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Arizona Reckless Child Endangerment Laws - Misdemeanor vs Felony

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In Arizona, child endangerment is a broad legal term that can encompass various actions involving minors under the age of 18. The penalties for a conviction are severe and can range from jail or prison time to substantial fines and other repercussions that could have a lasting impact on your life. That’s why if you find yourself facing these charges, securing legal representation from an experienced child endangerment defense attorney, like those at Colburn Hintze Maletta, is crucial.

In this article, we will discuss:

  • The various acts that Arizona law categorizes as child endangerment
  • The potential penalties upon conviction
  • The defense strategies available to you
  • The importance of working with a knowledgeable attorney

According to Arizona’s Department of Child Safety, thousands of reports concerning child endangerment or abuse are filed every year. These reports often lead to investigations and possible legal action.

Specifically, we’ll delve into Arizona Revised Statute (ARS) 13-3623, which outlines what constitutes child endangerment in the state.

With a grasp of these fundamentals, you’ll be better equipped to work alongside your attorney to challenge the charges you face effectively. 

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Arizona Reckless Child Endangerment Laws – Misdemeanor vs Felony

Understanding Child Endangerment AZ

While many states have specific child endangerment statutes, Arizona does not. Instead, Arizona has a broad endangerment statute that applies to all people found at ARS 13-1201. Under this law, you can be charged with reckless endangerment when you cause another person to experience a substantial risk of imminent physical injury or death.

While it is a crime to endanger someone else regardless of their age, when you endanger a child, you can face more serious consequences.

To convict someone under child endangerment laws, prosecutors must prove the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt, including showing that your actions were reckless. This is a culpable mental state that is an element of the offense.

“Reckless” is defined in ARS 13-105(10)(c). This law states that a person behaves recklessly if they are aware of a substantial risk of serious physical injury or death but they consciously disregard the risk and engage in the behavior anyway. In short, a person knew that their actions could harm another, and they did it anyway.

Anyone who cares for a child can be charged with reckless endangerment, including parents, guardians, grandparents, sitters, teachers, and others. A person can face criminal charges if they engage in actions that endanger the child’s safety.

Examples of Reckless Endangerment of a Minor

Some examples of conduct that might result in charges under the state’s child endangerment laws include the following:

  • Being under the influence of drugs or alcohol while caring for a child
  • Leaving children unattended in vehicles
  • Leaving a child without supervision or with inadequate supervision
  • Committing a crime while caring for a child
  • Punishing a child so severely that the child is injured
  • Failing to report child abuse
  • Failing to prevent a child from suffering a foreseeable injury

A charge of reckless endangerment of a minor can be filed based on actions or on failures to act.

Penalties Under the Child Endangerment AZ Laws

The severity of a child endangerment charge will depend on the degree and type of risk the child faced from your actions or omissions. If the child faced a substantial risk of imminent death, you could face felony child endangerment charges. In most other types of situations, child endangerment might be filed as a Class 1 misdemeanor conviction.

If the child faced a risk of imminent injury, you might be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor carrying the following potential penalties:

  • Jail for up to six months
  • Fine of up to $2,500
  • Probation for up to three years

If the child was at risk of imminent death, you will face felony child endangerment as a Class 6 felony conviction with the following potential penalties:

  • From four to 24 months of prison
  • Fine of up to $150,000
  • Probation for up to three years

In some cases, child endangerment charges might be filed as serious felony offenses carrying even more prison time. If your offense is charged as a dangerous crime against children, the potential penalties could be very severe.

You can also be charged with felony child abuse if you intentionally, recklessly, or knowingly cause injury to a child or permit someone else to do so under ARS 13-3623.

The penalties for this offense can vary widely based on the circumstances. For example:

  • If you intentionally or knowingly caused physical injury to a child or placed them in a situation in which you knew that they were in danger of harm, it is a class 2 felony.
  • If you recklessly caused injury or placed a child in a situation that you knew could endanger them, it is a class 3 felony.
  • If you negligently caused physical injury or allowed a child to be placed in a situation that could endanger them, it is a class 4 felony.

The potential penalties for felony child endangerment involving child abuse can vary greatly based on the circumstances, your criminal history, and the level of the felony for which you are convicted as follows:

Felony Level Mitigated Sentence Minimum Sentence Presumptive Sentence Maximum Sentence Aggravated Sentence
Class 6 0.33 years 0.5 years 1 year 1.5 years 2 years
Class 5 0.5 years 0.75 years 1.5 years 2 years 2.5 years
Class 4 1 year 1.5 years 2.5 years 3 years 3.75 years
Class 3 2 years 2.5 years 3.5 years 7 years 8.75 years
Class 2 3 years 4 years 5 years 10 years 12.5 years

Having a criminal conviction for a child endangerment offense can also result in other consequences that can continue to impact your life long after your sentence is completed. These might include problems finding employment, housing, professional licenses, loss of civil rights, and loss of child custody rights.

Potential Defenses to Child Endangerment

If you are facing child endangerment charges in Arizona, you should retain an experienced criminal defense lawyer at Colburn Hintze Maletta as soon as possible. The potential consequences of this type of criminal charge could be life-altering.

Our child endangerment defense attorneys will carefully review the evidence to identify problems in the state’s case against you and to develop your defense. The defenses that might be available will depend on what happened in your case.

Here are some of the defenses that your attorney might raise, depending on the circumstances:

  • False accusations
  • Someone else was responsible
  • Your actions were reasonable under the circumstances
  • Insufficient evidence to prove mental culpability

In some cases, people might be falsely accused of different child endangerment crimes such as child abuse when they are going through child custody or divorce cases. Some estranged spouses might try to make false accusations to gain the upper hand in their family law cases.

Child Endangerment Defense Attorney

In this type of situation, your attorney might want to review the paperwork in your divorce or child custody case to evaluate this potential defense.

Police officers sometimes make snap decisions about who to arrest. If that happened to you, your lawyer might work to show that a different person was responsible for what happened instead of you.

Even if you did whatever was alleged, the prosecutor will have to prove that your behavior was unreasonable. If how you behaved was the same way a reasonable person would have acted under the same circumstances, your lawyer might be able to get the charges dismissed.

Finally, prosecutors must have enough evidence to prove your culpable mental state beyond a reasonable doubt. If they can’t prove your mental state, they can’t prove your guilt.


Hire the Right Child Endangerment Defense Lawyer

Facing child endangerment charges in Arizona can be frightening. If you have been charged with child endangerment, one of the first things you should do is consult an experienced criminal defense lawyer.

The attorneys at Colburn Hintze Maletta are highly experienced criminal defense lawyers who understand how to deeply investigate cases and build strong defenses for their clients.

Contact us today to schedule a free consultation at (602) 825-2500.

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