Abandoning a Child in Texas
Abandoning and endangering a child are two different offenses, but they are both found in Texas Penal Code Section 22.041 (a)-(b). In Tarrant County, you may see the charge listed as “ABAND END CHILD.” This article explains the offense of Abandoning a Child and the offense of Endangering a Child in Texas.
Abandoning a child is an allegation that a person left a child under the age of 15 without reasonable supervision or care.
To abandon means to leave the child in a place without providing reasonable and necessary care for the child, in circumstances which no other reasonable adult would leave that same child.
Endangering a Child in Texas
Endangering a child is defined in Section 22.041(c). A person commits this offense when he or she places a child under the age of 15 in a situation where the child in imminent danger of death, bodily injury or physical or mental impairment. This can be done intentionally, knowingly, or even negligently.
Beginning on September 1, 2023, Section 22.041 of the Texas Penal Code will expand to also include elderly and disabled individuals to the class of people protected by law from abandonment and endangerment.
Endangerment of a Child is Presumed in Certain Situations
A person is presumed to have endangered a child if they:
- possessed or manufactured methamphetamine in the presence of a child.
- used, possessed, or manufactured methamphetamine and the child’s blood or urine indicates the presence of methamphetamine in the child’s body.
- used a Penalty Group 1 substance around a child.
What is the punishment for endangering or abandoning a child in Texas?
Abandoning a child is a state jail felony, if the accused intended to return for the child.
Abandoning a child is a third degree felony if the accused did not intend to return for the child.
Abandoning a child is a second degree felony of the accused abandoned the child in a manner that a reasonable person would believe placed the child in imminent danger of death or bodily injury.
Endangering a Child is a state jail felony.
Duty to report child abuse or neglect in Texas
Family Code 261.101 sets a fairly low bar for reporting child abuse and neglect. It provides that any person who has reason to believe a child’s physical or mental welfare has been adversely affected must make a report to law enforcement or Department of Family and Protective Services.
Failure to report suspected child abuse or neglect is a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment of up to one year and a fine of up to $4,000. The punishment can be increased to a State Jail Felony if it is shown that the accused intended to conceal the abuse or neglect.
A person who makes a false report with the intent to deceive commits a state jail felony offense under Family Code 261.107.
Related Charge: Driving While Intoxicated Child Passenger
In Texas, child endangerment occurs when a person intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence, by act or omission, engages in conduct that places a child under 15 years of age in imminent danger of death, bodily injury, or physical or mental impairment. This may include exposing a child to a dangerous environment, substance, or person, or failing to provide necessary care or supervision.
Child endangerment is generally charged as a state jail felony in Texas, punishable by 180 days to 2 years in a state jail facility and a fine of up to $10,000. However, if the offender had the intent to cause serious bodily injury or death, the charge may be elevated to a second-degree felony, which carries a penalty of 2 to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
es, a parent or caretaker can be charged with child endangerment for leaving a child in a hot car if doing so puts the child at imminent risk of death, bodily injury, or physical or mental impairment. This can occur even if the person believed they would only be away for a short time, as temperatures inside a vehicle can rise rapidly, posing a severe risk to the child’s safety.
Possible defenses to a child endangerment charge in Texas may include lack of intent, lack of knowledge, or lack of recklessness or criminal negligence. For example, a parent who unintentionally left their child in a hot car due to an honest mistake or misunderstanding may be able to argue that they did not knowingly or recklessly endanger the child. Other defenses may include showing that the alleged conduct did not actually pose a risk to the child or that the accused was not responsible for the child’s welfare at the time.
Yes, a conviction for child endangerment can have a significant impact on child custody and visitation rights in Texas. Courts prioritize the best interests of the child when making custody decisions, and a history of child endangerment may be seen as an indication that the convicted parent is not able to provide a safe and stable environment for the child. This could lead to restrictions or even termination of parental rights in some cases.
A child is considered any person under 15 years of age.
An allegation of excessive or severe spanking could lead to a child endangerment charge.
Yes, child endangerment can include placing a child in imminent danger of mental impairment.