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California Penal Code 270 PC - Child Neglect Laws


Los Angeles Criminal Defense LawyerAccording to Penal Code § 270 PC in California, child neglect occurs when a parent or legal guardian deliberately and willfully (and without lawful excuse) fails to provide essential things like clothing, food, medicine, and shelter to a child under their care. This offense is typically considered a misdemeanor and could lead to a maximum sentence of one year in jail.

In the State of California, the government aims to uphold both parents’ rights to raise their children according to their beliefs and the children’s rights to essential care. This means that while parents have the freedom to raise their kids as they think best, they are also legally obligated to ensure that their children’s basic needs are taken care of.

When a parent willfully and without lawful excuse fails to provide necessary care or remedial care to a child they are responsible for, whether as a parent or legal guardian, they might be charged with a crime known as child neglect under Penal Code 270 PC. If found guilty, they could potentially face serious consequences including county jail time and fines of up to $2000 for each instance of neglect.

Other remedial care can include spiritual treatment through prayer in accordance with the practices of a recognized church.

The term “parent” for a minor child encompasses anyone who is legally accountable for the child’s upbringing. This includes:

  • Biological parents
  • Adoptive parents
  • Foster parents
  • Anyone who presents themselves as a parent
  • The spouse of a pregnant woman, even if the child isn’t biologically related to him, provided they are currently residing together.

Important: If a parent cannot make enough income or does not have enough assets to provide the child’s basic needs, in which case the parent has a “lawful excuse” and won’t be charged with a crime.

Lawful excuse refers to a situation in which a parent has reasonably done everything possible to provide for the child but cannot do so.

If a parent of a minor child willfully omits, without lawful excuse, to furnish necessary clothing, food, shelter or medical attendance, or other remedial care for his or her child, he or she is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars ($2,000), or by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding one year, or by both such fine and imprisonment. If a court of competent jurisdiction has made a final adjudication in either a civil or a criminal action that a person is the parent of a minor child and the person has notice of such adjudication and he or she then willfully omits, without lawful excuse, to furnish necessary clothing, food, shelter, medical attendance or other remedial care for his or her child, this conduct is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding one year or in a state prison for a determinate term of one year and one day, or by a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars ($2,000), or by both such fine and imprisonment. This statute shall not be construed so as to relieve such parent from the criminal liability defined herein for such omission merely because the other parent of such child is legally entitled to the custody of such child nor because the other parent of such child or any other person or organization voluntarily or involuntarily furnishes such necessary food, clothing, shelter or medical attendance or other remedial care for such child or undertakes to do so.

Proof of abandonment or desertion of a child by such parent, or the omission by such parent to furnish necessary food, clothing, shelter or medical attendance or other remedial care for his or her child is prima facie evidence that such abandonment or desertion or omission to furnish necessary food, clothing, shelter or medical attendance or other remedial care is willful and without lawful excuse.

The court, in determining the ability of the parent to support his or her child, shall consider all income, including social insurance benefits and gifts.

The provisions of this section are applicable whether the parents of such child are or were ever married or divorced, and regardless of any decree made in any divorce action relative to alimony or to the support of the child. A child conceived but not yet born is to be deemed an existing person insofar as this section is concerned.

The husband of a woman who bears a child as a result of artificial insemination shall be considered the father of that child for the purpose of this section, if he consented in writing to the artificial insemination.

If a parent provides a minor with treatment by spiritual means through prayer alone in accordance with the tenets and practices of a recognized church or religious denomination, by a duly accredited practitioner thereof, such treatment shall constitute “other remedial care”, as used in this section.



In order to demonstrate that a parent is legally responsible for not fulfilling their obligations toward their minor child, a prosecutor needs to confirm the following points:

  • The accused individual was indeed the parent of a child who is under 18 years old.
  • The accused individual neglected to provide something essential for the child’s well-being.
  • The neglectful act by the accused individual was intentional and lacked a valid reason under the law.

Necessities are the essential things a child needs, like clothes, food, a place to live, medical care and other remedial care for their minor child. Sometimes, these needs can also include spiritual care like prayer if it’s done according to a recognized church’s practices.

A parent is responsible for doing what they can to provide these necessities for their child. If a parent can’t provide these things despite trying their best and it’s not their fault, they have a valid reason. This might be because they can’t earn enough money or don’t have the income or belongings to cover the costs. However, it wouldn’t count as a valid reason if the parent spent money on unnecessary things or didn’t try to find a job.


Lisa is accused of child neglect under Penal Code 270 PC in California. Lisa, overwhelmed by personal issues, begins consistently failing to provide her 8-year-old daughter, Emily, with the basic necessities she needs for a healthy life. Lisa’s financial struggles lead to inadequate food and clothing for Emily, and she often misses school due to these challenges. Additionally, Emily’s medical needs are neglected, as Lisa doesn’t seek proper medical attention when Emily falls ill. The living conditions in their home deteriorate, with a lack of proper heating and sanitation.

Authorities become aware of the situation after Emily’s teacher notices her declining attendance and physical appearance. The school reports the concerns to Child Protective Services. Upon investigation, it becomes evident that Lisa’s actions, or lack thereof, have put Emily’s well-being at significant risk.

In this case, Lisa could be charged with child neglect under Penal Code 270 PC. While she might argue that her own personal difficulties were the cause of these problems, the law requires parents to ensure their children’s basic needs are met, regardless of personal challenges. If convicted, Lisa could face legal consequences, including potential jail time and fines.



Child neglect is considered a “wobbler” offense, which means it can be treated as either a more serious felony offense or a less severe misdemeanor crimes California. The choice depends on the specific details of the situation and whether the person accused has a history of criminal activity.


In most situations, when someone is charged with child neglect according to PC 270, it’s treated as a misdemeanor. This can lead to penalties such as fines that go up to $2000 and a possible county jail time of up to one year for each instance of neglect. However, there are cases where it can be treated as a felony crime:

  • When you refuse to accept legal responsibility for the child, often related to paternity disputes.
  • When the court establishes you as the legal parent despite your denial.
  • If you consistently fail to meet the child’s basic needs even after being legally recognized as their parent.

In the rare situation where you’re convicted of felony child neglect, the consequences can be more severe. This might involve spending a year in county jail initially, followed by a year and a day in state prison. On top of this, there could be a fine of up to $2000.


Child Protective Services (CPS) has the authority to intervene when there are concerns about a child’s well-being. While their primary focus is on cases of apparent abuse, they also consider the failure to provide essentials like food, clothing, shelter, or medical attention as a form of neglect, as outlined in California Penal Code 270 pc. However, CPS’s approach is usually supportive. Their initial efforts are geared towards assisting families to ensure the child’s needs are met within their home environment. Only when these measures prove insufficient, and the child’s safety is at risk, might CPS consider removal as a final measure.


There are several potential legal defenses that can be used against charges under Penal Code 270 PC, which pertains to child neglect in California. It’s important to remember that the effectiveness of these defenses depends on the specific circumstances of the case. Consulting with a criminal defense attorney who is familiar with California law is essential for personalized guidance. Some possible defenses include:

  • Lack of Willful Neglect: Child neglect charges require that the neglect was willful, meaning it was intentional or purposeful. If the accused can demonstrate that they did not willfully neglect the child and had legitimate reasons for their actions (or lack thereof), it could be a defense.
  • Lack of Control or Responsibility: If the accused does not have legal custody or control over the child and cannot be reasonably expected to provide care, they may have a valid defense. For example, if someone is falsely accused of neglecting a child under their care, they could argue they weren’t responsible for the child’s wellbeing.
  • False Accusations: Sometimes, false allegations or misunderstandings can lead to charges of child neglect. If evidence can be presented to prove that the accusations are baseless or motivated by ulterior motives, it can serve as a defense.
  • Emergency Situations: If the accused was in a genuine emergency situation that prevented them from providing care for the child, this could be used as a defense. For instance, if they were seriously ill or injured and unable to attend to the child’s needs temporarily.
  • Inability to Provide Due to External Factors: If the accused can demonstrate that they were genuinely unable to provide care or necessities for the child due to factors beyond their control, such as lack of resources, it could be a defense.
  • Parental Rights and Custody: If the accused is not legally recognized as the child’s parent or does not have legal custody, they may have a defense against the charges, as they might not have the legal obligation to provide care.
  • Mental Incapacity: If the accused suffered from a mental illness or impairment that affected their ability to provide proper care, this could be used as a defense, especially if they were not capable of understanding their responsibilities.
  • Evidence Suppression: If evidence was obtained unlawfully or in violation of the accused’s rights, it might be possible to suppress that evidence, which could weaken the prosecution’s case.

Keep in mind that laws and legal strategies can vary, so seeking professional advice is essential.


Child neglect, when charged and convicted under California PC 270, could potentially result in negative immigration consequences for non-U.S. citizens. Depending on the circumstances of the case, a conviction for child neglect might be considered a crime involving moral turpitude (CIMT). Crimes of moral turpitude can have serious immigration repercussions, including:

  • Deportation: A CIMT conviction can make a non-U.S. citizen deportable, which means they could be subject to removal proceedings from the United States.
  • Inadmissibility: A CIMT conviction can also render a non-U.S. citizen inadmissible to the United States. This can affect someone’s ability to enter or re-enter the country, apply for a visa, or adjust their immigration status.
  • Cancellation of Removal: Non-U.S. citizens who have been in the U.S. for a certain period and meet specific criteria might be eligible for cancellation of removal proceedings. However, a CIMT conviction could make them ineligible for this relief.
  • Asylum and Other Forms of Relief: Certain immigration benefits, such as asylum, might be denied or adversely affected by a CIMT conviction.
  • Naturalization: If a non-U.S. citizen is seeking to become a U.S. citizen through naturalization, a CIMT conviction could affect their eligibility.


Yes, it is possible to get an expungement if you’ve been convicted of child neglect. Expungement is a positive step because it alleviates many of the difficulties linked to a conviction. Hiring an Expungement Lawyer is crucial in child neglect cases in Los Angeles, California.

A judge can approve an expungement if you have successfully finished:

  • The probation period assigned,
  • or The jail sentence you received (whichever was ordered).

To know more about which domestic violence charges can be expunged, check out our detailed blog: Can Domestic Violence Charges Be Expunged in California?


If you are in need of a skilled and dedicated criminal defense lawyer to handle cases involving child neglect crimes, Cyrus Tabibnia is your trusted advocate. With a strong commitment to justice and a proven track record in criminal defense, He offers comprehensive legal representation tailored to your specific situation.

Child neglect cases require a delicate and knowledgeable approach, and Cyrus Tabibnia has the experience necessary to navigate these complex legal issues. With a deep understanding of both the legal intricacies and the sensitivity required in such cases, he ensures that your rights are protected at every step of the legal process.

Cyrus Tabibnia’s approach is characterized by:

  • Expertise: With a wealth of experience in criminal defense, he has an in-depth understanding of the legal framework surrounding child neglect crimes. He stays updated on the latest laws and regulations to provide the most effective defense strategies.
  • Dedication: He is committed to each client’s case, working tirelessly to build a strong defense that takes into account the unique circumstances and nuances of your situation.
  • Compassion: Recognizing the emotional complexities that often accompany child neglect cases, Cyrus Tabibnia offers empathetic support throughout the legal journey, ensuring that you feel heard and understood.
  • Strategic Approach: He develops personalized defense strategies tailored to the specifics of your case, analyzing evidence, witnesses, and circumstances to build the strongest possible defense on your behalf.
  • Negotiation Skills: Cyrus Tabibnia is a skilled negotiator, working to secure favorable outcomes through plea bargains or reduced charges whenever appropriate and in your best interest.
  • Courtroom Experience: Should your case go to trial, his extensive courtroom experience equips him to advocate vigorously for your rights in front of a judge and jury.

When facing child neglect crime allegations, you need Los Angeles child abuse defense lawyer who will stand by your side, fight for your rights, and offer unwavering support. Cyrus Tabibnia is that advocate, ready to provide you with exceptional legal representation, guidance, and the best possible defense in your crime against children case. Contact Cyrus Tabibnia today to take the first step towards safeguarding your future. He will also guide you how child endangerment charges can be dropped in California

Tabibnia Law Firm is based in Santa Monica and serves clients throughout Southern California. Call or law firm at 866-713-2159 for a confidential initial consultation, or you can complete and send us your query through the contact form.

Report child abuse at the National Child Abuse Hotline.

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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