Union County NJ Child Abuse Defense Attorneys
Police and prosecutors in Union County take their duty to protect the public, especially children, very seriously. You clearly need to take a similar approach if you have been charged with endangering the welfare of a child. This is the case whether the endangerment charge is the result of inattentiveness and/or unintended neglect or something more aggravating like a sexual act. The reason is because irrespective of the grade of endangering which you are facing at the Elizabeth Superior Court, it is an indictable offense that will give rise to a felony record and carries exposure to state prison. This is the case whether the N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4 charge was filed as a first degree, second degree, third degree or fourth degree crime. Having represented countless individuals on endangering charges, our attorneys are sensitive to the fear and uneasiest you are probably feeling, and are also mindful of the fact that there are usually two sides to the story. We recognize from experience that there certainly are many cases where someone is falsely accused and sexual assault or other offense either never happened or the facts have been distorted or exaggerated. An experienced criminal attorney on our defense team, perhaps one of the former prosecutors on staff, is available at 908-272-1700 to discuss the details of your case. We can help you secure bail and defend the child abuse offense that is pending.
New Jersey Endangering the Welfare of a Child Law
The Endangering the Welfare of a Child Law is set forth at N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4 of the New Jersey Criminal Code. This statute provides, in pertinent part, that:
2C:24-4. Endangering Welfare of Children
a. (1) 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 is guilty of a crime of the second degree. Any other person who engages in conduct or who causes harm as described in this paragraph to a child is guilty of a crime of the third degree.
(2) Any person having a legal duty for the care of a child or who has assumed responsibility for the care of a child who causes the child harm that would make the child an abused or neglected child as defined in R.S.9:6-1, R.S.9:6-3 and P.L.1974, c. 119, § 1 (C.9:6-8.21) is guilty of a crime of the second degree. Any other person who engages in conduct or who causes harm as described in this paragraph to a child is guilty of a crime of the third degree.
You probably recognize from the language of the law that this offense is treated more severely when there is a duty of care for the child or where the accused assumes responsibility for care. Individual’s possessing this status obviously include parents, stepparents, and other relatives, teachers, babysitters, and counselors. A boyfriend or girlfriend of a parent can also qualify as someone with a duty provided they regularly supervise or act as caretaker.
Sexual Conduct That Impairs or Debauches Morals of a Child – N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4(a)(1)
It is second degree endangering the welfare of a child for someone with a legal duty to engage in sexual conduct that impairs or debauches the morals of the child. Exposing intimate parts while touching a child, inviting or having a child touch genitals, committing sexual acts in the presence of a child, instructing a child on how to perform a sexual act, and showing a child obscene pornography, all satisfy the requirement of a sexual act that impairs or debauches morals. Sexual conduct of this nature results in third degree endangering the welfare of a child where no legal duty to the child exists.
Abuse or Neglect of a Child – N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4(a)(2)
It is a third degree crime under the endangering law for someone with a legal duty to cause a child to be abused or neglected. The same conduct results in fourth degree endangering the welfare of a child where no duty exists.
Child Pornography Offenses
Although child pornography is included under the umbrella of endangering the welfare of a child under N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4, we believe that the subject is so vast that it should be discussed on its own. You can access the related article by clicking Child Pornography.
Penalties That Apply Under This Law
If you are convicted of endangering the welfare of a child the penalties you will face will depend on both the degree of crime involved and whether or not the conviction stems from sexual conduct. For fourth degree endangering, an individual faces a fine of $10,000 and up to eighteen (18) months in prison. Endangering the welfare of a child in the third degree triggers a maximum fine of $15,000 and as much as five (5) years in state prison. In addition, when the conviction stems from a sexual act, namely arises under subsection (a) of 2C:24-4, the requirements of Megan’s Law apply. What this means is that if you are unsuccessful in having the prosecutor downgrade and/or otherwise avoiding a conviction under this section, you will be a registered sex offender. This is a primary reasons why it is so important to retain a skilled Elizabeth NJ Sex Offense Lawyer to achieve an acquittal or, alternatively, have the charge downgraded to a subsection (b) violation or to a Title 9 child abuse offense. There is no obligation to register under either of these scenarios.
Endangering the Welfare of a Child Lawyer
As you can see from what is contained on this page, there are many potentially twists when it comes to child endangerment and abuse cases. To effectively deal with these issues and provide the best opportunity for an acquittal or reduction in the charge, an attorney that is knowledgeable can be instrumental. The attorneys at our firm have handled hundreds, possibly thousands, of endangering offenses. This experience and skill, as well as our familiarity with the Judges and prosecutors in Elizabeth, is available to you 24/7 at 908-272-1700. Call us for an initial consultation.