The State of Arizona is one of the many US states that have strict laws in place to ensure the absolute protection of minors. For instance, violating the rights of children by endangering them will be taken as a serious crime, punishable by law.
If you are facing child endangerment charges in Phoenix, you can get in touch with the Phoenix Criminal Attorney to fight your charges. Our attorneys will ensure that your rights are protected and you are not liable for a crime you have not committed.
Legal Definition of Child Endangerment
Child endangerment is a general term that is used to refer to any action or omission that abuses a child physically, psychologically, and emotionally. When any person acts in a manner that places a child in imminent danger of bodily injury, mental or physical impairment or death, the person will face child endangerment charges.
Under the law, the safety of children should always come first for people who have been charged with the responsibility of taking care of children. These include families, caregivers, or teachers in schools, among others. If any person with direct contact with a child threatens their mental, emotional, or physical wellbeing, they will be endangering the life of that child and can, therefore, face serious legal penalties.
Child abuse that results from child endangerment will be convicted as a misdemeanor, but the severe form of abuse that leads to serious physical or mental effects will be sentenced as a felony. The child who is a subject of endangerment will be referred to as a neglected or abused child.
In the state of Arizona, there is no specific statute dealing with Child endangerment. However, there is a general statute provided under Section 13-1201 of Arizona Law that covers the endangerment of any person. According to this law, the crime of endangerment occurs when a person recklessly puts the life of another person in substantial danger of death or physical injury. Since a child is also an individual, only that they are below the legal age of 18, endangering them is an offense that is severely punished by the state laws.
According to Section 13-105(c) of Arizona Penal Code, acting recklessly means that the offender was well aware of their actions, but still consciously and unjustifiably disregarded the substantial risk they were subjecting the child into. The amount of risk, in this case, will be more significant to the point that if ignored, it will constitute a substantial deviation from the child's reasonable standard of conduct in that same situation.
Elements of Child Endangerment
For a person to be successfully convicted for the crime of child endangerment, the following elements must be satisfied:
- That they unjustifiably inflicted mental, emotional, or physical pain on a child; That they willfully allowed a child to suffer an untenable amount of mental suffering or physical pain; That while in the custody of that child, they willfully allowed or caused the child to be placed in a situation where their health was endangered.
- That the accused was criminally negligent when he/she allowed or caused a child to suffer, get injured or endangered
- That the accused was not disciplining the child through their actions
To be charged as a felony, there is an additional element to this crime that the prosecutor must prove before finding the defendant guilty. If the defendant's actions led to serious bodily injury on the minor or the minor's death, they would face a felony conviction if found guilty of child endangerment. Note that a felony conviction could also happen if the defendant's actions were likely to result in the death or severe injury of the minor, even if the two outcomes did not occur.
Several situations are considered child endangerment in the state of Arizona. These situations will be discussed below.
Leaving a Minor Unattended in a Vehicle
Statistics show that more than three dozen children aged below 14 in the United States die every year from heat stroke after being abandoned and unattended in a car.
Leaving a child unattended in a vehicle is something that people would do without thinking about the amount of risk they are putting the child into. Distracted parents mostly do this. The office of Maricopa County Attorney launched a campaign urging caregivers not to leave their children or pets behind. This goes to show that the act of leaving a child or a pet unattended in a car is fatal and also a dangerous criminal act that is severely punished by the law.
Following the dangerous reports that the state has received in the past concerning children and pets that have been left inside a hot car, the state of Arizona has passed a new law that allows passerby to break and even cause damage to a vehicle to rescue the child or pet without facing legal charges.
A study that was published by the UC San Diego School of Medicine and Arizona State University in 2008 states that a car parked in the hot sun can get hot inside. Its dashboard alone can heat up to 160 degrees in an hour. That temperature is hot enough to cause third-degree burns on human skin. Young children and pets in such a car are likely to experience hyperthermia or get injured when they come into contact with a hot object inside the vehicle. Hyperthermia means that their body temperature rises to dangerous levels and could suffer internal body injuries.
The Arizona Hot Car Law, provided under Section 12-558.02, allows a person to use reasonable force to access a locked and unattended car to remove a minor or a domestic animal that has been left unattended in the vehicle. Such a person will not be held liable for any damages if a lawsuit is brought against them, but under the following conditions:
- That the person had a good reason to believe that a minor was in imminent danger and could have suffered severe physical injuries or even death unless they were removed from the car
- That the person had resolved that the vehicle was locked and that there were no other reasonable means of removing the child from the car
- That before breaking into the vehicle, the person had notified a peace officer of the fact that there was a child locked and unattended in a car
- That the person did not use more force than needed under the circumstances to access the child and remove them from the car
- That the person remained with the minor until the officer, who was notified, arrived.
The peace officer, in this case, could be a first responder, an emergency medical provider, or a police officer.
Leaving a Child with Insufficient Supervision
The question that troubles many parents is how old their child can be left home alone or with inadequate supervision. There is no straight answer to this because it all depends on the state of your residence and the length of time the child will be alone. Only three states in the US have clear-cut laws on the appropriate age for a child to be left unsupervised. In the state of Illinois, a child cannot be left alone at home or elsewhere with minimal supervision until they attain the age of 14. Maryland allows children of at least eight years to be left alone at home but only for a few hours. In Oregon, a child that is ten years or older can be left with minimal supervision.
The state of Arizona does not have a specific law dictating the age at which a child can safely be left at home alone. However, this does not mean that parents can leave their children at any age to take care of themselves. There are several factors that a parent can consider to determine whether a child is old enough to stay home alone. These factors are as follows:
- Whether or not they feel ready and safe to stay home alone for a few hours
- Whether the child is physically and mentally able to take care of him/herself
- Whether or not the child will be able to handle an emergency
- The child’s level of maturity
If your child is not mature or responsible enough to stay home alone, it will not be fair to that child if they were left alone unsupervised, even for an hour. Many experts agree that the most appropriate age for that would be ten years since most children can physically and emotionally take care of themselves for a few hours.
Leaving a child unsupervised for long periods can cause adverse effects such as stress, increased levels of fear and anxiety, boredom, and loneliness. Children can also panic in case of danger and not be able to call for help on time. If a fire broke out at your home, for instance, or a burglar broke in, children may not know what to do in such situations, and this may not be safe for them.
Severe Punishments that Lead to Bodily Injury
Children are bound to make mistakes, and as a caregiver, you may feel obliged to punish them as a way to help them become more accountable for their mistakes. Children that are well punished are also able to make better choices in life. Again, it feels good to be around children who are well-behaved and so, such children have an easy time making friends and connecting with other people.
In as much as a discipline is suitable for children, caregivers have to make sure that it is being done safely. Punishing a child to the extent of causing severe bodily injury is not acceptable, not just in Arizona, but in the entire country.
The state of Arizona is among the 19 states in the US that allow corporal punishments in schools. Corporal punishments, in this case, include spanking, slapping, and pinching. Corporal punishment laws in the state are left in the hands of school governing boards in every district to set up a policy that works for them.
When used appropriately and sparingly, corporal punishment can work very well in curbing indiscipline, especially in schools. However, it has serious consequences. Beyond physical pain, children who are spanked continuously or slapped can have enduring anxiety, suffer severe depression, and could also be withdrawn. When handling children, it is advisable to use a discipline method that will help them in the long run and not one that can affect them physically, mentally, or emotionally. That is why some forms of punishment are dangerous to children.
Failing to Report Child Abuse
The state of Arizona requires anyone who suspects that a particular child is undergoing abuse to report it immediately. Some specific individuals have direct contact with children, who are mandated by law to report suspected cases of neglect or abuse. These include doctors, teachers, and social workers. If this is not done, the person who has failed to report can face criminal charges.
According to state laws, here are the groups of people who are mandated to report suspected abuse on children and who might face serious criminal charges if they don’t report:
- Medical physicians, their assistants, dentists, optometrists, chiropractors, behavioral-health professionals, psychologists, nurses, social workers, counselors, osteopaths, and podiatrists
- Peace officers, child-safety workers, child-welfare investigators, Christian Science practitioners, priests, and members of the clergy
- Teachers and other school personnel, advocates for domestic violence victims and advocates for sexual-assault victims
- Parents, guardians, and stepparents of the abused minor
- Every other person that has responsibility for caring and treating the minor
Failing to report child abuse makes it impossible for the child to find help on time, and their physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing will continue being at risk. Note that reporting suspected cases of child abuse does not require you to be sure about it. Reports are not expected to prove the abuse of what happens after the report is that the state's Department of Child Safety will come in and launch investigations into the matter.
Penalties for Child Endangerment in Arizona
The crime of child endangerment is punished based on the severity of the matter. Child endangerment case, for instance, can attract a minimal penalty according to Section 13-3619 of the state’s revised laws. In this case, an offender will be convicted to a Class 1 Misdemeanor, which attracts penalties such as a maximum of six months in jail, three years of probation, and a maximum fine of $2500.
If child endangerment was done intentionally; the defendant will be sentenced to a Class 2 Misdemeanor as per Section 13-3623 of Arizona revised statutes. This attracts a more severe punishment of a maximum of four years in prison.
If child endangerment were done recklessly, the offender would be sentenced to Class 3 Misdemeanor, which is punishable by a maximum of two years in prison. If it were done negligently, the offender would face a Class 4 Misdemeanor conviction, which attracts a prison term of one year on the minimum.
Possible Defenses for Child Endangerment
Endangering the life and wellbeing of a minor is something that is taken very seriously in the state of Arizona. However, it is possible to be accused of endangering a child while in the real sense, your actions were innocent. In that case, you will need the help and support of a qualified criminal attorney.
Other than guiding you through the process and advising you on what to do in every step of the way, your attorney will plan a strong defense against the charges you are facing and present the argument in court during your case hearing. Here are some defense strategies he/she can use:
- That the act was not willfully done- if that is the case, then it will not amount to criminal negligence. If the prosecutor is not able to prove that the defendant acted willfully or with criminal negligence, they may not be found guilty.
- That the defendant was reasonable administering discipline on the child- children and teachers in the state of Arizona are allowed by the law to use corporal punishment reasonably to discipline a child.
- False accusations- a false allegation is possible when it comes to child endangerment cases. A child could make false allegations on their own or through manipulation by their parents.
- Someone else is responsible- when the life of a child is in danger, law enforcement officers will be quick to make arrests. In the process, they might arrest the wrong perpetrator while in a real sense; someone else was responsible for endangering the minor. Investigations into the matter will enable your attorney to clear your name and secure your release.
Find a Phoenix Criminal Lawyer Near Me
A case of child endangerment will not only leave you facing criminal charges but also affect your reputation and the way you relate with your family and other people. We advise you to fight the charges with the help of a criminal defense attorney. The Phoenix Criminal Attorney is a premium criminal defense law firm that is ready to take up your case. We will offer the best possible strategies to fight your charges. Get in touch with us today at 602-551-8092.