In Houston, child abandonment crimes occur when an adult or caretaker intentionally and knowingly leaves a child under age 15 in a place without reasonable supervision and care. Also, a person who has custody of a child who leaves the child in an area where they may be exposed to serious harm may be charged with disregard for child welfare.
Examples of child neglect could include leaving children in a locked car, letting children play unsupervised near dangerous equipment or using drugs in front of children in Texas. All of these activities may constitute child neglect and a court may find that they tend to show disregard for the safety of a child. These findings could lead to criminal penalties.
Houston Penalties for Child Abandonment
Jail time and fines are a standard punishment for a conviction of harming a child. However, this may not be the most serious outcome.
Parents convicted of child endangerment may lose their custodial rights and caretakers may lose the ability to work with children.
According to the Texas Penal Code, some potential penalties are listed below:
- 180 days to two years in jail and a $10,000 fine for intentionally leaving a child with intent to return
- Two to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine for leaving a child with no intent to return
- Two to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine for placing an unsupervised child in a situation likely to cause injury or death
Legal Defenses for Not Supervising Children
In child endangerment cases, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of every aspect of the crime. This means that the prosecution must introduce evidence to convince a judge or jury that the defendant intentionally and knowingly engaged in behavior that showed disregard for the welfare of the child.
If the defense can show that the defendant did not intentionally leave a child unsupervised, they may be able to get the charges reduced or dismissed. For example, a parent who made an effort to care for a child and was called away due to an emergency may not be guilty of child abuse.