No Costa Mesa Child Endangerment Charge for Father
A man who was arrested on suspicion of felony child endangerment in Costa Mesa after accidentally leaving his infant daughter in a hot car in a parking lot will not face criminal charges.
Costa Mesa Criminal Defense Lawyer Houman Fakhimi understands that had this defendant been convicted of the initial charges, he would have faced up to six years in prison. It also would have been considered a possible "strike" on his record under the state's Three Strikes Law.
In this case, the 33-year-old part-time music teacher was arrested after a passerby saw his 11-month-old daughter strapped into the back seat of a vehicle in the parking lot of Irvine Valley College. It was about 1 p.m., and there was reportedly no adult in sight.
The girl was reportedly in good health when paramedics arrived, though she was taken to the hospital as a precaution. She was subsequently taken into the custody of Orange County Child Protective Services for a time.
Both parents were questioned about the incident. The father worked at the school as a part-time, temporary employee, while the mother was a student.
The father was ultimately arrested.
Prosecutors said they declined to press charges due to insufficient evidence to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt, adding that the incident appeared to be an accident. So while there was enough probable cause upon which to arrest the defendant, the standard burden of proof for criminal conviction is higher, and in this case, could not be met.
Part of the reason is that there are several elements that must be met in order for an action to be considered felony child endangerment, as defined in California Penal Code 273a. Those elements are that you willfully:
- Inflicted unjustified physical pain or mental suffering on a child or allowed someone else to do so;
- Allowed the child or the health of the child to suffer injury;
- To cause or allow a situation in which the child's body or health may be in danger.
It can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor, though overzealous prosecutors frequently tend to file it as a felony, regardless.
The biggest hurdle for prosecutors is often the issue of whether the acts were carried out willfully. This means that prosecutors have to show that you carried out the actions that led to the child's harm deliberately or on purpose. They don't necessarily have to prove that you intended to break the law.
For example, let's say a mother leaves her toddler in the care of her boyfriend, who has shown violent tendencies in the past of which the mother was aware. While in the boyfriend's care, the child suffers various injuries. The mother may be charged with felony child endangerment because she willingly placed the child in the care of someone who had shown a propensity for violence.
In this case, prosecutors likely couldn't prove that the father willfully left the child in the vehicle.
Contact Houman Fakhimi trial attorney at (714) 705-6701 as soon as possible if you are charged with a crime in Orange County.