Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer is a top-rated criminal defense firm with expert attorneys that have over 20 years of experience in defending criminal and DUI cases. At this firm, the attorneys are abreast with the ins and outs of California criminal law and can pursue petitions to vacate the conviction of failure to provide care or child neglect. There are various possible defenses to a charge of failure to provide care, some of which include false accusations, a lack of funds, or acting unwillingly. It is also possible to argue that the defendant is, in fact, innocent of said charges and did provide necessities for his or her child.

What is Failure to Provide Care under California Law?

The California Penal Code 270 PC defines the crime of failure to provide care as a severe offense and pertains to a parent of a minor child who, without any lawful excuse, willfully or purposely neglected the physical and medical necessities of his or her child. Violation of this law may be classified as a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the severity, consequences, and criminal record of the parent.

Under the charge of California Penal Code 270 PC, the accused is required to prove that he or she did not misspend money on something else or that he or she persistently tried to get meaningful employment to be able to afford the needs of the child.

What Does California Penal Code 270 PC State as “Necessity”?

Under Penal Code 270, necessities are those that provide the child’s physical needs, which are namely:

  • Clothing
  • Food
  • Shelter
  • Medical
  • Remedial care

What is Remedial Care?

Remedial care may include spiritual treatment, such as with the aid of prayers. If parents do not believe in traditional medicines, they can opt for “faith healers” to cure and nurse their children. Although, such prayer-based treatment ought to be provided by a practitioner of a recognized church or religious denomination.

In case, the child’s health does not show improvement or degrades, the law will hold the right to prosecute the parent under Penal Code 273a, California’s Child Endangerment Law. In case, the child falls ill and dies; the parent can be prosecuted under the Penal Code 192b, California’s Law on Involuntary Manslaughter.

Who Does the Law Apply to?

The law applies to all parents of minor children and even those who are unborn. The parents of all minors and unborn children are obligated to provide them with care and fulfill their necessities. Under Penal Code 270, parents ought to make children their priority.

Under the Statue, Who Can be Defined as “Parent”?

The California Penal Code 270 can define “parent” as someone who is a biological mother or father, is an adoptive parent, never married to a custodial parent, divorced the custodial parent, has no custody rights, was married to or lived with the custodial parent during the child’s birth, or had little to no contact with the child.

For example, if a divorced man with no legal custody tends to the child and fails to fulfill his or her basic physical and medical needs, the man is still liable under the California Law. The absence of legal custody or being divorced does not constitute "lawful excuses."

What Must the Prosecutor Prove to Confirm You are Guilty?

Under the California Law of Failure to Provide Care, the prosecutor must prove, beyond the suspicion, that you were the child’s determined parent, the child was a minor (under the age of 18), you failed to provide basic needs to the minor, and that the failure was on purpose, intended, and unjustifiable.

Penalties for Failure to Provide Care?

Child neglect in California is usually classified as a misdemeanor. On being found guilty, the parent can be sentenced up to 1 year of the county jail and/or a fine of up to two thousand dollars.

On the other hand, some rare cases are charged as a felony. This happens when a parent fails to provide care more than once, even after being adjudicated as a parent previously by a court. For instance, if a paternity suit determined a man as the child’s father, and he still refused to provide the child his or her physical necessities, the violation will be considered a felony. 

In such a case, the guilty are punished with up to one year of the county jail, or is sentenced to one year and one day in state prison, or/and has to be paid a fine of two thousand dollars.

Probation Instead of Imprisonment 

Often, the California court will sentence the violator of Penal Code 270 to probation. It may be “summary probation” for misdemeanor or “formal probation” for a felony. Depending on whichever is sentenced, the defendant will serve little or no time in jail. Instead, the court will dictate him or her certain conditions, such as to take counseling or join parenting classes. In case of failure, the court can revoke probation and send the parent to jail.

The defendant can choose to reject the probation and serve the sentence tenure instead. A judge will not order probation to a defendant who does not want it.

Probation for Misdemeanor

Misdemeanor Probation is also called “summary” probation. It can typically last anywhere between one to three years. Only in some cases, it lasts up to five years. The court can ask the defendant to join parenting classes, attend counseling, pay restitution, seek employment, or perform community labor. The purpose of summary probation is to restore the victim and rehabilitate the defendant. This probation is typically for first-time offenders.

Pleading Misdemeanor Probation Instead of Jail

In some instances, the defendant can plead for probation instead of jail, while in another case, the judge will grant probation but during sentencing. For example, a mother pleads guilty to a misdemeanor charge for not providing care for her daughter and is sentenced to a 1-year county jail sentence. However, she has no criminal record and expresses regret for the violation. The judge may sentence her summary probation for one year with 30 days of the county jail.

A defendant requires to return to the court periodically and update the judge with a progress report. The judge, upon receiving the report, will review the case, discuss specific problems, and ask questions about his or her progress. Failure to Appear (FTA) on a scheduled date or time will be considered as a violation of probation and will lead to the judge issuing a California bench warrant for the offender’s arrest.

Difference Between Misdemeanor Probation and Felony Probation

The duration of the sentence and the consequences faced by the parent are the primary differences between a misdemeanor and felony probation. However, some may argue that felony probation is more strict and severe than a misdemeanor.

Other than those two, there are three critical differences between a summary and formal probation. First is that when sentencing a felon to probation, the judge asks for a “probation report” from the county probation officer. Such a report is not obtained in most summary probation.

Secondly, unlike misdemeanor probation, felony probation has a probation officer.

Thirdly, a parent who has been sentenced with summary probation may be allowed to travel out of the state or country. However, felony probation often retrains the sentenced from moving or traveling. If a parent wants to move or relocate during his or her probation period, they are required to obtain approval from the court. Traveling usually needs the permission of the probation officer.

Can I Terminate Probation Early?

California law allows termination of the probation before it is due. If the defendant completes probation conditions ahead of schedule and without violating any law, the judge will terminate summary probation early.

However, typically, judges are unwilling to grant early termination of probation until the defendant completes one year in case of misdemeanor probation or at least 18 months in case of felony probation.

Once the probation period is completed, the defendant may be able to clean his or her rap sheet as well by petitioning the court for Expungement.

Legal Defenses for Failure to Provide Care or Child Neglect

Depending on the situation, there are many defenses to California Penal Code 270 PC. The accused parent can be defended taking on the position that he or she was falsely accused, is not a minor’s legal parent, did not act willfully, has a lack of funds, was reasonably unaware of the child’s medical needs, or provides a lawful alternative to medical care such as prayer.

False Allegations

Unfortunately, there are more than expected cases where the parent is wrongly charged for not providing care for the child. Perhaps, a custodial parent who wanted more money post-divorce or a former partner who was motivated with a sense of jealousy and revenge. In such cases, an experienced attorney can often persuade the prosecutor to withdraw the charges.

Mistake of Fact

Under California's "Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act," the government obliges many professionals to report suspected child abuse. These professionals are called "mandated reporters" include doctors, nurses, social workers, teachers, other school administrators, and clergy. If a reporter fails to report abuse, he or she is also held guilty of a misdemeanor. Therefore, mandate reporters often report even the slightest suspicion of child neglect.

There are instances where a parent may be mistakenly accused of neglect based on this suspected abuse or "mistake of fact." This may happen when one of the mandated reporters notices what appears to signs of neglect. 

Such allegations can be defended with evidence of care provided, or in case of a non-custodial parent, by an attempt to give such care.

The Defendant is Not The Child’s Legal Parent

If the person charged is not legally the child’s parent, he or she will not be held responsible for taking care of the minor’s health and physical needs. The defendant is not the legal parent of the minor if he/she was born when the mother was married to another person, the minor was lawfully adopted by somebody else, or the defendant is in no way the child’s biological parent (including artificial insemination). If the juvenile was conceived through artificial insemination but without the legal, written consent of the defendant, he would not be determined as the parent of the minor, thus may not be found guilty under the law.

The Act of Violation was Not Willful

A parent cannot be charged for failing to provide basic needs to the minor if the failure was not on purpose. Under California’s Law, neglect is not considered willful if the inability to provide care was not the parent’s fault. Two cases are considered before pleading the parent guilty of willfully acting against the law. The two justifiable reasons are that the failure happened because the parent did not realize or know that his or her child needed medical care or he or she could not arrange enough money to take care of the child.

The Parent Sought Remedial Care

Since not every parent believes in medical help, the California Penal Code 270 allows them to initially seek remedial care, such as prayers or with the help of “faith healers” As long as the corrective healing is done by a practitioner of a recognized church and child is not very sick or at risk of dying, the parent cannot be charged for failure of not providing care.

This does not necessarily relieve the parent of all responsibilities under this law. In circumstances where the minor becomes dangerously ill, the parent is legally obligated to seek traditional medical help. A parent who decides against the legal responsibilities can be charged under Penal Code 273a and 192b.

A Lack of Funds

Parents who, despite all their efforts, fail to provide all the necessities for their child may have a “lawful excuse” for child neglect. However, the lack of funds should not be the fault of the defendant.

For example, if Jack’s son was very sick and despite all his efforts, He could not get himself gainful employment to pay for his son’s treatment, he could lawfully be excused for not being able to provide care for his son.

However, if Jack does not take any job and idles without worrying about his son, he will be charged under Penal Code 270.

In a similar circumstance, if Jack’s neighbor offers help with money, and instead of spending it on medication for his son, Jack buys himself clothes, he will be considered guilty.

Other lawful excuses include being ill, which means if the parent is too sick to tend to the medical or physical needs of the child, it will not be considered as child neglect.

Relatable Offense - Penal Code Section 272 (a)

Penal Code 272a punishes those who contribute to the delinquency of a child. According to this law, it is an offense to act or not act in a manner that leads to the delinquency of a child. For example, when a parent does not stop his or her minor child from consuming alcohol, leading the child to become an addict is a crime. Another example is when a parent encourages his or her child to skip school.

In most cases, the violation of Penal Code Section 272a is prosecuted as a misdemeanor in Los Angeles, California. Anyone pleaded guilty under this law can be sentenced county jail for one year or a maximum fine of five thousand dollars.

Relatable Offense - Penal Code Section 273 (a)

Penal Code Section 273a stated the Child Endangerment law of California. Under this section, a parent or a guardian is obligated to keep his or her child protected against unjustifiable mental and physical pain. A parent or a guardian who, willfully, causes or allows a child to be in pain, injured, or in a dangerous situation is a violator of the law. For example, exposing a child to drugs, syringes, or guns is a punishable offense under section 273a. Intentionally, without a lawful excuse, ignoring to provide medical help to a very ill child will also lead to prosecution.

Child Endangerment would become a Wobbler if the misconduct posed a risk of considerable bodily damage or death of the child.

Find a Criminal Attorney Specializing in Failure to Provide Care Cases Near Me

If you or someone you know has been charged or are in fear of being charged under Failure to Provide Care or Child Neglect in Los Angeles, it is recommended that you consult and hire a top-rated lawyer from a reputed firm such as Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer. We have skilled lawyers with years of experience and specialization in such cases. They are possibly the most reliable defense for Child Neglect charges under California law.

With a practical approach and in-depth knowledge, they steer through the intricacies of the California legislative process and argue in your favor. We put the best interest of our clients in what we do. We work closely with them and pay undistracted attention to everything they say. Call our Los Angeles criminal attorney at 310-502-1314 to learn more about how we can help you. Our consultations are free of cost. You can contact us 24 hours a day and seven days a week.