Endangering the Welfare of a Child Lawyers NJ
“Endangering the Welfare of Children is an indictable criminal offense under NJ 2C:24-4. These charges may involve child abuse or neglect, sexual abuse, child pornography, and other forms of child endangerment.”
New Jersey prosecutors and law enforcement take crimes against children seriously. The vast majority of parents and guardians in the state find this type of conduct to be beyond comprehension, including those who face false accusations. Tragically, many individuals are prosecuted for endangering the welfare of a child, an indictable crime in New Jersey, every year. While most assume these cases involve severe physical or sexual abuse, there are many other ways to commit an endangering child welfare offense, including neglect and driving while intoxicated with a minor in the vehicle. Depending on the circumstances of the offense, endangering the welfare of a child may be classified first, second, third, or fourth degree crime. Since it is always an indictable criminal offense, a conviction carries state prison time and will be handled in the Superior Court by the County Prosecutor’s Office. If you have been charged with child endangerment, you desperately need an experienced criminal defense attorney to defend your case.
The New Jersey Criminal Defense Lawyers at The Tormey Law Firm handle a broad range of child abuse and endangering the welfare of child cases in courts throughout New Jersey on a regular basis. Our team includes a skilled DCPP defense attorney who addresses child custody and guardianship issues when state authorities from child protective services become involved as well. We have the knowledge and experience to address every facet of your case, from criminal prosecution to a possible DYFS investigation. For more information about how we can help you, contact us today at (201)-556-1570. An experienced defense attorney who has handled child welfare cases like yours is available to provide you with a free consultation.
What it Means to be Charged with Endangering the Welfare of a Child NJSA 2C:24-4
Many forms of conduct qualify as violations of the New Jersey endangering the welfare of a child statute, section 2C:24-4. Some common examples of abuse and neglect include physical assault, sexual abuse, child pornography offenses, molestation, statutory rape, abandonment, isolation, inappropriate institutionalization, cruelty, selling or manufacturing drugs in the home, and several other acts.
Sexual Misconduct with a Minor
New Jersey statute NJSA 2C:24-4, states that any person who has a duty to care for a child or who has assumed responsibility for a child and who engages in sexual conduct with the child is guilty of a second degree indictable offense. A child is defined as any person under eighteen years of age. Indictable offenses are similar to felonies in other jurisdictions, and a second degree indictable offense is a particularly serious crime that may be punished by a prison term of up to ten years. Second degree offenses also carry tens of thousands of dollars in criminal fines and other penalties. This level of child endangerment also carries with it mandatory sex offender registration.
If any other person, meaning a person who does not have a legal duty to care for a child, engages in the above-described conduct with a child, they are guilty of a third degree indictable offense. A third degree offense is also a serious charge which may carry up to a five year term of imprisonment, sex offender registration, and other fines and penalties.
Abuse and Neglect of a Child
If a person has a legal duty to care for a child and causes harm to the child by abusing or neglecting the child, that person may also be charged with a second degree indictable offense carrying the same penalties penalties described above. These acts may include abandoning the child, failing to care for or watch the child in a way that exposes the child to a risk of harm, or failing to care for the child to the extent that public or charitable agencies must step in.
A person can also harm a child under this statute by subjecting the child to harsh corporal punishment, inflicting mental or physical pain and suffering on the child, tormenting the child, failing to act and thereby causing the child to suffer, and by causing the child hardship and physical or mental strain that could harm the child’s health. If a non-parent or legal guardian causes harm to a child by abusing or neglecting them as described above, he or she may be charged with a third degree indictable offense.
Child Pornography Offenses
Endangering the welfare offenses involving the possession of child pornography are considered fourth degree crimes. Charges involving the sale of child pornography, manufacturing, or filming children performing sexual acts are more serious and are classified as second degree crimes.
New Jersey Punishments for Child Endangerment
Charges for Endangering the Welfare of a Child can be classified as first, second, third, or fourth degree crimes, depending on the circumstances of the specific case. In addition, a conviction for this type of charge may entail mandatory sex offender registration under New Jersey’s Megan’s Law, as well as life-long community supervision.
- First degree Endangering the Welfare of a Child: punishable by a term of incarceration ranging from 10 to 20 years in New Jersey State Prison. In addition, a conviction for a first degree crime entails a presumption of incarceration, which may result in a mandatory prison term even for a defendant with no prior criminal record.
- Second degree Endangering the Welfare of a Child: punishable by a term of incarceration ranging from 5 to 10 years in New Jersey State Prison, with a presumption of incarceration.
- Third degree Endangering the Welfare of a Child: punishable by a term of incarceration ranging from 3 to 5 years in New Jersey State Prison. These charges include a presumption of non-incarceration, which means that defendants with no existing criminal history may be eligible for probation in lieu of a prison sentence.
- Fourth Endangering the Welfare of a Child: punishable by a maximum term of incarceration of 18 months in New Jersey State Prison, with a presumption of non-incarceration.
What the State must Prove to Convict under NJ 2C:24-4
In order to obtain a conviction for endangering the welfare of a child, New Jersey prosecutors must establish several crucial elements. In a recent case that went all the way to the NJ Supreme Court, a defendant sought to appeal a his conviction, contending that the state must prove that a child suffered actual harm to convict under N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4. The Supreme Court disagreed and established that only exposing children to a substantial risk of harm is sufficient to prove endangering the welfare of child charges. You can learn more about this decision in New Jersey v. Fuqua.
Get Defense for Endangering the Welfare of a Child Case in New Jersey
If you or a loved-one has been charged with Endangering the Welfare of a Child, a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney can help to ensure the best possible outcome in your case. Contact the criminal defense attorneys at The Tormey Law Firm to today at (201)-556-1570 for a free consultation.
§ 2C:24-4. Endangering the Welfare of a Child Statute
a. Any person having a legal duty for the care of a child or who has assumed responsibility for the care of a child who engages in sexual conduct which would impair or debauch the morals of the child, or who causes the child harm that would make the child an abused or neglected child is guilty of a crime of the second degree. Any other person who engages in conduct or who causes harm (as described in the statute) to a child under the age of 16 is guilty of a crime of the third degree.
b. A person commits a crime of the second degree if he causes or permits a child to engage in a prohibited sexual act or in the simulation of such an act if the person knows, has reason to know or intends that the prohibited act may be photographed, filmed, reproduced, or reconstructed in any manner, including on the Internet, or may be part of an exhibition or performance. If the person is a parent, guardian or other person legally charged with the care or custody of the child, the personal is guilty of a crime of the first degree.
c. A person who photographs or films a child in a prohibited sexual act or in the simulation of such an act or who uses any device, including a computer, to reproduce or reconstruct the image of a child in a prohibited sexual act or in the simulation of such an act is guilty of a crime of the second degree.
d. A person who knowingly receives for the purpose of selling or who knowingly sells, procures, manufactures, gives, provides, lends, trades, mails, delivers, transfers, publishes, distributes, circulates, disseminates, presents, exhibits, advertises, offers or agrees to offer, through any means, including the Internet, any photograph, film, videotape, computer program or file, video game or any other reproduction or reconstruction which depicts a child engaging in a prohibited sexual act or in the simulation of such an act, is guilty of a crime of the second degree.
e. A person who knowingly possess or knowingly views any photograph, film, videotape, computer program or file, video game or any other reproduction or reconstruction which depicts a child engaging in a prohibited sexual act or in the simulation of such an act, including on the Internet, is guilty of a crime of the fourth degree.