Texas takes child safety very seriously. Laws outlining child abandonment and endangerment are meant to keep children safe.
Although well-intentioned, these laws can sometimes affect innocent parties, so it’s crucial to understand how Texas views child endangerment and abandonment.
What Is Considered Child Abandonment in Texas?
According to Texas Penal Code § 22.041, abandonment is defined as “to leave a child in any place without providing reasonable and necessary care for the child…”
Simply put, to abandon a child in Texas is to leave that child somewhere without necessary and adequate care, in a situation no reasonable adult would leave a child of the same age and ability.
What Is Considered Child Endangerment in Texas?
Texas law considers child endangerment to occur if a person “…engages in conduct that places a child younger than 15 years in imminent danger of death, bodily injury, or physical or mental impairment.”
A person commits child endangerment by exposing the child to undue risk. The law also outlines that a person can endanger a child in the following ways:
- Through criminal negligence, whether by act or through omission
It’s important to note that the inclusion of negligence in the law means you can commit child endangerment regardless of whether you intend to or not.
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What Are Examples of Child Endangerment in Texas?
The law for child endangerment and abandonment in Texas states that a person endangers a child if the person:
- Used, made, or had methamphetamine in the presence of the child
- If methamphetamine is found in the child’s blood, urine, or other bodily substance
- If the person used a controlled substance, including marijuana, which remains illegal in Texas, around a child.
Child endangerment can also be:
- DWI with the child present
- Reckless driving
- Failure to secure a firearm or other weapons
- Leaving the child in a car, especially during inclement weather
- Not adequately securing the child in a vehicle
- Leaving the child with someone known to be abusive
Who Can Be Charged with Child Abandonment or Endangerment in Texas?
The law states that any person who has custody, care, or control of the child can be charged, including parents, family members of the child, guardians, caretakers, or anyone trusted with the care of a child.
Additionally, according to Texas Family Code § 261.101, anyone with reason to believe that a child may be in danger is required to make a report to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
What are the Child Endangerment Reporting Requirements for Professionals in Texas?
For anyone considered to be a professional, the reporting requirements are heightened. Texas considers a professional to be anyone who is licensed or certified by the state or anyone who works at a licensed establishment that has direct contact with children. This includes:
- Doctors and nurses
- Daycare providers
- Juvenile probation, detention, or correctional officers
- Employees at any clinic providing reproductive services
Professionals must make a report no later than 48 hours after they first suspect abuse, abandonment, or neglect. Additionally, the professional is prohibited from relying on another person to make the report on their behalf.
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At what Age Can You Leave Your Child at Home Alone in Texas?
In Texas, no minimum age is given for when you can leave your child at home alone. Instead, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services outlines a few specific considerations for deciding if your child can safely stay home without adult supervision.
Is It Illegal to Leave Your Child in a Car in Texas?
Tex. Pen. Code § 22.10 states that it is considered a Class C misdemeanor to knowingly or intentionally leave your child in a vehicle for longer than five minutes if you know that the child is under seven years old or not supervised by an individual older than 14 years of age.
What Are the Penalties for Child Abandonment or Endangerment in Texas?
The possible penalties are based on the specific circumstances of the situation. Generally, penalties are as follows:
- In abandonment cases where the offender plans to return, the penalty ranges from 6 months to 2 years in jail with a fine of up to $10,000.
- In abandonment cases where the offender has no intention of returning, the penalty ranges from 2 to 10 years in prison with a fine of up to $10,000.
- For abandonment where a child is found to be in danger, the penalty ranges from 2 to 20 years in prison with a fine of up to $10,000.
Can a Lawyer Help If I am Charged with Child Abandonment or Endangerment?
For people accused of child endangerment or abandonment in Texas, the Law Offices of Randall B. Isenberg can help. With over 30 years of experience as a former prosecutor and state district judge, we know how to use the details of your situation to provide a strong defense.
Charges for child endangerment can affect you for life, so it’s crucial to defend yourself vigorously. Call us at (214) 696-9253 to get started with our legal team today.