Child endangerment, also known as endangering the welfare of a child, is a serious crime that can significantly impact your life, especially if you are in the midst of custody proceedings. Having a criminal history of child endangerment can easily lead a court to take away your visitation or custody rights. If you have been charged with child endangerment in New Jersey, you need to understand the child endangerment offense and what kind of consequences it can have for you and your custody matter.
What Is Child Endangerment?
In New Jersey, child endangerment, or endangering the welfare of a child, involves committing abuse and/or neglect of a child who is in your care. Child abuse is defined as physical, sexual, or emotional harm, or risk of harm, to a child caused by a parent or other person who is caring for the child. Child neglect involves the failure of a parent or caregiver to provide proper supervision and adequate food, clothing, shelter, education, and medical care even though the parent or caregiver has the financial means or assistance to do so. New Jersey statutes include a detailed list of examples of conduct that constitute child endangerment.
Penalties for a Child Endangerment Conviction
Child endangerment offenses are charged as either third or second degree crimes, depending on the circumstances and severity of the offense. Penalties for a conviction may include:
- Third-degree crime: Up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000
- Second-degree crimes; Five to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000
In addition, child endangerment involving sexual conduct, such as sexual abuse or performing an indecent act in the presence of a child, may also trigger the obligation to register as a sex offender.
How a Child Endangerment Conviction Can Impact Your Child Custody Dispute
A conviction and/or history of child endangerment shows that you knowingly put your child or another child in your custody or care in harm’s way. If you have a history of being unable or unwilling to keep children safe from harm, a court may decide that you are not a fit parent and take away your custody and/or visitation rights. Although even one incident of child endangerment might lead a court to terminate your custody or visitation rights, the court may also choose to implement less severe consequences in your custody matter, including:
- Reducing the number of visitation days or hours that you are entitled to
- Eliminating your right to overnight visitation
- Imposing a supervision requirement for your visitation periods; in supervised visitation, a third party such as a family member trusted by the court or an independent party such as a caseworker or therapist will be physically present during the entirety of each visitation
The severity of the consequences for a child endangerment conviction on your custody rights will depend on the seriousness of your offense and the trial judge’s personal determination — some judges think any child endangerment renders you unfit to parent, while others may take a more case-by-case approach.
Even if your custody rights are impacted by a history of child endangerment, you might be able to regain those rights by proving to the court that you have regained your fitness to parent, such as by participating in therapy and counseling services.
Contact an Experienced Woodbridge Criminal Defense Lawyer About Your Child Endangerment Charges in New Jersey
Were you arrested or charged with child endangerment in New Jersey? The consequences of a conviction could be severe, leaving you with a permanent criminal record and possibly even sending you to jail. That is why you need to speak with a qualified criminal defense attorney as soon as possible about your case. The attorneys at The Law Offices of Anthony J. Vecchio have successfully represented clients charged with child endangerment in Middlesex County, Mercer County, Union County, Ocean County, and throughout New Jersey. Call (732) 334-7468 or fill out the online contact form to schedule a consultation with a member of our legal team. We have an office conveniently located at 227 Main Street, Woodbridge, NJ 07095 as well as offices located in Princeton, Freehold, Jersey City, and Mount Laurel.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.