Vista criminal Attorney is trusted law firm operating in Vista, California. Our firm has top-rated attorneys who have great knowledge in criminal defense in many criminal cases such as failure to provide care or child neglect. Our attorneys can negotiate various legal defenses for child neglect in your favor once you face such charges.

In California, neglecting a child is a crime taken seriously and can earn you harsh punishments. Though parents are provided with many freedoms in how to bring up their children, if a parent does not provide their children with basic necessities, they may be accused of child neglect. In California, the criminalization of child neglect is under Penal Code 270. This crime is also referred to as failure to provide care.

Meaning of Child Neglect as per the Penal Code 270 PC

It is considered child neglect or failure to provide care, according to this Penal Code, when a parent does not provide for their minor to an extent that leads to emotional, physiological educational or mental harm. This is when a parent willfully denies their minor such necessities as clothing, food, shelter, water, hygiene, medical care, and supervision without a legal excuse to do so. These necessities also include the remedial care to the children.

What is Remedial Care?

Remedial may refer to the spiritual care for a child, for instance through prayers. Parents who do not believe in medical treatment may consider spiritual treatment from a recognized practitioner from a recognized church. However, such parents may still face prosecution under the Child Endangerment Law of California, under Penal Code 273(a), in case the child is extremely ill or does not recover. If the child dies, the parent may be prosecuted under the involuntary manslaughter law of California, Penal code 192(b).

What are the Differences Between Child Neglect and Child Abuse?

The difference between these two terms is that child abuse encompasses quite a number of crimes committed against a child. On the other hand, child neglect is categorized as a single crime under child abuse. It is also the most common kind of child abuse reported.

Who is a Parent According to California Law?

According to the Penal Code 270, there is a broad meaning of the term parent. Legally, a defendant is considered a parent to a minor if:

  • The defendant lives with the child’s other parent as a married spouse. If a wife gives birth to any child, a defendant is regarded as a father if he is not infertile. If the baby was born through artificial insemination process, and with the written consent of the husband, the husband shall be considered a father of that child. A husband is regarded as a father even when his wife gives birth to a child by sleeping with other men. In such a case, however, the defendant may not be regarded as a father if the husband brings up a case to determine the paternity of the child, and it is determined by the investigation that he is not the biological father.

  • The defendant had a divorce with a parent who has his child. Under this case, the defendant is regarded as a parent despite the fact that does not hold any custody rights. Even when one has not seen or met the said child. However, this section is not applicable to a child who has been safely surrendered or a lawfully adopted child.

  • The defendant can be a father to a minor if it is determined that he is the biological father, even without necessarily having married the other parent or being in a relationship with them.

  • If a person lawfully adopts a child or legally assumes the responsibility for the minor, they are regarded as a parent to that child.

Definition of a Child or a Minor by California’s Penal Code 270

Under this penal code, a child or a minor is seen as a person who has not attained the age of 18 years. It also includes those children who are not yet born. This is unless a court decision states otherwise.

What Are The Elements Of Crime in Child Neglect?

For one to be held liable for a crime of child neglect, the prosecutor must prove the following elements:

  • That the defendant was the minor’s parent.
  • That the defendant neglected to provide the basic necessities to the minor.
  • That the defendant committed the crime willfully and did not have a lawful excuse. When one is said to have committed a crime willfully, it means they did it deliberately. On the other hand, when a person may fail to provide for a child with a legal excuse, it means that it was not their will to neglect the child. This may be caused by, for instance, insufficient income to provide for the child.

For instance,

Marcy is not married but has a daughter. Marcy works as a chef in a hotel. After some time, the hotel closes down and Marcy loses her job. She finds it hard to find another job despite her honest attempt. She is unable to pay the bills and she is even evicted from her house. Marcy’s friends give her a house to live with her daughter. Marcy fails to provide enough food and clothing for the daughter and one of her neighbors reports her to the authorities. Marcy is arrested and charged with child neglect under the PC 270. Due to her financial constraints, it is proved at the court that she has a lawful excuse. Thus, her charges are withdrawn.

However, if the parent did not look for a job or used the money carelessly for other inappropriate things, they will not have a lawful excuse for failing to provide care.

Indicators of a Neglected Child

The following are some of the things that may indicate that a child has been neglected:

  • A physically neglected child is likely to show signs of hunger frequently such as hoarding food or asking for food from others.They may show other signs like dirty clothing. The clothes may also not be suitable for the weather. The child may also have unwashed hair and skin.

  • For a medically neglected child, signs may include untreated illnesses or ignored physical wounds and injuries.

  • A child who demonstrates such emotions as frustration, violence, anger, and rebellion may indicate emotional or mental neglect.

  • Children with inadequate supervision may be seen in risky areas or playing risky games. They may also be walking or playing in unsuitable weather or other situations.

What are the Punishments for Child Neglect?

Under the Penal code 270, one may be charged with a misdemeanor child neglect or felony child neglect.

For misdemeanor failure to provide care, one may face such punishments as misdemeanor probation, a jail term of not less than one year in a county jail or a fine of not less than two thousand dollars ($2000).

Under the felony child neglect of the PC 270, a prosecutor can charge the crime into either felony or misdemeanor. This happens if a court had already made a judgment against a parent for neglecting a child, offered a notice to the parent, and then the parent deliberately continues to neglect the child.


Mark and Daisy meet at a party and Mark convince Daisy to accompany him to his house for a sleepover after the party. After some days, Daisy tells Mark that she is pregnant. Mark becomes violent and refuses to own the pregnancy.

After the birth of the child, a court hearing determines that Mark is biologically the father of the child and he is given an adjudication notice by the court. Mark continues to refuse taking up the responsibility. He does not provide for the child. Mark is then charged with neglecting the child.

Since there was a previous court ruling that mark is the father to the child, Mark may face Felony child neglect charges from the prosecutor.

If charged with child neglect felony, one may face such punishments as:

  • A jail term of up to one (1) year,
  • Not less than two thousand dollars ($2000) fine.
  • One may also spend a year and one (1) day imprisonment in a state prison in California.

A defendant may also be put on probation by a judge if found guilty of child neglect. The probation may either be felony probation or misdemeanor probation. One may face little to no jail term if they are put on probation. The defendant will, however, be needed to comply with such conditions as counseling and parenting classes.

How Can You be Reported of Child Neglect in California?

There are many ways in which people can report child neglect in California. As opposed to other kinds of crimes where one directly makes a charge against another person, in child neglect, one may be charged for this crime from reports made to the authorities by the members of the public. For instance, a neighbor may notice the signs of child neglect in a child and confidentially reports the neglect to the local authorities. There could also be some people mandated to report the cases of child neglect. These are referred to as mandated reporters. Mandated reporters may include public administrators, schools and direct employees of schools and sports coaches, nurses and social workers among others.

Legal Defense for Child Neglect

While a person convicted of the crime of child neglect may face harsh punishments, there are conditions where the punishment may not be necessary for the defendant. To avoid unnecessary punishments, a defendant through an attorney may apply some legal defenses to counter the charges under the Penal Code 270. Here are some of those defenses:

False Accusations

There are many reasons why one may fall into false accusations. For instance, an ex-wife may raise false allegations against a man because they may be unhappy that the man is re-married. One may also be wrongly accused by a spouse who is after more compensation in child support after a divorce. A good attorney can convince the prosecutor towards dropping the charges if this is actually the case.

Mistaken Facts

Sometimes you may be accused of child neglect out of the mistake of facts. For instance, a mandated reporter may notice some signs that are similar to those of a neglected child and make a report to the authority. Due to the fact that a mandated reporter can be accused of a misdemeanor if they fail to report child neglect, they tend to report as soon as they notice or suspect that a child is suffering from neglect. As such, it is possible to find that you are accused out of the mistake of facts. One can always counter such allegations by providing evidence to prove that they are actually taking care of the child. This might convince the court to drop the charges against you.


The Failure To Provide Care Was Not A Willful Act

If the parents are accused of child neglect, a crime that they did not commit deliberately, they may not be held liable for the crime. The crime is regarded as willful if the parents did it purposely. According to PC 270, it will not be a willful crime if the parent failed to provide care under the following conditions:

The parent never realized that their child was in need of medical attention.

The parent was not in a position to afford and provide the basic necessities for the child even when they made honest efforts to provide. The parent could also bein such a financial situation that they could not afford all the necessities required for the child.

The parent could have had a serious illness and could not provide for the child.


The Defendant Is Not A Parent To The Minor

If charges are made against a person who is not the legally recognized as the minor’s parent, the defendant will not be held responsible for the neglect. The defendant will not be regarded as the parent to the minor if:

The child has been legally given for adoption by another person,

The mother was in another marriage during the birth of the child,

The defendant is not the biological father of the child and the child was a product of artificial insemination without the consent of the defendant, they will not be regarded as the father to that child.


The Parent Had a Lawful Excuse to Seek Alternative Health Care

Under the PC 270, a parent may legally seek for alternative medical care such as spiritual or prayer healing if they do not subscribe to the traditional medical care. This is legally acceptable if the spiritual practitioner is from a recognized religious organization or church. The child should not be in a serious illness that can put them at risk of death. In the case of serious illness that risks the life of the child, the parents must seek medical care despite their spiritual beliefs. Failure to do this may find the parents guilty of child endangerment or involuntary manslaughter in case the child dies.

What to Do When You Face Child Neglect Charges

Child neglect case may be complicated for you if you do not prepare adequately for it. When you are charged with child neglect, here are some of few tips you should observe:

  • Remember the essential details that may show how you relate with the child. It could be that it is not even your obligation to provide for the child. You could also have some reasonable causes of neglect such as poor health.

  • Gather enough evidence to support your claim. You could, for instance, gather such documents as receipts for purchased food, clothing or medical care. You could as well have your personal doctor talk about your health to provide evidence that you have been ill.

  • During a child neglect case, you might face some mental or psychological problems. This is because such cases might be tough for you. Finding a professional counselor or therapist can help you to overcome or prevent the chances for such problems.

  • Obtain a criminal defense attorney. In California, being accused of child neglect is something to take very seriously. This is because the laws tend to punish harshly, people found guilty of crimes against children. Such accusations may be tough to you and may cause fear. It would, therefore, be very difficult to prepare a defense for yourself if you have no experience in such legal practices. This calls for the need for an experienced lawyer who is conversant with legal issues related to children.

Find A Vista Criminal Attorney for Failure to Provide Care (Child Neglect) Near Me

If you are accused of failing to provide care (child neglect) in Vista, CA a good law firm such as Vista Criminal Attorney Law Firm can help you raise the potential legal defenses to combat your charges. Our firm has qualified attorneys with great experience in dealing with child neglect cases in California. We are always prepared and willing to work with you. Do not hesitate to call us at 760-691-1551 and talk to our experienced Vista criminal lawyer about your child neglect charges.