Endangering the welfare of a child Attorney in Middlesex County
There are a significant number of child protection statutes on the books in New Jersey, often providing harsh penalties for those convicted. One of the primary such laws addresses endangering the welfare of a child, for which defendants face severe consequences including years in prison, tens of thousands of dollars in fines, and even lifetime sex offender registration under Megan’s Law. There are important things to understand about child endangerment and similar child abuse charges in New Jersey, explained below. If you have been arrested or are in need of a defense attorney for an endangering the welfare of a child case, please feel free to contact our criminal defense firm in Middlesex County anytime to receive the help you need. Our experienced attorneys defend clients charged with endangering the welfare of a child in New Brunswick, Edison, Woodbridge, Carteret, Piscataway, South Brunswick, Metuchen and others areas in Middlesex County, NJ. We are available immediately by calling (732) 659-9600 for a free consultation or to schedule an appointment to meet with you at our local Edison offices.
What is Endangering the Welfare of a Child in New Jersey?
The New Jersey statute that prohibits endangering the welfare of a child, NJSA 2C:24-4, is divided into two major sub-parts. The first component broadly criminalizes endangering the welfare of a child through sexual abuse and sexual misconduct. The second part addresses child endangerment caused by neglect or non-sexual abuse, for example, driving under the influence with a child in the vehicle. The following addresses each type of child endangerment in greater detail.
Endangering the Welfare of a Child through Sexual Conduct
According to NJSA 2C:24-4(a), any person who has a legal duty to care for a child or who has assumed the duty of caring for a child, and who engages in sexual conduct that would impair or debauch the morals of the child, is guilty of a second degree crime. Anyone else who engages in conduct that would impair or debauch the morals of the child will be charged with a third degree crime. It is important to note that this sexual conduct can directly involve the child or simply cause a child to be exposed to sexual conduct or items that would impair or debauch the morals of a child. The types of sexual misconduct prohibited under this law include showing a minor obscene material like pornography, having sex in front of a child, telling a child to masturbate, or touching or kissing a child for the purpose of sexual gratification.
In other words, if a state prosecutor can establish that you engaged in this kind of sexual behavior involving a minor, that the conduct would impair or debauch the child’s morals, and you engaged in this conduct knowingly, you can be convicted of a third degree degree indictable offense. If the aforementioned circumstances are met and you had a legal duty to care for the child (i.e. that you were their parent, guardian, teacher, or the like), you can be convicted of an even more serious second degree indictable offense. It is important to note that when things occur without your knowledge; for example, that you started having sex with your partner without knowing that the child was in room, this likely doesn’t meet the necessary element of knowingly engaging in conduct that would impair or debauch the morals of a child.
Endangering the Welfare of a Child with Abuse or Neglect
The second part of the statute, NJSA 2C:24-4(b), criminalizes a separate set of conduct that can endanger the welfare of a child: abusing or neglecting a child. If you physically injure a child by striking them or pushing them down a flight of stairs, you subject the child to a substantial risk of injury or death, fail to adequately supervise your child, or fail to provide adequate shelter, clothing, food, or medical care, you can be convicted of endangering the welfare of a child in New Jersey under subsection (b) of this law. Ordinarily, this type of conduct amounts to a third degree crime. However, if you had a legal duty to care for the child, the charge will be enhanced to a second degree crime.
Common Reasons for Child Endangerment Charges
Some of the most common reasons that people are arrested and charged with endangering the welfare of a child in New Jersey include:
- Driving while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs with a child in the car
- Leaving controlled dangerous substances in your home or a place where a child could take control or ingest them by mistake
- Failing to lock a firearm in your home
- Leaving a minor locked in a car alone on a hot day
- Abandoning a child or leaving them alone for long periods without supervision
- Excessive corporal punishment or physical abuse
Penalties for Endangering the Welfare of a Child in NJ
Both sexual and non-sexual endangering the welfare of a child offenses can result in third degree or second degree criminal convictions, depending in large part on whether the person charged had a legal duty to care for the alleged victim. A third degree indictable offense carries 3 to 5 years in prison and fines of up to $15,000. On the other hand, a second degree crime can result in 5 to 10 years in prison and fines up to $150,000. Furthermore, if you are convicted of a sex crime for child endangerment in New Jersey, you can be required to register under Megan’s Law as a sex offender. This means you have to notify local law enforcement and even your neighbors, potential employers, and other members of the public may be aware of your conviction for the rest of your life.
Middlesex County Endangering the Welfare of a Child Defense Attorneys
Given the high stakes of endangering the welfare of a child charges, you should consult an experienced criminal defense attorney who can vigorously combat these allegations. If you have been arrested and charged with child endangerment in Monroe, Middlesex Borough, East Brunswick, Dunellen, Old Bridge, Highland Park, or another town in Middlesex County, it is important to present your best possible defense. Our Middlesex County NJ Endangering the Welfare of a Child Attorneys are ready to put all of our knowledge, skill, and experience on the front lines of your defense to protect your innocence. Contact us today at (732) 659-9600 to discuss your case and learn more about your legal options.