California law grants parents authority over how they can raise their children. Nonetheless, if a parent fails to provide the child with the basic needs of care, they could be charged with child neglect under California PC 270. A child's basic needs include food, clothing, medicine, and shelter. If you are charged with child negligence, we at the Los Angeles Criminal Attorney can assist you in developing a solid defense.

An Overview of Child Neglect under California Law

Failure to provide care is a serious offense under California PC 270, and it applies to a parent of a child who has knowingly or intentionally neglected their child's medical and physical needs without a legitimate reason. Infringement of this provision could be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the nature, consequences, and record of the offender.

Under California PC 270, the defendant must prove that she or he didn't spend money on other things or that they continuously sought meaningful employment to meet the minor's requirements.

Elements of the Crime

For the prosecution to charge you with California child neglect, the prosecutor must prove certain elements of the offense:

  • It should be clear that you're the child's parent or guardian
  • The prosecutor must show that you failed or refused to provide necessities for the child
  • You intentionally refused to provide for the child and lacked a legal excuse

In addition to shelter, clothing, and food, the court could also consider remedial care and medical care. Acting deliberately or intentionally implies that you knowingly failed to meet the needs of the child. The definitions of what a parent and a minor are under California law are highly contested. There are also questions about what counts as a legitimate excuse.

Parent and Child

Under PC 270, the term "parent" has a wide definition. This is because many different groups of people fall under this definition. A parent includes a child's legal or biological parent as well as an adoptive parent. Other individuals who have or consider themselves parents are also eligible. Even if you are not the child's biological father, the law will recognize you as the parent.

If you have no responsibilities or rights towards a minor, it means that you are not a parent. A court ruling does not make anyone a parent. A child is defined by law as someone under the age of 18. The laws also protect an unborn child. The parents of an unborn child are legally required to meet the child's needs.

Legal/Lawful Excuse

A parent should provide for a child's needs, as per California PC 270, in every way that would be reasonable and acceptable. However, a parent could be excused from meeting a child's requirements if they have a valid legal reason. If a parent doesn't make enough money, he or she has a legal reason not to cater to the needs of a child. It must be clear that the parent's failure to provide care for the minor is due to circumstances beyond their control.

It should also be clear that the parent doesn't have sufficient assets to sustain or support the child. You cannot claim a legal justification if you're not able to provide for the needs of a child because you opted to spend the money on something else. If you don't persistently seek employment, then you have no legal reason for not providing for your minors.

If you are laid off unexpectedly and have no other stream of income, you could be unable to provide for your child's basic needs. You cannot be convicted of failing to provide care for your child because you didn't intentionally lose your job. However, if you have a job but opt to spend your earnings on pleasures rather than providing for your child's needs, you will face child neglect charges.

California's statutes presume that a parent has no legal justification for failing to provide care for their minor. Therefore, if the prosecution charges you with child neglect, it is your responsibility to show that you had a legitimate reason for not providing for your child. A qualified lawyer can assist you to fight the child neglect charges filed against you.

Signs of Child Neglect

There isn't a clear defining factor for failing to provide care. However, there are a few signs that could show child neglect. You will notice that a minor has suffered physical neglect if he or she is always hungry. A starving child is more likely to exhibit hoarding or food-seeking behaviors all the time. Physically neglected minors are normally small in both weight and height. Poorly fitted, unclean clothes, garments that do not cover the body, or improper attire in certain climatic conditions can be physical signs of child neglect.

Physically neglected children are more likely to have poor hygiene, such as unwashed hair, dirty skin, or body odor. Neglected children may also have physical illnesses or injuries that have gone undetected or appear to have been unnoticed.

A child who has experienced emotional or mental neglect may often act out in ways that tend to express anger, frustration, or disobedience. A minor could be undergoing educational or supervision neglect if he or she often misses school, is left unsupervised, or is left to wander in dangerous settings.

Child Neglect Penalties

Child neglect is normally classified as a misdemeanor. If found guilty of the crime, the parent risks serving one year in jail and/or paying hefty fines of no more than $2,000. However, there are rare cases when the crime is charged as a felony. This occurs when a parent refuses to provide care for their child several times, despite having already been adjudicated as a legal parent by the court.

For example, if a paternity case proves a defendant as the minor's parent and he or she refuses to provide the minor with necessities, the offense would be charged as a felony. In this case, the accused would be sentenced to 1 year behind bars and/or pay hefty fines not exceeding two thousand dollars.


An infringement of PC 270 is often sentenced to probation by the California courts. It could be "summary probation" for a misdemeanor crime or "formal probation" for a felony crime. The accused will spend little to no time behind bars, depending on the verdict and sentence. Instead, the courts would impose certain conditions on him or her, including taking up counseling classes or parenting programs.

If the parent doesn't comply with the terms of the probation, the courts will revoke it and sentence them to jail. The accused has the option of refusing probation and serving the sentence term instead. If a defendant rejects probation, the judge would not impose it.

Misdemeanor Probation

Misdemeanor probation is also referred to as "summary" probation. This type of probation lasts between 1 and 3 years. However, in some cases, the probation term can last up to five years. The court could order the accused to enroll in parenting programs, attend counseling sessions, seek employment, pay restitution, or engage in community service. The objective of misdemeanor probation is to rehabilitate the offender and restore the complainant. This type of probation is usually imposed on first-time offenders.

Pleading Summary Probation Instead of Imprisonment

In some cases, the offender can request probation in place of jail time, while in others, the judge will impose probation but only as part of the sentence. For instance, if a parent admits guilt to a misdemeanor of failing to provide care for a child and is convicted of one year in jail. However, the parent has no criminal record and shows regret for the infringement. The court would sentence him or her to one year of summary probation with 30 days in jail.

An offender is required to return to court regularly and provide the judges with a report showing their progress. When the judge receives the report, he or she will evaluate the case, address specific issues, and ask questions regarding the parent's progress. Failing to appear (FTA) on the given time or date would be regarded as a probation violation, and the court would issue a California bench warrant for the defendant's arrest.

The Difference Between a Summary and Formal Probation

The main distinctions between misdemeanor probation and felony probation are the length of the probation terms and the consequences incurred by the defendant. However, some people would claim that felony probation terms are more stringent and harsher than misdemeanor probation.

Aside from those, there are 3 significant variations between a misdemeanor and felony probation. The first difference is that when a defendant is sentenced to probation, the court requests a "probation report" from the probation officer. Most summary probations do not come with such a report.

Secondly, felony probation, as opposed to misdemeanor probation, has a county probation officer.

Third, a defendant convicted of summary probation could be allowed to move freely in and out of the country or the state. Felony probation, on the other hand, often restricts the movement of defendants. A parent must get the court's approval before moving or relocating while they are on probation. Traveling normally requires the approval of the designated probation officer.

Consequences of Your Immigration Status

Child neglect has no negative immigration effects. As a result, a sentence for child neglect would have no impact on a defendant's immigration status. According to California legislation, offenses that involve moral turpitude attract negative immigration repercussions. If you engage in an offense of moral turpitude, you will face deportation. You would also be flagged as being ineligible to enter the US. However, child neglect isn't a moral turpitude offense.

Effect on Firearm Ownership Rights

If you are found guilty of felony charges for child neglect, it would hurt your firearms rights. Individuals found guilty of felony charges are not allowed to possess or own any firearms under California law. A misdemeanor conviction for child neglect would not affect your firearm rights in the same way that a felony conviction would.

Removal of the Neglected Minor

If you're found guilty of neglecting your minor, California's Child Protective Services (CPS) will take the child away from you. This law allows for child removal if the child is being abused. CPS considers parental or caregiver neglect of a minor to be a form of child abuse. Abuse can be described as failing to provide a child with adequate food, shelter, supervision, clothing, and medical attention. Before removing a minor from their home, CPS will provide the necessary assistance to ensure that the child is safe in his or her home. If it's clear that a child cannot remain in his or her home despite receiving support, CPS will arrange for a foster placement.

Expungement of Your Conviction

A child neglect conviction, like any other offense, can be expunged. A judge would only issue an expungement if the defendant completes probation and meets all of the conditions of probation. If the court sentenced you to prison, you must complete the sentence before requesting for your conviction to be expunged. Even if you violated the probation rules, you could still be able to file for an expungement of your conviction. However, this will be at the discretion of the court.

You will no longer face any challenges as a result of the child neglect conviction once it has been expunged. Although the sentence will not reflect on your background check, it will be accessible in law enforcement records.

Common Legal Defenses of Child Neglect

You can defend yourself against child neglect allegations by developing solid legal arguments. To convince the courts that you're not guilty of child neglect, you would require the assistance of a professional attorney. Some of the common legal defenses include:

You Didn't Act Knowingly

A defendant can only be charged with child neglect if he or she willfully or intentionally failed to provide for the child's needs. If you didn't act on purpose or willfully, the court would not find you guilty of child neglect. Even if you didn't provide a child's basic needs, you can claim that it was not on purpose. For example, you could have unexpectedly lost your main source of income or been laid off. In this situation, you would not be blamed for child neglect since you didn't act willfully.

A Legitimate Legal Excuse

A parent could also argue that he or she has a legal reason for not providing for the child's needs. You could claim that you have a legitimate reason for not supporting your minor. For example, you could have gotten involved in a road accident and incurred injuries that hindered you from caring for your minor. The court's discretion determines whether the excuse provided counts as a valid legal excuse.

False Accusation

If you’ve been accused falsely of child neglect, you could dispute the charges. False allegations are common in such cases. For example, one parent could sue the other for child neglect to gain an edge in a divorce case or get child custody. A partner would also sue the other person for child neglect out of envy or as retaliation. Your lawyer can gather enough proof to show that you're not guilty of neglecting a child.

What to Do If Accused of Child Neglect

When the prosecution charges you with child neglect, you have several options for gathering evidence to assist you in fighting the allegations. It would be challenging, especially if the case for child neglect goes to trial.

However, if you take the proper steps, you could be able to secure a reduced sentence or avoid conviction altogether.

You Should Have Sufficient Information About Your Connection With The Minor

An allegation of child neglect is based on a series of omitted acts rather than a single incidence. Therefore, it is essential to have all of the information regarding how you relate to the minor. In some cases, you could be uncertain whether you're the minor's parent. You may not have known the child before. In other cases, you might be suffering from severe mental and health issues that hinder you from having a positive relationship with your child. Make sure you have all of these details at hand. You can also get family, neighbors, friends, and other individuals to testify about your relationship with the minor.

Gather As Much Information As Possible About Any Assistance You Have Provided To The Child

For example, you could gather receipts proving that you provided shelter, food, or any other support to the minor. You could also present medical records or doctor's reports showing that you have certain mental or physical conditions that hinder you from providing for your child.

Having A Support Network Is Crucial When Dealing With Allegations Of Child Neglect

An allegation of neglecting to provide care for your child can have a severe mental and emotional effect on you. Make sure you have a professional therapist, counselor, or trustworthy relative with whom you can talk.

After Being Accused Of Child Neglect, You Should Speak With A Lawyer Right Away

Child neglect is classified as a serious crime, and you may not know how to navigate the judicial system. It could be challenging to legally represent yourself, especially if you've got no prior knowledge of the law. It is critical to consult an attorney as soon as possible so that they have adequate time to look into your case. Make sure to hire an attorney who has extensive experience dealing with child-related cases. A lawyer is better equipped to establish a solid defense in a child neglect lawsuit.

Related Charges

Under California law, three offenses are closely related to a child neglect offense:

  • Child endangerment
  • Child abuse
  • Failure to Monitor a Minor's School Attendance

Child Endangerment (PC 273a)

You could be charged with child endangerment under California PC 273a if you subject a child or minor to suffering, danger, or pain. You don't have to inflict physical injury on a minor to be charged with child endangerment.

Child endangerment is charged as a misdemeanor crime if it doesn't put a child at risk of losing life or serious bodily harm. However, when a child is in danger of serious bodily injury or death, the offense of child endangerment is treated as a wobbler offense.

Child Abuse (PC 273d)

Child abuse, commonly referred to as corporal injury on a minor, is defined under California PC 273d. The law states that it is against the law to subject a minor to physical harm or cruel punishment. If you hit a minor and left a bruise on her or his body, you would face charges of child abuse. You could also face child abuse charges if you hit your teenager for being late. As long as the force used was more than reasonable in disciplining your child, it would count as child abuse.

Spanking a minor for disciplinary reasons is not considered child abuse. If you don't use excessive force as per the situation, spanking would not be considered child abuse. These conditions apply regardless of whether you spank a child with your hand or with an object.

Child abuse can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor. Your criminal background will influence how the prosecution handles your case. If you have a reputation for abusing children or engaging in domestic abuse, you could face felony charges. The prosecution will evaluate your case when choosing whether to prosecute the crime as a misdemeanor or a felony.

Failing to Monitor a Child's Attendance at School (PC 270.1a)

Failing to monitor your child's school attendance is a crime under California PC 270.1a. The law defines a child as any person who is six years of age or less, which includes a student in kindergarten through eighth grade. For this provision to apply, the child involved must be a chronic truant. This implies that the child often misses school and doesn't have a legitimate excuse. Infringement of California PC 270.1 (a) is charged as a misdemeanor, punishable by serving time behind bars. The court would also issue a hefty fine of no more than $2,000.

Find a Domestic Violence Lawyer Near Me

If you're facing child neglect allegations, you will need the assistance of a professional domestic violence lawyer to help you challenge the allegations. Our lawyers at the Los Angeles Criminal Attorney will analyze your case and provide the best legal defense to beat the charges. We understand the significance and sensitivity of this issue, especially considering that it directly affects your child. Our attorneys will battle tirelessly to secure the best possible result. Call us at 424-333-0943 to speak with one of our lawyers.