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  • former deputy public defender

    As a former Deputy Public Defender in Riverside County, Mr. Donath has always been on the defense side of the law. 

  • award winning certified criminal law specialist

    Top 100 Trial Attorneys in California 2012-2014, 2008 Trial Attorney of the Year by the Riverside County Public Defender's Office, and dozens of other awards and accolades.

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Riverside Child Abuse Attorney

No parent or guardian wants to face child abuse accusations. Children are our most vulnerable citizens, and they deserve love and protection. However, these disputes can happen to the best parents and guardians. If such a claim happens to you, contact The Law Office of Graham D. Donath, APC. Graham Donath has decades of experience as a Riverside child abuse lawyer.

If you are accused of child abuse, consult with a Riverside child endangerment lawyer as soon as possible to prepare a strategic defense.


What Is Child Abuse and Endangerment?

Most of us like to think we have a good idea of what child abuse or endangerment is, but these charges cover more ground than most people understand. According to federal agencies, child abuse can be physical, emotional, psychological, sexual, or any combination of these. Family violence or organized sexual violence may also be involved.

  • Physical abuse involves physical harm and can include a number of injuries, ranging from cuts and bruises to broken bones, scratches, burns, black eyes, and concussions. Physical abuse sometimes results from discipline methods, such as using a belt, wooden spoon, or other implements as a spanking tool. Although many parents spank their kids, excessive spanking or spanking that leads to physical marks is considered abuse.
  • Emotional or verbal abuse is not visible but can have side effects observable to friends, teachers, relatives, and others. This abuse can involve name-calling, constant criticism or belittling, shaming, frequent yelling or threats, and ignoring a child as punishment. Denying a child physical affection such as hugs or kisses could be emotional abuse, as could harming a parent, sibling, or pet in front of a child.
  • Sexual abuse. This could involve raping a child, exposing a child to a private bodily area, fondling or touching a child’s private areas, or making other sexual overtures or suggestive comments.
  • Psychological abuse. This occurs when the parent or caregiver abuses through intimidation or threats. It could include taking or destroying a child’s property, harming or threatening to harm a sibling, friend, or pet, denying a child food or drink, or locking the child in a room or closet. Threatening to do any of the above is also psychological abuse.
  • Neglect. This involves ignoring the child and not providing for his or her basic needs. Neglected children may not have adequate food, water, or shelter and may have poor hygiene. Inadequately supervised children are also considered neglected.

Child endangerment is separate from child abuse; it is when a person engages in conduct that puts a child in imminent danger of death, bodily harm, or mental impairment. An example would be a parent who drives under the influence of alcohol with a child in the vehicle. Prosecutors usually save child endangerment charges on top of a DUI charge for the most serious cases according to to Riverside DUI lawyers.

The Elements of a Child Abuse Charge

Riverside Child Abuse Attorney

California law considers child abuse a serious crime that involves a wide variety of behaviors that might affect a child’s safety or well-being. Under the California Penal code, child abuse occurs if the act of any parent, guardian, or any other caregiver:

  • Directly leads to the actual or imminent threat of harm to a child’s health and well-being
  • Affects a child (minor under the age of 18)

In California, child abuse applies to the non-accidental infliction of harm or imminent threat of it, whether through actions or failure to act. Child abuse claims may arise from negligence, carelessness, intentional acts, and more. If you are now facing domestic violence charges, contact our Riverside domestic violence lawyers, we can help protect your liberty and fight for a fair trial.

Charges of Child Abuse and Mandatory Reporting

Many charges of child abuse are a result of mandatory reporting laws. In California, much like the rest of the country, certain parties involved in a child’s life must report suspicions of child abuse under threat of prosecution themselves. Mandatory reporters must report any signs or symptoms of child abuse to a local authority under California law. No punishment exists for reporting, even on suspicions that end up being groundless. This leads to possible overreporting of child abuse, to protect all children’s safety. While this is a good idea in theory, it can lead to accusations of child abuse that are untrue.

Examples of mandatory reporters include:

  • Doctors
  • Nurses
  • Teachers
  • Daycare workers
  • Caregivers
  • Substitute teachers
  • Coaches
  • Clergy
  • Employees of child welfare organizations

Any report of suspected abuse, neglect, or endangerment will lead to an investigation by a child protective services (CPS) agency. Upon investigation, the CPS may make a recommendation to local authorities to pursue charges of child abuse or endangerment.

What Is Child Endangerment?

Child endangerment differs slightly from child abuse and involves any situation that a person causes leading to the threat of injury, danger, or death. California, like many other states, considers child endangerment a separate charge from child abuse. Under California Penal Code 273a, child endangerment occurs when the following apply:

  • An adult willfully permits a child’s injury while in his or her care
  • An adult willfully permits a child to be in a dangerous situation
  • An adult causes a child to endure mental suffering or physical pain without justification

Under California law, a child does not have to suffer actual harm as a condition of a child endangerment charge. The simple act of putting a child in danger can lead to prosecution under the California Penal Code.

Examples of Child Endangerment

A wide range of scenarios could give rise to child endangerment charges. Some common examples include:

  • Driving under the influence of alcohol with a child in the vehicle
  • Leaving a child with a caretaker with a known violent criminal history
  • Failing to seek essential medical care for a sick child

Possible penalties for child endangerment depend on the circumstances. If an incident involving child endangerment creates a risk of great bodily harm or death, then it may be a “wobbler” under California law. This means a prosecutor may choose to pursue with misdemeanor or felony charges. A misdemeanor charge for child endangerment carries up to 1 year in county jail. Felony offenses, on the other hand, can lead to a sentence of up to 6 years in state prison, depending on the gravity of the offense.

When an episode of child endangerment creates no risk of bodily harm or death, then it is a misdemeanor charge under California law, punishable by up to one year in county jail.

Child abuse and endangerment are serious crimes under California law. Defendants facing these types of charges need help from a Riverside criminal defense attorney. If you’re facing criminal child abuse or endangerment charges, contact Graham Donath for a review of your legal options today.


If you face child abuse or endangerment accusations, authorities may take your child or children from your home. This is part of an emergency attempt to get the child out of immediate danger. With a defense attorney’s help, you may be able to regain custody of your children. The court’s goal is family maintenance when and if possible. However, the penalties for child abuse or endangerment are severe and long-lasting and can include:

  • A ruined reputation
  • A requirement to register as a lifetime sex offender
  • Continual involvement with a social service agency
  • Supervised visits with/limited access to the children
  • Termination of parental rights

Sentencing can include probation and a prison term of up to five years. If you are guilty of severe abuse or endangerment, a longer incarceration may be part of your sentence.

California Penal Code PC 273a(a)

PC 273A(A) is commonly known as abusing or endangering the heath of a child under circumstances likely to cause death or great bodily injury in California.

In Riverside County, California, PC 273a(a) / Abusing or Endangering the Health of a Child Under Circumstances Likely to Cause Death or Great Bodily is a wobbler, meaning it can be EITHER a misdemeanor OR a felony.

To prove that a defendant is guilty of PC 273a(a) the prosecutor must prove four things:

  1. The defendant willfully inflicted, caused or permitted unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering on a child, or;
    The defendant, while having care or custody of a child, willfully caused or permitted the child’s person or health to be injured
    The defendant, while having care or custody of a child, willfully caused or permitted the child to be placed in a situation where the child’s person or health was endangered, and;
  2. The defendant inflicted pain or suffering on the child or caused the child to suffer or be endangered under circumstances likely to produce death or great bodily injury, and;
  3. The defendant was criminally negligent when he or she caused or permitted the child to suffer or be injured or endangered, and;
  4. The defendant did not act while reasonably disciplining a child

Here are some clarifications on terms used with this code:

  • A child is any person under 18 years of age.
  • The phrase “likely to produce” great bodily harm or death means the probability of great bodily harm or death is high.
  • Great bodily harm means significant or substantial physical injury.
  • It is an injury that is greater than minor or moderate harm. However, a child does not need to actually suffer great bodily harm.
  • But if a child does suffer great bodily harm, a jury may consider that fact, along with all other evidence, in deciding whether the defendant committed the offense.
  • Unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering is pain or suffering that is not reasonably necessary or is excessive under the circumstances.

What is “Criminal Negligence” under PC 273(a)

A person acts with “criminal negligence” if:

• He or she acts in a reckless way that creates a high risk of death or great bodily injury, and;
• A reasonable person would have known that acting in that way would create such a risk

In other words, a person acts with criminal negligence when the way he or she acts is so different from the way an ordinarily careful person would act in the same situation that his or her act amounts to disregard for human life or indifference to the consequences of that act.

California Penal Code PC 273ab(a)

To prove that a defendant is guilty of PC 273ab(a) the prosecutor must prove eight things:

  • The defendant had care or custody of a child who was under the age of 8;
  • The defendant did an act that by its nature would directly and probably result in the application of force to the child;
  • The defendant did that act willfully;
  • The force used was likely to produce great bodily injury;
  • When the defendant acted he or she was aware of facts that would lead a reasonable person to realize his/her act by its nature would directly and probably result in great bodily injury to the child;
  • When the defendant acted he/she had the present ability to apply force likely to produce great bodily injury to the child;
  • The defendant’s act caused the child’s death, and
  • The defendant did not act while reasonably disciplining a child

The phrase “likely to produce” great bodily harm or death means the probability of great bodily harm or death is high.

Great bodily harm means significant or substantial physical injury. It is an injury that is greater than minor or moderate harm

In California, PC 273ab(a) / “Assault on a Child 8 Years Old or Under Resulting in Death” is always a Felony.

Hire a Riverside Child Endangerment Attorney Now

False allegations of child abuse are detrimental to so many parties. It’s important to fight back against such charges- if charged with child abuse, neglect, or endangerment in the Inland Empire, contact a criminal lawyer as soon as possible.

Graham Donath and the criminal attorneys at his law offices have handled thousands of felony and misdemeanor cases, including child abuse disputes. Contact our Riverside child abuse lawyers today for a consultation regarding your claim. Graham Donath is a highly skilled board-certified specialist in criminal defense law. We can handle your case with exceptional discretion.