Los Angeles Child Neglect Attorney

Los Angeles Child Neglect AttorneyHave you been charged with child neglect in Los Angeles? In California, child neglect is a crime that falls under the umbrella of child abuse, but not all child abuse is neglect. If convicted of child neglect, you will face 12 months behind bars and have a permanent mark on your record.

Charges of neglect are often shocking and blindsiding. However, you have legal rights and options to defend yourself, and an attorney can help you.

Call the Los Angeles child neglect attorneys at the Rodriguez Law Group today to arrange a free consultation.

How the Rodriguez Law Group Can Help If You’re Charged with Child Neglect in Los Angeles

child neglectA good Los Angeles criminal defense attorney will bring strong arguments to achieve the best possible outcome, which may include preserving your record and reputation, staying out of jail, and keeping your kids. At the Rodriguez Law Group, we know the Southern California court system and how law enforcement agencies and prosecutors work in child neglect cases.

From our many years working with investigators, prosecutors, and judges, we can analyze cases better than almost anyone.

When you contact our law firm, we will listen. If you hire us, we will do everything we can to help you, including giving your case our wealth of resources, unmatched experience, and personal attention.

Each and every one of our clients benefit from our advice, support, and professional approach. Contact our team to get started on your defense today.

What is Child Neglect in California?

The California statute that defines the offense of child neglect is Penal Code 270. If you are charged with Child Neglect or Failure to Provide, it will be under Penal Code 270. The Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act is detailed in Penal Code 11164 – 11174.3, which includes definitions of neglect in Penal Code Section 11165.2.

California Penal Code Section 11165.2 defines child neglect as “the negligent treatment or the maltreatment of a child by a person responsible for the child’s welfare under the circumstances indicating harm or threatened harm to the child’s health or welfare.” There are three elements of a child neglect crime which a prosecutor must prove to be successful in proving a parent is criminally liable for failing to provide for his or her child:

  • The defendant was the “parent” of a minor child.
  • The defendant failed to provide a necessity for the child.
  • The defendant’s failure to provide that necessity was “willful and without lawful excuse.”

A parent can be a biological parent, adoptive parent, and in some cases, grandparents or other family members. The court may consider a man to be a father if their wife has a child while they are living together. In an example scenario, if a woman has a child by artificial insemination, her husband will be considered the father of the child.

A “necessity” includes things a child needs, such as clothing, food, medicine, and shelter. Child neglect can be an act or an omission (failure to act) on the part of the responsible person, such as failing to take a child to the doctor when they have an injury or illness.

Neglect is separated into two categories under California law: severe and general.

Severe Neglect: A defendant is charged with failure to protect the child or children they are responsible for from serious malnutrition or “medically diagnosed failure to thrive.”

General Neglect: A defendant is charged failure to provide for adequate basic needs, where there is no physical injury or injury is not likely.

What Offenses are Related to Child Neglect?

Offenses related to child neglect in California include:

If multiple charges are brought for a single offense, it is important to consult with a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer immediately. Your lawyer may be able to successfully convince the prosecutor to reduce the charges against you if getting all charges dropped isn’t possible.

Mandatory Reporting Requirements for Observed Child Neglect

According to the LA Times, on any given day, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and Department of Children and Family Services receives up to 1,000 calls and reports of suspected child abuse and neglect. Many of these calls come from mandated reporters in the community.

Child neglect falls under the category of child abuse the requires mandated reporting in California. Mandated reporters are required, by law, to report all known or suspected cases of child abuse or neglect. The list of mandated reporters in California is extensive and growing. Mandated reporters include:

  • Teachers (including Head Start teachers)
  • Teachers aides
  • Administrators
  • Employees of licensed community care or child day facility
  • Classified employees trained in child abuse identification and reporting
  • Group home personnel
  • Priest, minister, rabbi, religious practitioner, or similar functionary of a church
  • Physicians, psychologists, and nurses.

A full list of mandated reporters can be found in Penal Code Section 11165.7. The legal obligation is not satisfied by notifying a supervisor. A report must be made over the phone and followed up in writing to law enforcement, or a County Welfare Department/County Child Protective Services.

L.A. County DCFS’ Role in Your Case

If you are charged with child neglect, you will very likely be contacted by the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), L.A.’s Child Protective Services agency. DCFS is responsible for investigating child welfare and abuse allegations, foster care, and adoption.

It is natural to want to be cooperative when your children are involved, and it may feel like you can answer questions and clear up misapprehensions or misunderstandings about your child’s care. This is a natural reaction.

However, when DCFS is involved, your family is at stake, and your future. While DSCF purports to keep children safe and support families in crisis, they are a criminal agency. It is essential that you have an attorney who understands how child neglect cases are prosecuted.

Can a Lawyer Help with DCFS Investigations?

Absolutely. As a former prosecutor, Ambrosio Rodriguez understands how a DCFS social worker will investigate your case and how they will work with prosecutors to bring criminal charges against you.

A CPS/DCFS social worker will often keep you in the dark about what you have been accused of. They may act friendly under the guise of wanting to be helpful, but they are looking for specific information. They know the laws, procedures, and how judges have handled similar cases.

Should you talk to a DCFS Agent or Social Worker About a Neglect Investigation?

Ideally, you should speak as little as possible with DCFS and contact a lawyer immediately.  If you are contacted by a social worker, you should politely ask what they are investigating and what the specific accusations and charges are, beyond broad categories of abuse or neglect. Politely but firmly insist that any interrogations of your child be taped. Do not allow investigators in your home without furnishing you with a copy of a warrant.

Penalties for Child Neglect in California

Child neglect, like many crimes, is a “wobbler” offense that can be prosecuted as either a felony or a misdemeanor. Felony child neglect is rare, and a repeat offender is much more likely than a first-time offender to be given felony charges. Consequences for child neglect include:

Misdemeanor: A misdemeanor charge of child neglect may be punishable by:

  • Up to 12 months in a Los Angeles County jail
  • Probation, and/or
  • Up to $2,000 in fines.

Felony: A felony charge of child neglect may be punishable by:

  • Up to 12 months in a Los Angeles County jail, or
  • 12 months plus one day in a California state prison, and/or
  • Up to $2,000 in fines.

Whether you are charged with a felony or misdemeanor will depend on the specific facts of the case (the level of neglect, how your child was deprived, and the degree of harm suffered), as well as your history of neglect or child endangerment, and your criminal record.

Defenses to Child Neglect Charges

The burden of proof is on the state to establish you are guilty of child neglect. Always remember, an arrest or charge is not a conviction. After you’ve been charged with child neglect or an act of domestic violence, an attorney can help you fight the charges against you. Valid defenses to child neglect charges may include:

  • Allegations are false: Allegations of child neglect may come from a bitter ex-spouse, especially when child custody is at stake. If you’ve been falsely accused, our lawyers will work to prove it.
  • Misunderstanding: If a child gives an incorrect timeline of events or uses the wrong words to describe their home environment to someone, a parent could be misunderstood to be neglectful.
  • Your actions were not willful/were legally excusable: You did not act to cause harm. For example, if you are a single parent working several jobs, the court will not find you guilty of child neglect for being unable to meet all needs.
  • You are not the parent: Neglect can only be committed by a “parent of a minor child.”

If you are trying to provide for your child but falling short, prosecutors should not bring a charge against you. If they do, they will not likely be successful. Although it may seem simple enough to defend yourself, an attorney who understands laws, codes, and procedures can help you present the strongest defense.

Can You Be Charged With Child Neglect If You Do Not Have Custody?

As a parent, you can be liable for neglect, even if you do not have legal or physical custody. In California, there are two kinds of child custody orders:

  • Physical Custody: Involves who your child lives with.
  • Legal Custody: Involves the right and responsibility to make or be involved in important decisions about the health, education, and welfare of the children.

If you are divorced or were never married and have no arranged custody agreement, you may not have physical custody or even legal custody. However, if your child does not receive proper necessities and is determined to be neglected, not having physical custody is not a justifiable excuse.

Get a Free Consultation with a California Child Neglect Defense Attorney

If you or a family member is facing child neglect charges in Southern California, hiring a skilled and competent lawyer is one of the most important actions you can take. Mr. Rodriguez and the team at the Rodriguez Law Group will help you protect your legal rights, your future, and your family. Los Angeles child neglect attorney Ambrosio Rodriguez offers a free case evaluation. Call our law office today to take the first step in your case.