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When you are facing criminal charges of child endangerment in the state of Texas, a dedicated criminal defense lawyer is who you need to talk to right away. At Cofer & Connelly, PLLC, we possess the experience, resources, and dedication to aggressively defend your rights. Each criminal defense lawyer at our firm understands that navigating the legal system can be daunting, so let us support you every step of the way to secure the most favorable possible outcome. You don't have to face this challenge alone; call a Texas child endangerment lawyer now at (512) 991-0576 or visit us online to schedule a no-obligation consultation.
Being charged with a crime involving a child is one of the most serious situations you can face. The information below seeks to provide you with an in-depth understanding of Texas Penal Code Section 22.041 concerning abandoning or endangering a child.
Key Terminology: What Does “Abandon” Mean?
The term “abandon” might seem straightforward, but in legal context, it's layered with specific meaning. According to Texas Penal Code Section 22.041(a), to “abandon” a child means to leave them somewhere without offering them the necessary and/or reasonable care that a reasonable adult in your position would provide. This definition serves as a cornerstone for understanding what constitutes an offense under this section of Texas law.
Types Of Offenses: A Two-Pronged Approach
Offense Of Intentional Abandonment
According to Section 22.041(b), if you are caring for a child under 15 years of age (or they are otherwise in your custody and/or under your control) and you intentionally leave this child in a place that poses a risk of harm that is objectively unreasonable, you could be charged under this section.
Offense Of Endangerment
The law broadens the scope to endangerment, meaning you could be charged for both actions and omissions that place a child in immediate danger. This includes an imminent threat of death, impairment (physical or mental), or bodily injury.
When Controlled Substances Come Into Play
Section 22.041(c-1) raises specific scenarios involving the manufacturing, use, or possession of controlled substances such as methamphetamine. This law presumes endangerment if you involve controlled substances in the presence of a child or if the child tests positive for these substances because of their accessibility or proximity to you.
Penalties: Understand What You’re Up Against
State Jail Felony
In scenarios where you abandon the child but intend to return, you're looking at a state jail felony.
If you abandon the child without any intention of returning, the crime escalates to a third-degree felony.
The law specifies that if the abandonment occurs as a situation unfolds that a reasonable person would view as imminent danger to the child, it becomes a second-degree felony.
State Jail Felony For Endangerment
If you are charged with child endangerment, that also falls under the category of a state jail felony.
Legal Repercussions: Beyond The Statute
It's crucial to note that charges under Section 22.041 not only come with legal penalties but can also have far-reaching social consequences. These can include loss of custody, damage to reputation, and potentially, loss of employment, especially for those working in child care or educational settings.
Specific Defenses To Charges Under Texas Penal Code Section 22.041
Athletic Events Defense: Child's Participation In Organized Sports
Texas Penal Code offers a specific defense for instances where the act or omission in question enabled the child to participate in an organized athletic event. For this defense to be applicable, appropriate safety equipment and procedures must be employed during the event. This means that if your child was engaged in a formal sports event with proper safety measures, and the charge arose from this situation, you could have a viable defense.
What Constitutes “Appropriate Safety Equipment And Procedures”?
While the term “appropriate safety equipment and procedures” is not explicitly defined in the statute, this typically refers to the standard safety guidelines and equipment required for the specific sport or activity. For example, in the context of a football game, this would mean that the child was provided with helmets, mouthguards, and pads and that there were certified referees and medical assistance readily available.
Exception For Emergency Infant Care Provider
Texas law outlines an exception to prosecution under this statute, which applies when the actor voluntarily delivers the child to a qualified provider of emergency infant care.
Importance Of Intent And Circumstances
Though not explicitly mentioned as defenses in the statute, the prosecutor needs to prove that you acted “intentionally,” “knowingly,” “recklessly,” or with “criminal negligence“ to establish guilt. Therefore, showing a lack of any of these can potentially serve as a defense. For example, if you left your child with a responsible adult, believing it was a safe situation, but the adult left and the child was found alone, you might argue you did not act with the required level of intent or negligence.
Frequently Asked Questions About Texas Penal Code Section 22.041: Abandoning Or Endangering A Child
What Exactly Does “Abandon” Mean Under Texas Law?
In Texas, “abandon” is defined under Section 22.041(a) as leaving a child in any place without providing the reasonable and necessary care for the child, under circumstances where no reasonable, similarly situated adult would leave a child of that age and ability. This definition helps clarify what actions or omissions might result in criminal charges under this section.
Can I Be Charged For Endangering A Child Even If I Don't Physically Harm Them?
Yes, according to Section 22.041(c), you can be charged for endangerment if you engage in conduct (or fail to act) that places a child younger than 15 years in imminent danger of death, bodily injury, or impairment (physical or mental). You don't have to physically harm the child to face charges under this statute.
How Does Controlled Substance Use Impact Charges?
Section 22.041(c-1) specifies that controlled substances like methamphetamine can trigger a presumption of endangerment. For example, if you're found manufacturing or using meth in the presence of a child, or if the child tests positive for meth, it is presumed that you've placed the child in imminent danger, making it easier for the prosecution to secure a conviction.
What Are The Penalties For Abandoning Or Endangering A Child?
The penalties vary based on the specifics of the case. Abandoning a child with the intent to return is considered a state jail felony. Abandoning without the intent to return escalates the charge to a third-degree felony. If the abandonment occurs in a situation where there's an imminent danger to the child, it becomes a second-degree felony. Endangering a child also results in a state jail felony charge.
Are There Any Defenses Available?
Yes, there are specific defenses. Texas law allows a defense if your act enables the child to participate in an organized athletic event and all appropriate safety measures are employed. The law provides an exception if you voluntarily deliver the child to a qualified provider of emergency infant care, as outlined in the Texas Family Code.
Do I Need A Lawyer If Charged Under Section 22.041?
Absolutely. If you're facing charges under this statute, it's imperative to consult a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. The laws around child endangerment and abandonment are complex and come with severe penalties, making legal representation essential for navigating your case.
Child Endangerment Attorneys
If you’re facing charges or are under investigation for abandoning or endangering a child, you need to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. Understanding the complexities of Texas Penal Code Section 22.041 is the first step, but navigating the legal system requires experience and strategic planning.
When your freedom, reputation, and future are on the line, settling for anything less than experienced legal representation is a risk you can't afford to take. The criminal defense lawyers at Cofer & Connelly, PLLC are here to provide the strategic and aggressive defense you need. Our primary goal is to minimize the impact of criminal charges on your life. Don't let a criminal charge define your future—reach out today. Call our criminal defense attorneys at (512) 991-0576 or consult with us online for an immediate, confidential consultation.