New York Penal Law Section 260.10: Endangering the Welfare of a Child

This misdemeanor charge criminalizes any action by a parent, guardian or caregiver who knowingly acts in a manner that could be construed as "likely to be injurious to the physical, mental or moral welfare of a child." For purposes of this statute, a child is defined as any individual under the age of 17. The language of this charge is very vague and can be widely construed: because although this charge states that a person much knowingly act in a manner which would be likely to be injurious to a child, it does not specify exactly what "injurious" means. Therefore, the statute gives prosecutors significant discretion in determining what amounts to endangering the welfare of a child. As New York City is a cultural melting pot made up of 8 million people from cultures all around the globe, a person's cultural background and individual history plays an enormous role in their judgment of what is appropriate care for a child, physically, mentally and morally.

Sometimes Just an Add-On Charge

To be charged with this crime, a person does not need to have an intention to cause any harm to a child; the harm may simply be a byproduct of the intended act. Because of this, an individual may face an added charge of Endangering the Welfare of a Child as an add-on to other charges if children are present at the scene of the crime. For example, if an individual is arrested on a weapons charge or for drug possession and the weapon or drugs are recovered from a location where children are present, or if the person is in possession of the contraband while in close proximity to a child, it is likely that the individual will be charged with Endangering the Welfare of a Child in addition to any weapon or drug possession charges. This holds true even if the child is unaware of the existence of the weapon or drugs nearby.

The Child Does Not Need to be Harmed

This charge can also be triggered if a child is present during an assault. Most commonly this arises when a child's mother is assaulted either by her significant other or another family member, and the child is either an observer to the incident or is in close proximity to the assault. Bottom line, if you get into a verbal or physical altercation in the presence of a child, due to the presence of the child, if any arrests are made, the added charge of Endangering the Welfare of a Child may apply.

In many of these cases in which a parent is charged, the child may choose not to cooperate with the prosecutor. However the child's cooperation is not needed to prove this charge at trial. If law enforcement observes the child at the scene of a crime and also recovers the contraband - or if there are other eye witnesses to the presence of the child during the commission of the crime - that would be sufficient to establish that the child was present, and endangered. Obviously, when Endangering the Welfare of a Child is charged against a family member, the defendant's own child can be turned into a complaining witness for the prosecutor. This can be a sensitive matter that needs to be handled delicately by attorneys who have experience in dealing with New York domestic violence charges. Call the domestic violence attorneys at the Law Offices of Jeffrey Lichtman to discuss your case today.