Child Abandonment | California PC 270

There are not many things in the world that are more looked down upon than child abandonment. There is a continuing rumor that anyone in jail for harming a child will receive ill treatment from other inmates. Even if this is not true, the legal penalties for such a crime can be severe.

California Penal Code 270 encompasses the definition and penalties of a charge of child abandonment. The code actually sets forth a particular punishment for those convicted of the crime, but individual counties are able to set their own bail amounts related to the offense. Regardless of why a person is charged with child abandonment, it is imperative that they find a lawyer, because judges usually don’t smile kindly upon those who are convicted of these types of crimes.

What is Child Abandonment?

California law is very specific as to what constitutes child abandonment. PC 270 defines this crime as willfully and unlawfully withholding food, necessary clothing, shelter, medical attendance or other forms of remedial care. Many people are confused about the definition of ‘remedial care,’ and some people are upset once they realize what it means. Parents who are part of religions that use only prayer to try to heal disease, are considered to be providing remedial care. If a child is sick and only prayer is used to heal him, it is considered legal.

This law applies to the legal parent, whether or not they are the biological parent of the child in this situation. Many people are surprised to learn that a man is also responsible for a child even if the child was artificially inseminated, but this only applies in cases where the man signed off on the insemination. In all cases, if courts see proof of child abandonment, the law says that this is enough to prove “willful abandonment.” When this proof exists, judges and juries must consider all income that a parent receives, in deciding whether or not the defendant had a lawful excuse.

What Bail is Charged?

Child abandonment bail will usually be different in each California County, due to the fact that all counties can choose their own preset amounts on a bail schedule. Many counties, however, stay within a certain range of bail; Los Angeles, Santa Clara and Monterey counties all set bail at $5,000 for those accused of child abandonment. Monterey County, however, treats child abandonment of a child under fourteen as a “wobbler.” This means it may also be charged as a felony, and in this case the bail amount in Monterey County is $10,000.

What are The Consequences?

California Penal Code 270 actually specifies the punishment involved with child abandonment. If convicted, a person faces jail time of up to one year, or a fine of $2,000. In some cases, the judge may choose to impose both of these penalties. In the case of a non-biological parent who is adjudicated as the legal parent of the abandoned child, that person faces the same penalty, but he may be confined to a state prison for one year and one day as opposed to a county jail. Either way, a child abandonment conviction will lead to serious penalties for the accused.

The laws of our land say it is important for a person to take care of their child to the best of their ability, and even if the care is mediocre, it may be considered legal if it is all that the parent can afford. Several child abandonment cases are brought forth by scorned lovers or overbearing neighbors, and if these charges are frivolous there is a very good chance that they will be dropped. That said, when it comes to children, reporting what you think may be a crime against them is never a bad idea; if ultimately unfounded, it is certainly less damaging then it would be for a neglected child to not be dealt with. 

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