Child Endangerment Attorney

Below is a quick overview of the laws relating to Child endangerment and Abandonment in Texas. It is intended as a brief overview because the statute is very detailed and specific especially as it delineates the different punishments available for violation of this statute.

Penal Code section 22.041 enumerates and sets out the law relating to the abandoning or endangering of a child. District Attorney’s Offices, Judges and Juries have, due to the alleged victim being a child, traditionally been very tough on individuals charged with this crime.

For purposes of this crime, a “child” means anyone under the age of 15. The term “abandon” means to leave a child in any place without providing reasonable and necessary care for the child, under circumstances under which no reasonable adult would leave a child of that age and ability.

  1. The first way this crime can be committed is if a person has care, custody or control of a child younger than 15 years of age, and the person intentionally abandons the child in a place that exposes the child to an unreasonable risk of harm.
  2. This crime can also be committed if a person intentionally, knowingly, recklessly or with criminal negligence, by act or omission, engages in conduct that places a child younger than 15 years of age in imminent danger of death, bodily injury or physical or mental impairment. In this situation, it is presumed that a person engaged in conduct that placed a child in imminent danger of death, bodily injury or physical or mental impairment if: (1.) the person manufactured, possessed or in any way introduced into the body of a person, methamphetamine in the presence of the child, or (2.) the person’s conduct related to the accessibility of methamphetamine to the child and a specimen of the child’s urine or blood indicate the presence of methamphetamine into the child’s body.

The legislature, by the way this statute is written, wants to send a message that any use, manufacturing or possession of methamphetamine around a child can result in severe penalties.

You often see these cases end up in the District Attorney’s Office as referrals from CPS. This is because CPS has required the parents and child to submit to a hair strand test. Based on the results of that test, CPS has referred the case to the DA’s Office for prosecution of the parents. This is often done, despite the fact that the testing will not show that any exposure the child had was due to any fault of the parents. Additionally, hair strand testing, which can show exposure to methamphetamine up to 90 days prior to the collection of the hair strand, is very complex in not only the testing but making sure the protocol for collection is strictly adhered to. Very often CPS will send the hair strands off to be tested. The defense should determine if there is a clear chain of custody to show that the integrity of the sample collected was maintained.

Additionally, the lab testing the hair strand, must meet the certifications required by law. The defense should request all the raw data, the lab results, the notes of everyone involved in the testing, pictures of the hair strands collected, the amount of hair that was tested, the length of the hair that was tested, the algorithm for hair growth the lab is applying, and the cleaning protocol of each strand before testing, among other things.

These cases are never straight forward and often the difference between a conviction and a dismissal or not guilty rests in an exhaustive defense investigation and retention of a defense expert on the issue of toxicology and hair strand testing.

Penalties in these cases can range from a state jail felony to a second degree felony depending on the facts of each individual case, the circumstances under which the child was abandoned, and whether the person intended to return.

An experienced child endangerment lawyer, in building a compelling defense, will look at not only challenging the defendant’s alleged intent, but also looking closely at the toxicology, including the collection and testing of hair samples from the child and the defendant.

Call the Law Office of Matt Bingham if you have been charged with the crime of child endangerment. We will schedule a professional consultation to understand the details of your case and identify the best defense on your behalf.

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