Endangering the Welfare of a Child

New Jersey Endangering the Welfare of a Child Defense Lawyers

A charge for endangering the welfare of a child can have devastating consequences in New Jersey since it carries the possibility of a lengthy prison sentence and tens of thousands of dollars in potential fines. If you have been charged with child abuse or neglect involving sexual misconduct, the penalties are even worse with the mandatory registration as a sex offender under Megan’s Law and Community/Parole Supervision for Life. There is no doubt that you need to hire the very best attorney you can find if you have been charged with endangering the welfare of a child in New Jersey.

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall have the qualifications to mount a thorough and successful defense to an endangering the welfare of a child offense. Our New Jersey criminal defense firm is comprised of a team of former county prosecutors and public defenders that have been defending charges at courthouses throughout the state for decades with great success. We are certainly accomplished litigators that have a reputation for skillfully representing our clients.

The experience of our lawyers in handling NJ endangering the welfare of a child cases is extensive and so are the unique credentials for ensuring your charges are dismissed or reduced. The truth is that there are very few law firms that can offer you the time tested background we possess, including:

  • A team of ten (10) criminal attorneys that includes former prosecutors that have served as Director of Major Crimes, Special Operations, Juvenile Division, Drugs Task Force and an entire Trial Division in county prosecutor’s offices throughout New Jersey.
  • Attorneys who have handled and actually tried many endangering the welfare of a child cases over their career. We know what it takes to secure a favorable plea and, more importantly, how to competently present a case at trial if this is necessary.
  • Significant resources to build your defense, including a large staff of lawyers, paralegals and outside investigators.
  • Top flight trial experience that is so extensive that our members are NJ certified criminal trial attorneys. This certification is rare and possessed by less than 2% of the lawyers in the state.
  • A long history of litigating criminal charges and building relationships in county court systems throughout New Jersey so that our clients are represented by an attorney who has every chance of negotiating a reduced charge, lighter penalties and a favorable outcome. We know how to make things happen.

If you or a loved one was arrested for a sex offense for endangering the welfare of a child anywhere in the State of New Jersey, the experienced criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall can help. Our criminal defense trial team is available immediately to examine the facts of your case and provide a thorough evaluation of potential outcomes. Contact our office for a free initial consultation at (877) 534-7338.

What Is Considered Child Abuse, Neglect Or Endangerment?

The New Jersey Department of Children & Families (“DCF”) defines child abuse as “the physical, sexual or emotional harm or risk of harm to a child under the age of 18 caused by a parent or other person who acts as a caregiver for the child.” Child neglect refers to the failure of a parent or caregiver “to provide proper supervision for a child or adequate food, clothing, shelter, education or medical care although financially able or assisted to do so.”

N.J.S.A. 9:6-1 and 9:6-8 set forth a more detailed list of conduct that is considered abuse or neglect under New Jersey law and includes:

  1. Employing a child in a position that is injurious to his/her health
  2. Inflicting or exposing a child to physical injury
  3. Performing an indecent act in the presence of a child
  4. Permitting or allowing another person to perform an indecent act in the presence of a child
  5. Sexual abuse of a child
  6. Excessive physical restraint of a child
  7. Isolating a child to the point of emotional or social deprivation
  8. Abandonment of a child
  9. Inflicting unnecessarily severe corporal punishment
  10. Inflicting unnecessary mental or physical pain to a child
  11. Willfully failing to provide proper and sufficient food, clothing and shelter to a child

 

Types of Child Abuse & Neglect Cases We Handle

The lawyers at our firm defend all forms of endangering charges that are filed in New Jersey. Certain forms of this endangering the welfare of a child arise more often than others in our practice, including:

  • Statutory Rape (with a minor under 16 years of age)
  • Sexual Assault
  • DYFS hearings
  • Driving while Intoxicated (DWI) with a minor in the vehicle

 

The New Jersey Endangering the Welfare of a Child Law

The law governing a criminal charge for endangering the welfare of a child is set forth at N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4 and is divided into two sections. Subsection “a” is directed at child abuse of a sexual nature and provides that:

a. (1) Any person having a legal duty for the care of a child or who has assumed responsibility for the care of a child who engages in sexual conduct which would impair or debauch the morals of the child is guilty of a crime of the second degree. Any other person who engages in conduct or who causes harm as described in this paragraph to a child is guilty of a crime of the third degree.

Subsection “b” of the law concerns non-sexual endangerment charges and reads:

(2) Any person having a legal duty for the care of a child or who has assumed responsibility for the care of a child who causes the child harm that would make the child an abused or neglected child as defined in R.S.9:6-1, R.S.9:6-3, and section 1 of P.L.1974, c. 119 (C.9:6-8.21) is guilty of a crime of the second degree. Any other person who engages in conduct or who causes harm as described in this paragraph to a child is guilty of a crime of the third degree.

Endangering Charges Based On Sexual Conduct

N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4a applies when a NJ endangering the welfare of a child charge involves sexual conduct. Although the term “sexual conduct” lacks a specific definition, it is clear that it includes acts that would otherwise constitute sexual assault or criminal sexual contact. Our courts have held that many other acts can also fall within the definition of “sexual conduct” including hugging and kissing of a child for sexual gratification, showing a child obscene materials, having sexual intercourse in the presence of a child, asking or instructed a child to masturbate and repeated acts of lewdness in front of a child.

Although “sexual conduct” is the cornerstone of an endangering the welfare of a child charge under 2C:24-4a, there are other elements of proof that must be established by the prosecutor. A total of three (3) elements must be established, including that the accused:

  1. Engaged in sexual conduct;
  2. The conduct impaired or debauched the morals of the child; and
  3. The conduct was knowing.

There is a fourth element that the state must prove if they are charging an individual with a second degree crime under this law, namely, that there was a legal duty of care for the child or assumed responsibility for his/her care. If no such duty existed, then endangering the welfare of a child is a third degree crime and all that is required to prove the offense are the three (3) elements previously outlined.

Endangering Charges Based Non-Sexual Conduct

New Jersey criminal charges for child abuse or neglect of a non-sexual nature fall under N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4b. A violation of this law results in a second degree crime if the accused is the parent or someone with a legal duty of care for the child. When there is no legal duty, punching, kicking, throwing or otherwise abusing/neglecting a child is a third degree crime.

The core element of proof that must be established by the prosecutor is abuse or neglect of the child. Examples of conduct that meet this legal requirement include:

  • Inflicting physical injury on a child (e.g. pushing child down steps, hitting, striking, etc.)
  • Causing a substantial risk of injury or death to a child such as driving them while intoxicated (i.e. DWI or DUI), failing to secure a handgun or other weapon, or exposing them to drugs that may be ingested
  • Failing to provide supervision of a child (e.g. leaving a child unattended in a car, pool, in the home, etc.)
  • Failing to provide adequate medical care, food, clothing or shelter

Assuming that the prosecutor can prove an act of abuse or neglect of the child, they must also establish, beyond reasonable doubt, that the conduct was knowing. This occurs if the actor had a conscious object to engage in the conduct alleged by the state. As previously stated, 2C:24-4b makes endangering the welfare of a child a third degree crime when there is no parental relationship or legal duty of care to the child. Endangering is a second degree crime if the accused is the parent, teacher, coach or another individual responsible for the child’s care.

 

NJ Penalties For Endangering the Welfare of a Child

There are two criteria that dictate the range of penalties that someone faces at the time of sentencing on a charge for endangering the welfare of a child in New Jersey. The primary factor effecting penalties is the degree of crime involved. The second determining factor in terms of NJ child abuse, neglect and endangerment penalties is whether or not that violation is the result of sexual misconduct. The headings below outline the penalties and collateral consequences of a conviction based on these considerations.

  • Second Degree Crime. Second degree endangering the welfare of a child results in 5-10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000
  • Third Degree Crime. Third degree endangering the welfare of a child carries up to 5 years in prison and a fine that can reach $15,000.
  • Megan’s Law. A conviction for sexual conduct that impairs or debauches the morales of a child results in Megan’s Law sex offender registration. An individual must register annually with his local police department, report any change of address, and may also have his/her identity posted on the NJ Sex Offender Registry.
  • Parole Supervision for Life (“PSL”). An individual also falls within PSL upon conviction for a sexually based endangering offense. This results in parole supervision for life, limitations/prohibitions against internet access and addition consequences should the accused violate a criminal law in the future.

Frequently Asked Questions In New Jersey Endangering Cases

While our lawyers have made every effort to create an article that is fully comprehensive, we understand that there may be some unanswered questions that you may have regarding your charge for endangering the welfare of a child.  The following are some common questions in this area of New Jersey Law.

Is Child Endangerment a Felony or Misdemeanor?

While NJ does not categories crimes in terms of felony or misdemeanor, endangering the welfare of a child would absolutely be considered a felony. Generally, a criminal offense that carries the potential for over six (6) months of incarceration is considered a felony.

Can The Victim Or Their Family Drop An Endangering Case?

No. Endangering charges are brought by the state. It is up to the prosecutor to decide whether or not a 2C:24-4 offense is dropped.

Can Endangering the Welfare of a Child Be Expunged?

N.J.S.A. 2C:52-2 precludes expungement of a conviction for endangering based on  sexual conduct that debauches or impairs the morales of a child. A criminal record for child abuse or neglect under 2C:24-4 is otherwise eligible for expungement.

How Much Jail Time Can You Get For Child Neglect Or Abuse In New Jersey?

The period of incarceration is 5-10 years for second degree endangering the welfare of a child and up to 5 years for a third degree charge for child abuse.

How Long Does The State Have To File A Child Abuse/Endangering Charge?

The state has five (5) years from the date that the victim reaches 18 or two (2) years from discovery of the violation, whichever is later, to file a charge for endangering the welfare of a child.