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Child Neglect

Penal Code 270 PC - Child Neglect Laws in California

Suppose you are a parent or legal guardian accused of willfully denying your child's basic needs. In that case, you could face charges for violating Penal Code 270 child neglect law, which carries harsh penalties.

PC 270 PC is the statute used by prosecutors to file charges on someone when they fail to provide necessities without a valid excuse, such as food, clothes, medicine, and shelter.

Penal Code 270 PC - Child Neglect Laws in California
Child neglect is the willful failure to provide a child with their basic needs, such as food and clothing.

PC 270 says, “If a minor child's parent willfully omits, without lawful excuse, to furnish necessary clothing, food, shelter or medical attendance, or other remedial care for their child, they are guilty of a misdemeanor. If a court has made a final adjudication in either a civil or criminal action that a parent of a minor child and they have notice of such adjudication, and they willfully omit to furnish necessary items for care, this conduct is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail of up to one year and a fine up to $2,000, or both.”

Proof of abandonment or desertion of a child by such parent, or the omission by such parent to furnish necessary food, clothing, shelter or medical attendance, or other remedial care for their child is prima facie evidence….”

Notably, when determining the ability of the parent to support their child, courts are required to consider income, social insurance benefits, and gifts. Further, this law applies whether the parents are married or divorced and regardless of any decree made in a divorce action regarding alimony or child support.

Often PC 270 child neglect is related to domestic violence. Let's review this state law in more detail below.

What Is Child Neglect?

As noted, child neglect is willfully depriving a minor of necessary food, clothing, shelter, or medical attention.  This includes parents or legal guardians who fail to provide basic needs for the minor child, meaning they are under 18.

Notably, an unborn fetus is also considered a minor child, which means a pregnant mother could also be charged with child neglect for failing to provide primary care.

Under the law, a "parent" is broadly defined as anyone legally responsible for the child's care, including the following:

  • Biological parents;
  • Parents who adopted the child;
  • Foster parents to the child;
  • Anyone holding themselves out as parents or the husband of a pregnant woman if they are living together.

Suppose you lost parent rights by a court order. In that case, you can't be charged with PC 270 child neglect but could face charges under other statutes.

In other words, just because you don't have a responsibility to pay child support does not mean you can't be charged with a crime related to neglect.

Under the law, a “lawful excuse" means a parent has done everything reasonably possible to provide some care for their child but cannot provide adequate care, such as a parent's low income that is insufficient to provide the child's basic needs.

A clause in the law called "other remedial care" protects parents from criminal exposure when religious beliefs prohibit them from seeking traditional medical care for their children. However, they are still required to get medical care when necessary.

Will Child Protective Services Take Your Child?

Possibly. One of the most common questions in a PC 270 child neglect case is whether Child Protective Services (CPS) take your child if you are accused of neglect.

The answer is that, in some cases, yes, if they believe it's in the child's best interest. Traditionally, a child is only removed from a home in PC 273d child abuse cases.

However, suppose you have willfully neglected a child by not providing them with food, clothing, or shelter. In that case, CPS could consider that a form of abuse. CPS will typically only remove a child from their home in extreme cases.

What Are the Related Offenses?

Some California laws are related to Penal Code 270 PC child neglect, such as the following:

  • Penal Code 273d PC – child abuse;
  • Penal Code 273a PC – child endangerment,
  • Penal Code 242 PC – battery,
  • Penal Code 270.1 PC – school attendance,
  • Penal Code 243(e)(1) – domestic battery.

What Are the Penalties for PC 270?

Child neglect under PC 270 is usually charged as a misdemeanor that carries the following penalties:

  • a fine of up to $2000, and
  • up to one year in county jail per offense.

Notably, a felony case could be filed if you claim the child is not legally your child (paternity) and the court establishes that you are the legal parent but continue to neglect to meet the child's basic needs. Still, felony cases of PC 270 child neglect are very uncommon.

What Are the Defenses Against PC 270?

Suppose you have been accused of PC 270 child neglect. In that case, our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers could use different strategies to obtain the best possible outcome, as discussed below.

Defenses for Child Neglect
Contact our criminal law firm for advice.

Maybe we can argue that there was no willful neglect. Recall from above that the prosecutor has to prove that you willfully neglected to provide for your child.

Maybe we can prove that was unintentional. Perhaps you lost your job and all income, and we can make a "lawful excuse" argument for not providing basic needs.  

Perhaps you were in an accident or injured and could not adequately care for your child. You may have other valid reasons which could help you avoid a conviction.

Maybe we can negotiate with the prosecutor prefiling to avoid criminal charges being filed in the first place (DA reject) or negotiate reduced charges or a case dismissal.

You can contact our law firm for a free case evaluation by phone or via the contact form. tact form. Cron, Israels & Stark have offices in Los Angeles, CA.

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