The offense of endangering the welfare of a child covers a wide range of allegatons of child abuse or child neglect. The related violation is contained at N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4 and establishes two grades of this offense -- Second Degree Endangering the Welfare of a Child and Third Degree Endangering the Welfare of a Child. The potential fines, jail and other ramifications associated with either grade of child endangerment are discussed in more detail at Penalties for Endangering the Welfare of a Child. The following is a summary of the other important aspects of this child abuse offense and we encourage you to contact our firm, the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall, if you are seeking legal representation defending an indictment or charges involving child abuse. Attorneys from our firm, including former County prosecutor, are available 24/7 to assist you by telephone or a free initial consultation may be arranged at our Freehold or Red Bank office.
Elements of Second Degree Endangering the Welfare of a Child
There are four (4) elements that must be established under N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4 in order for the prosecutor to prove Second Degree Child Endangerment.
- The victim was a child;
- The defendant possessed a duty of care for the child or assumed responsibility for care of the child;
- The defendant knowingly engaged in sexual conduct or conduct that constitutes abuse or neglect; and
- The conduct impaired or debauched the morals of the child, or caused harm to the child through an act of abuse or neglect.
Definition of "Child" Under N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4. A individual can only be convicted of endangering the welfare of a child if the victim is a child. The New Jersey Endangering the Welfare of a Child Law defines a child as a person under the age of sixteen (16). Lack of knowledge of the victim's age is not, however, a viable defense to an endangering charge. Accordingly, the prosecutor need not prove actual knowledge of the victim's age or even a reasonable belief with respect to the age of the victim. The only question in order to satisfy this question is whether the victim was sixteen (16) years of age or less.
Who Possesses A Duty of Care Under the Law? In accordance with N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.21, certain categories of individuals have a duty of care to a child including a parent, grandparent, aunt/uncle, co-habitant or paramour of a parent who have been a caretaker regularly, teacher or member of the school staff, coach or any other individual who has assumed responsibility for care, custody or control of the child. An individual who only undertook care on a temporary basis, like a somewhat recent boyfriend or girlfriend, would not fall within N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.21(a) pursuant to State v. Galloway.
Sexual Conduct that Constitutes Endangering
N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4 prohibits sexual conduct that impairs or debauches the morals of a child. This is a concept that is often hard to grasp but we find it easiest to remember that we are not only referring to sexual conduct directed at a child but the exposure of a child to inappropriate sexual material, situations, and activities. Allowing a child to view obscene publications, the commission of a sexual act in the child's presence, or coaching a child to perform a sexual act are good examples of conduct that would impair or debauch the morals of the child thereby constituting child endangerment. A collateral consequence of a conviction for sexual conduct under 2C:24-4 or under subsections (3), (4) or (5)(a) of the law, is mandatory registration as a sex offender under Megan's Law.
Endangering Resulting from Harm to the Child Caused by Abuse or Neglect
N.J.S.A. 9:6-1 of New Jersey law outlines conduct that constitutes abuse or neglect. A full copy of this law is available for review at New Jersey Child Abuse & Neglect Law. The following conduct constitutes abuse or neglect under this law:
- Disposing of custody contrary to law
- Improper employment
- Habitual use of profane, indesent or obscene language
- Physical restraint
- Wilful failure to provide food, clothing, or maintenance
- Inflicting injury
- Permitting exposure to physical injury
Endangering based on DWI with a Child is a variety of harm or potential harm that our lawyers are confronted with all the time under this section of the law.
Third Degree Endangering the Welfare of a Child
Endangering the welfare of a child in the third degree is essentially identical to the second degree charge except there is no requirement that the prosecution prove a duty of care to the child.
Give us a call for immediate attention from an experienced Monmouth County defense lawyer.