care, and welfare issues. Therefore, when you are alleged to have violated PEN 270, you are likely to receive a visit from the officers in the department.

When these officers come knocking on your door, you should be cooperative. It is natural to feel like you should not answer any questions or clear any misunderstandings regarding your child’s welfare. However, failure to cooperate with these investigators could put you in more trouble with the law.

Many believe that DCFS only cares about safeguarding children and helping struggling families. However, the truth is that the department also deals with criminal-related issues. Therefore, before you answer questions from the services, you must consult your defense lawyer so that you do not put yourself in trouble with the law. An experienced attorney knows how this agency investigates their cases and collaborates with prosecutors to file charges. They will advise you on responding to inquiries to avoid legal trouble.

When the officers first show up at your home, they will not reveal any information about the alleged or known child neglect. Instead, they act friendly, pretending to support your family through the crisis while looking for evidence to bring charges against you for child neglect. They are familiar with California laws, court procedures, and how courts handle child neglect charges.

If Child Protective Services (CPS) establishes that the child has been neglected, the law allows them to remove them from your care. Per CPS, a child has been abused if you, the parent, fail to offer sufficient basic needs like food, shelter, medical care, supervision, and clothing. Nevertheless, before a minor is removed from your care, it must be established that the child or children will not be safe, even if they financially support your family. Under the circumstances, your children will be placed in foster care.

With this information in mind, when officials from DCFS or CPS visit you, the first step before talking to them is to reach out to your defense attorney. Whenever a social worker contacts you about your children, you must inquire if they are investigating or whether someone has reported you for alleged or known child neglect. Additionally, it would be best if you insisted that they tape all the interrogations about your child. Again, only allow them inside your house if they have a valid warrant.

Child Neglect Penalties

Both administrative and criminal penalties can be imposed as part of a sentence for violating PEN 270. Most child neglect charges are filed as misdemeanors and are punishable by:

  • No more than twelve months of jail incarceration
  • Monetary court fines not exceeding $2,000

When the court orders that you provide care for your minor but refuse, you will face felony PEN 270 violation charges. The felony charges occur when a court rules that you are the father of a child in a paternity suit and, despite the ruling, you fail to provide for the minor’s basic needs. If convicted of a felony, you will face the following penalties:

  • A maximum of twelve months in jail
  • Twelve months plus a day in state prison
  • Court-imposed monetary fine not exceeding $2,000

PEN 270 Violation Limitations

Felony charges for neglect are rare. Charging a minor's father with a felony PC 270 violation would violate the Equal Protection Act, particularly if the defendant does not have a history of child neglect, a California court ruled in a previous child neglect case.

The court determined that charging fathers with felonies for neglecting their children would lead to many fathers denying paternity or paying child support inequitably out of fear of being prosecuted. The court will charge you with neglect if you lost a paternity case and have a previous sentence for failure to provide.

Contesting Child Neglect Allegations

Your child neglect charge is not entirely hopeless because the burden of proof lies with the prosecutor. Once you have been charged, attorneys at Koenig Law Office can adopt several legal defenses to defeat the charges. Some of the defenses you can mount in this case are:

You Did Not Act Willfully

The prosecutor must show that you purposefully or willfully failed to provide for your child’s necessities. If your lawyer can show that there was no malicious intent behind the failure to provide for the minor, then you are innocent. Your attorney can assert that you lost your job or that your income is insufficient to sufficiently provide for the minor.

Have a Legal Justification or Excuse

California has no law stating that you should not struggle financially. So, when you find yourself in a situation where you cannot support your child because of financial problems, you cannot be sentenced for a PEN 270 violation. Your attorney can make the case that you were involved in an accident that rendered you incapable of working and supporting your child. Besides, the attorney can argue that you are employed, but your little income is only enough to provide for some of the necessities but not all. If you are doing your best and prioritizing the little you have to care for your child, but it is not enough, the court will not find you guilty of neglecting your children.

You are Falsely Accused

It is not uncommon for parents to falsely accuse each other of child neglect. The need for additional child support following a divorce, jealousy, or acts of retaliation could be the cause of the false accusations. Do not panic if you have been falsely charged with a PEN 270 violation. Your attorney will outline the events leading up to the allegations to persuade the court that the alleged neglect was untrue.

You Are Not the Minor’s Parent

You can only face neglect charges if you are the child's father or a parent. As a result, you have no legal obligations to a child if you are not a parent. Your attorney can argue that their mother married someone else when the child was born. Also, if the court stripped you of your legal duties as a parent towards the child and someone else assumed the responsibilities, you are innocent. Again, if you are not the child’s biological father and the baby was not born through artificial inception, you can claim that you are not the parent and, therefore, have no legal responsibilities. And even if the child was born through artificial fertilization and you had not consented to the procedure in writing, the court will not consider you the father of the alleged child. Therefore, you will not be guilty under PC 270.

Wrong Observations

You can face neglect charges when a reporter mistakes facts or observes them incorrectly. California has reporters authorized to report on alleged and confirmed child neglect incidents. These people are human and can make errors in their observations and conclude that your child has been neglected when it is not valid. These individuals report the slightest indications of neglect because failing to do so could result in misdemeanor charges. Therefore, you can argue that the reporters misunderstood the facts or misinterpreted your actions when they claimed you neglected your child, even though you provided for them in the best way possible.

Even though it can seem straightforward to use these defense tactics to disprove the allegations against you, an attorney is best for effective representation because they are familiar with the relevant laws and court procedures regarding child neglect. As a result, you ought to hire one as soon as you become aware of an impending arrest or are accused of child neglect.

Find an Experienced Domestic Violence Attorney Near Me

Child neglect is a severe offense that can result in incarceration, hefty fines, and loss of custody under some circumstances. Therefore, you should consider talking to a knowledgeable attorney to learn about the offense and possible defenses. At Koenig Law Office, we are prepared to fight the charges in Bakersfield for a lesser sentence or case dismissal. Call us today at 661-793-7222 for a zero-obligation consultation.