Endangering children in Ohio is a serious charge.
Section 2919.22 of the Ohio Revised Code defines endangering children as the following:
(A) No person, who is the parent, guardian, custodian, person having custody or control, or person in loco parentis of a child under eighteen years of age or a mentally or physically handicapped child under twenty-one years of age, shall create a substantial risk to the health or safety of the child, by violating a duty of care, protection, or support. It is not a violation of a duty of care, protection, or support under this division when the parent, guardian, custodian, or person having custody or control of a child treats the physical or mental illness or defect of the child by spiritual means through prayer alone, in accordance with the tenets of a recognized religious body.
(B) No person shall do any of the following to a child under eighteen years of age or a mentally or physically handicapped child under twenty-one years of age:
(1) Abuse the child;
(2) Torture or cruelly abuse the child;
(3) Administer corporal punishment or other physical disciplinary measure, or physically restrain the child in a cruel manner or for a prolonged period, which punishment, discipline, or restraint is excessive under the circumstances and creates a substantial risk of serious physical harm to the child;
(4) Repeatedly administer unwarranted disciplinary measures to the child, when there is a substantial risk that such conduct, if continued, will seriously impair or retard the child’s mental health or development;
(5) Entice, coerce, permit, encourage, compel, hire, employ, use, or allow the child to act, model, or in any other way participate in, or be photographed for, the production, presentation, dissemination, or advertisement of any material or performance that the offender knows or reasonably should know is obscene, is sexually oriented matter, or is nudity-oriented matter;
(6) Allow the child to be on the same parcel of real property and within one hundred feet of, or, in the case of more than one housing unit on the same parcel of real property, in the same housing unit and within one hundred feet of, any act in violation of section 2925.04 or 2925.041 of the Revised Code when the person knows that the act is occurring, whether or not any person is prosecuted for or convicted of the violation of section 2925.04 or 2925.041 of the Revised Code that is the basis of the violation of this division.
Section 2919.22 goes on to set forth other conduct that can lead to being charged with child endangerment. Including the reckless operation of a vehicle when one or more children under 18 are in the vehicle, the illicit use of controlled substances in the presence of one or more children under 18, and whether you have been previously convicted of a similar offense.
Understanding the Charge of Endangering Children
The laws regarding the safety of children are often stringently enforced in Ohio, as this law is intended to protect those that cannot protect themselves. This statute not only protects children under 18 years of age, but also extends protection to mentally or physically handicapped persons under 21. Any act or decision that could pose a substantial risk to the well-being of a child would fall under the charge of endangering children. For example, excessive punishment or driving while intoxicated with a minor in the car would be considered a crime, as it would pose a risk of serious harm to the child.
Depending on the section of Ohio’s Endangering Children statute under which you are convicted, the punishment can vary from a first-degree misdemeanor to a second-degree felony. Also, if certain drugs are involved, you could be facing mandatory prison time.
Endangering Children: First Degree Misdemeanor
Most charges of child endangerment are charged as a first-degree misdemeanor, (“M-1”) such as driving while intoxicated with a child in the vehicle. Generally, if the child suffered no harm, you should not be charged with a felony. If convicted, an M-1 is punishable up six months in jail, and may include court costs, a fine not to exceed $1,000, and restitution. An M-1 is also a probationable offense.
Endangering Children: Fourth and Fifth Degree Felony
If the child has been harmed in any way, regardless of circumstances, you could be facing felony charges. A felony of the fifth degree is punishable from 6 to 12 months in prison (in one-month increments) and may include court costs, a fine not to exceed $2,500 and restitution. A felony of the fourth degree is punishable from 6 to 18 months in prison (in one-month increments) and may include court costs, a fine not to exceed $5,000 and restitution. For both a felony of the fourth and fifth degree, in lieu of prison, you may be placed on probation for up to five years.
Endangering Children: Second and Third-Degree Felony
You can be convicted of a second or third-degree felony if the child or handicapped person suffered serious physical harm. The presence of drugs, or allowing a child near a home where drugs are being manufactured or cultivated, depending on the type and amount of the drug, can result in a second or third-degree felony. You can also be charged with a third-degree felony if the child has allegedly been tortured or subjected to excessive discipline that resulted in physical or emotional damage. If convicted of a third-degree felony the penalties are 9, 12, 18, 24, 30 or 36 months in prison and may include court costs, a fine not to exceed $10,000, and restitution. In lieu of prison you may be placed on probation for up to five years. The penalties for a second-degree felony are between 2 and 8 years in prison (in one year increments) and may include court costs, a fine not to exceed $15,000, and restitution. If you are sent to prison you will also be placed on three years of post-release control (also called parole) after your release from prison.
Defending Against Endangering Children
The law is clear that mistake of age is not a defense to certain charges of endangering children. Endangering children is a complicated charge, especially if multiple children are involved. Without the proper defense, you could be at risk of being convicted of a crime involving the welfare and safety of your own children.
If you have been charged with Endangering Children in Ohio
If you have been charged with endangering children in Ohio, an experienced criminal defense attorney will help determine whether you have any defenses to the charge(s) and thoroughly discuss your options. Should you decide to go to trial, a skilled defense attorney is an absolute necessity. For more information and a free consultation, please contact Jeff Hastings, experienced Cleveland Criminal Defense Attorney.