New Jersey has many laws in place specifically intended to protect children, and the state is unafraid to prosecute someone for endangering a child’s safety. At the Law Office of Matthew V. Portella, LLC, we represent individuals accused of endangering the welfare of a child. Whether you are a parent, guardian, babysitter, or adult sibling, you could face significant penalties if convicted. If you or a loved one are facing child endangerment charges, contact our firm immediately to begin putting your defenses together.
New Jersey Laws on Child Endangerment
The Garden State has several laws which apply to child endangerment. The most significant is N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4 which covers sex crimes and abuse or neglect of a minor, meaning someone under 18. The law applies to those who have a legal duty to care for a child, such as parents or guardians, but this statute can also apply to any adult.
The statute also covers the creation and distribution of child pornography as well as participating in the exploitation of a child. The law becomes quite detailed regarding child pornography and covers traditional pornographic videos as well as digital images shared over the internet and via other means such as texting.
What Qualifies as Child Abuse?
It is illegal to abuse a child. But what qualifies as abuse? The above statute points us in the direction of N.J.S.A. 9:6-1, which defines abuse as:
- Relinquishing child custody contrary to law
- Allowing a child to be employed in a dangerous occupation or in violation of the law
- Allowing a child to be employed in a job that is a danger to their morality
- Habitually using profane, obscene, or indecent language in front of a child
- Performing an immoral act in the child’s presence which tends to endanger or degrade the child’s morality
- Allowing someone else to perform an immoral act in front of the child
- Using excessive physical restraint
- Willfully isolating the child from social contact
Cruelty and neglect will also qualify as endangerment and can include failing to provide a child with food, shelter, clothing, or medicine. A parent or guardian who has refused to feed a child is guilty of endangerment.
Penalties for Endangering the Welfare of a Child
The penalties will depend on how the crime is charged. Generally:
- A parent or guardian engaging in sexual activity with a child is guilty of a crime of the second degree. A second-degree offense can land a defendant in prison for up to 10 years.
- Another person engaging in sexual activity with a child is guilty of a crime of the third degree. A defendant is facing 3-5 years in prison, though they could serve probation instead.
- A parent or guardian who abuses or neglects a child is guilty of a crime of the second degree.
- Another person who abuses or neglects a child is guilty of a crime in the third degree.
- Anyone who causes or permits a child to be engaged in child porn is guilty of a crime of the first degree. Defendants face 10-20 years in prison if convicted.
Depending on the offense, you might also have to register in New Jersey’s sex offender registry. The law requires regular notification of when you move or change jobs and is available for the public to search. To get removed from the database, you’ll need to wait a long time (usually 15 years), and some offenders never get their names removed.
Don’t Let an Accusation Stick
Many child endangerment cases start with an accusation that you have abused, neglected, or molested a child. Even if completely unfounded, these types of explosive allegations have a way of “sticking” and are difficult to beat. With the rise of social media, these types of allegations can spread like wildfire and harm your reputation.
Child endangerment allegations require a vigorous response. In many cases, whether you have neglected or abused your child is subjective. Many parents are under enormous stress and missing a meal or delaying medical care should not land a parent in jail. At the Law Office of Matthew V. Portella, LLC, we will carefully review all allegations against you to ensure you are not being unfairly targeted or charged.
Other parts of the abuse and neglect law seem outdated. For example, regularly using profanity is an example of the “abuse” of a child. In this day and age, children hear profanity from the media at all hours of the day.
Speak with a New Jersey Child Endangerment Attorney Today
Matthew V. Portella, Esquire believes that everyone deserves competent, thorough, and effective legal representation when facing criminal charges. To fully protect your rights, please contact our firm as soon as you suspect the authorities are investigating you. We can advise you on whether or not to give a statement to the police or consent to a search of your computer and other belongings. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.