Iowa Code §726.6 provides nine specific definitions of child endangerment. Overall, however, child endangerment could be described as: 1) knowingly exposing a minor to substantial risk of physical, mental or emotional harm; 2) intentionally causing such harm; 3) depriving a child of the basic necessities of life; 4) abandonment; or 5) failing to provide adequate supervision in specified circumstances.
Child endangerment can be charged on its own, but the charges are often the result of other criminal allegations. Prosecutors often argue that exposing children to certain criminal activities qualifies as knowingly exposing them to substantial risk of harm. Here are some examples from around the country that could easily result in child endangerment charges in Iowa:
Bringing a child to a meth lab. Iowa Code §726.6 (g) specifically defines it as child endangerment when a child is permitted at a location where methamphetamine, amphetamine, or their salts, isomers or salts of isomers are illegally manufactured or possessed in violation of the law.
Exposing a child to other illegal drugs. Although Iowa’s statute only specifically forbids exposing children to illegal meth or amphetamines, prosecutors can file child endangerment charges when parents leave drugs where kids can find them. These charges could even be brought against those using legal medical marijuana.
Drunk driving with a child passenger. In Iowa, driving drunk can result in OWI charges and the loss of your driver’s license, along with serious penalties. If you have a minor child in the car, however, you can also be charged with child endangerment.
Street racing with a kid in the car. One Texas woman was charged with child endangerment after she was caught racing another car at approximately 120 mph and then spinning out and crashing.
Leaving a child in the car momentarily. We can all imagine getting charged for leaving a small child in a hot car. When it’s not hot, though, can you hop into a store for just a minute? Doing so resulted in a New York man’s child endangerment charges — because his car was stolen with the child inside.
Tanning your kids. It’s perfectly legal for adults to use tanning beds, but more than one parent has been charged with child endangerment for subjecting their kids to unnatural UV rays.
As you can see, child endangerment cases often involve an underlying allegation that must be proven before the endangerment can be established. This can make them somewhat more complex than other cases, but an experienced criminal defense attorney can help you understand the charges, the potential penalties, and what defense strategies are available to you.