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California Penal Code 273AA PC - Child Endangerment Law


Los Angeles Criminal Defense LawyerCalifornia’s Penal Code § 273aa PC, child endangerment is defined as the act of intentionally putting a child in a situation where they are exposed to unnecessary pain, suffering, or risk. The act does not have to cause direct physical harm, but just places the child in a dangerous situation where a child might experience unjustifiable physical pain or mental distress. In Los Angeles County, it’s common for charges of child endangerment to be associated with domestic violence cases.

Importantly, this law holds true irrespective of one’s custodial rights over the child, emphasizing the broad scope of responsibility and protection.

Instances that could result in criminal charges include leaving accessible dangerous items like knives or loaded firearms near a child, entrusting a child to a caregiver with a history of abusive conduct, driving under the influence with a child in the vehicle, or neglecting to seek medical care for a seriously ill child.

Please note “child endangerment” is sometimes called “child abuse,” but should not be confused with California’s “child abuse” law outlined in Penal Code 273d.

273 PC: (a) It is a misdemeanor for any person or agency to pay, offer to pay, or to receive money or anything of value for the placement for adoption or for the consent to an adoption of a child. This subdivision shall not apply to any fee paid for adoption services provided by the State Department of Social Services, a licensed adoption agency, adoption services providers, as defined in Section 8502 of the Family Code, or an attorney providing adoption legal services.

(b) This section shall not make it unlawful to pay or receive the maternity-connected medical or hospital and necessary living expenses of the mother preceding and during confinement as an act of charity, as long as the payment is not contingent upon placement of the child for adoption, consent to the adoption, or cooperation in the completion of the adoption.

(c) It is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year or by a fine not exceeding two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500) for any parent to obtain the financial benefits set forth in subdivision (b) with the intent to receive those financial benefits where there is an intent to do either of the following:

(1) Not complete the adoption.

(2) Not consent to the adoption.

(d) It is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year or by a fine not exceeding two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500) for any parent to obtain the financial benefits set forth in subdivision (b) from two or more prospective adopting families or persons, if either parent does both of the following:

(1) Knowingly fails to disclose to those families or persons that there are other prospective adopting families or persons interested in adopting the child, with knowledge that there is an obligation to disclose that information.

(2) Knowingly accepts the financial benefits set forth in subdivision (b) if the aggregate amount exceeds the reasonable maternity-connected medical or hospital and necessary living expenses of the mother preceding and during the pregnancy.

(e) Any person who has been convicted previously of an offense described in subdivision (c) or (d), who is separately tried and convicted of a subsequent violation of subdivision (c) or (d), is guilty of a public offense punishable by imprisonment in a county jail or in the state prison.

(f) Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit the prosecution of any person for a misdemeanor or felony pursuant to Section 487 or any other provision of law in lieu of prosecution pursuant to this section.



You can be considered to have committed Child Endangerment under this law if you did any ONE of the following:

  • Deliberately caused unnecessary physical pain or emotional distress to a child.
  • Deliberately caused or allowed a child to experience unnecessary physical pain or emotional distress.
  • While responsible for a child’s care or custody, deliberately caused injury to the child’s well-being or permitted such injury.
  • While responsible for a child’s care or custody, deliberately placed the child in a situation where their well-being was at risk.


  • You demonstrated criminal negligence when you caused or allowed the child to suffer, be injured, or be endangered.
  • If you were the parent of the minor, your actions were not a reasonable form of discipline.

Moreover, there’s an extra element the prosecutor needs to establish If you’re charged with Penal Code 273aa pc as a “wobbler“. In this scenario, they must demonstrate that you acted in a way that had the potential to lead to either:

  • “Great bodily injury,” or
  • Death

What matters is that your actions don’t necessarily have to directly result in causing harm or death. The crucial factor is that it was foreseeable that such harm or death could likely occur due to your actions.


Sarah is a mother who has a 5-year-old son named Alex. One evening, Sarah’s friends invite her to a party at their house. She decides to go, but she can’t find a babysitter for Alex on short notice. Sarah knows that her friend Chris, who lives next door, often babysits for other families. However, Sarah is aware that Chris has a history of drug use and sometimes behaves erratically.

Despite her concerns, Sarah leaves Alex with Chris while she attends the party. During the evening, Chris becomes intoxicated and starts behaving aggressively. Alex becomes frightened and is left alone with Chris in this volatile situation. Sarah returns home later that night to find Alex scared and traumatized by the experience.

In this scenario, Sarah’s actions could potentially be considered child endangerment under PENAL CODE 273A(a) PC. She knowingly left her child in the care of someone with a history of abusive behavior and drug use, putting Alex’s health and safety at risk. Even though Sarah did not directly cause physical harm to her child, her actions of leaving Alex in a dangerous situation that could lead to emotional distress or physical harm fall under the scope of child endangerment.




If you’re found guilty of violating the Penal Code 273a child endangerment laws, the pc 273a(a) punishment will vary based on the unique circumstances of the case.

In situations where the risk of significant bodily harm or death is involved, the offense is considered a “wobbler,” meaning it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony.

Here are the potential penalties for a California child endangerment conviction:


  • Up to six months in the county jail.
  • A fine of up to $1,000.
  • Informal summary probation.


  • Two, four, or six years in a California state prison.
  • A fine of up to $10,000.
  • Formal felony probation.
  • A “strike” on your record under California’s three strikes law.


In cases where the child suffered severe harm, a sentencing enhancement known as a great bodily injury (GBI) enhancement, defined in California Penal Code 12022.7 PC, might apply:

  • If you personally caused a significant bodily injury to the child, an extra three to six years could be added to your sentence.
  • If your negligence resulted in the child’s death, you might face an additional and consecutive four-year term in state prison.

These variations in penalties underscore the serious consequences that child endangerment convictions can carry, depending on the gravity of the situation.


Child endangerment convictions can be deemed as a “strike” under California’s “Three Strikes” law, specifically if the child involved suffered significant bodily harm. If this happens, and you already have a strike on your criminal record, you’ll be labeled a “second striker.” Consequently, any subsequent felony charges will result in a sentence that’s twice as long as it would be otherwise.

If you accumulate three strikes, you’ll be classified as a “third striker,” leading to an obligatory minimum prison term of 25 years to life in a California state prison. This emphasizes the serious consequences of child endangerment convictions within the context of California’s legal framework.


When facing charges under California Penal Code §273A(a) pc for child endangerment, there are several possible defenses that can be considered:

  • Lack of Willfulness or Criminal Negligence: You might argue that your actions were not intentional or willful, and they also did not meet the criteria for criminal negligence required for the charge.
  • Reasonable Discipline: If you were engaging in reasonable discipline methods for your child, your actions might not qualify as child endangerment. It’s important to show that your disciplinary actions were appropriate and not excessive.
  • False Accusations: In some cases, individuals might falsely accuse you of child endangerment due to various motives. Providing evidence that contradicts these accusations can be a strong defense.
  • Mistake of Fact: If you were under the mistaken belief that your actions were not endangering the child’s well-being, this “mistake of fact” could potentially be used as a defense.
  • Third Party Involvement: If someone else, rather than you, put the child in a dangerous situation, it could be argued that you are not responsible for the endangerment.
  • Legal Excuse: If you had a valid legal reason for your actions, such as following a court order or acting to prevent a more serious harm, it might serve as a defense.

Each case is unique, and the effectiveness of these defenses can depend on the specific details and evidence available. Consulting with an experienced criminal defense attorney is crucial to assess which defense strategy might be most appropriate for your situation. They can provide guidance tailored to your case and work to protect your rights and interests. If you want to know more about domestic violence charges expungement, check out our detailed blog: Can Domestic Violence Charges Be Expunged in California?


Child endangerment convictions under Penal Code 273aa pc in California can have significant immigration consequences for non-U.S. citizens. Immigration law is complex, and a child endangerment conviction may impact your immigration status, including your ability to obtain or maintain a visa, green card, or citizenship. Here are some potential immigration consequences:

  • Deportation: A child endangerment conviction may be considered a “crime of moral turpitude” or an aggravated felony under immigration law, making you deportable.
  • Inadmissibility: A child endangerment conviction can render you inadmissible if you’re seeking to enter the U.S. or adjust your status to that of a permanent resident.
  • Cancellation of Removal: Non-U.S. citizens facing deportation might be eligible for cancellation of removal in certain cases. However, a child endangerment conviction can make you ineligible for this relief.
  • Denial of Naturalization: If you’re applying for U.S. citizenship, a child endangerment conviction might affect your eligibility, as it can demonstrate a lack of “good moral character.”
  • Detention: Convictions, especially those classified as aggravated felonies, can lead to mandatory detention during removal proceedings.
  • Waivers: In some cases, waivers might be available to overcome certain immigration consequences. However, eligibility for waivers can be complex and case-specific.

Consult with an experienced immigration attorney if you’re a non-U.S. citizen facing child endangerment charges. They can provide personalized advice based on your situation and help you understand the potential immigration implications of the conviction.


Child Endangerment is treated very seriously in California, and if you’re facing charges related to it, taking immediate action is crucial. It’s highly recommended to find a skilled and dedicated domestic violence defense attorney who can provide the right guidance. Your rights, freedom, and future are on the line.

A qualified Los Angeles child Endangerment attorney can potentially assist you in a few important ways:

  • Negotiating: They can negotiate with prosecutors to achieve a less severe charge through a plea bargain.
  • Sentence Reduction: If you’re convicted, they can work towards minimizing the sentence you might face.
  • Dismissal Possibility: In some cases, they might explore avenues to get the charges completely dismissed.

Cyrus Tabibnia, from the Tabibnia Law Firm, is well-versed in local courts and has extensive knowledge of California’s legal system. He’s available to represent individuals in various Southern California cities, including Los Angeles, Orange county, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills. He will also guide you how child endangerment charges can be dropped in California.

If you or someone you know is dealing with an arrest or charges related to Child Endangerment, Cyrus Tabibnia can analyze the specific details of the case and formulate a strategy to aim for the best possible outcome.

Feel free to call the Tabibnia Law Firm for a confidential consultation, where you can discuss your situation freely and understand the options available to you.

Cyrus Tabibnia

Cyrus Tabibnia

Cyrus Tabibnia, also known as Shahrooz Tabibnia, is a criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles, California. With a law degree from Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, he has been practicing law since 2005 and holds license #237348. With over 18 years of experience, Cyrus specializes in various misdemeanor and felony criminal Law including Domestic Violence, Theft Crime, Sex crime, DUI & DWI, Personal Injury, Employment Law, and Cannabis & Marijuana Drugs Law. Being bilingual in English, Persian, and Spanish enables him to effectively communicate with a diverse range of clients. From 2014 to 2018, he served as a board member of the Iranian American Bar Association. An expungement attorney in Los Angeles who can assist you in clearing your criminal record in the state of California.

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