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Child endangerment is a serious crime and a felony if the child suffers injury. In Iowa, if a parent, guardian, or another person with control of the child, acts in a way that places a child in real danger, the person could be charged with child endangerment.

Child endangerment is a serious crime and a felony if the child suffers injury. In Iowa, if a parent, guardian, or another person with control of the child, acts in a way that places a child in real danger, the person could be charged with child endangerment. While child endangerment is a broad topic, this article will give an overview of child endangerment in Iowa.  

Who Can Commit the Crime of Child Endangerment?

Child endangerment may be committed by a parent, guardian, or other person having custody or control over a child or minor under 18 with a mental or physical disability. Child endangerment can also be committed by another person who is a member of the household where a child or minor with a physical disability resides (for simplicity, this article will refer to “parents” as the perpetrators and children as the victim. Though persons other than parents may commit child endangerment).  

What is the Crime of Child Endangerment?

Child endangerment in Iowa does not require proof that injury to the child was likely, only that there was a genuine possibility of danger to the child’s health or safety. So, when any single one of a person’s actions may not be enough to show they knew they were placing the child in danger, several actions taken together may show an ordinary person would be aware of the danger to the child. A court will look at all the case circumstances to determine whether a person would know their acts placed the children in real danger.  

There are several ways a person may commit child endangerment. A person commits child endangerment when they knowingly act in a way that creates a real risk to a child’s physical, mental, or emotional health or safety. They also commit child endangerment by intentionally using unreasonable force, torture, or cruelty that results in a child’s bodily injury, intended to cause the injury or actual mental or emotional harm to a child.  

Child endangerment may also be when a parent intentionally does not provide the child with necessary food, clothing, shelter, health care, or appropriate supervision for their age. The parent must be reasonably able to provide these things to the child.  

The child must suffer substantial harm to their physical, mental, or emotional health. Child endangerment is also when the parent abandons the child, leaving them to fend for themselves, knowing the child cannot do so. However, there is an exception when a parent refuses medical care for their child for recognized religious reasons.  

Child endangerment is also when a parent allows the continued physical or sexual abuse of a child. However, it is a defense if the defendant believed that any action to stop the abuse would result in substantial bodily harm, either to the parent or the child.

It is also child endangerment if a person knowingly allows a child unsupervised access to a sex offender after knowing they are required to appear on the sex offender registry. This provision does not apply if a parent or guardian of the child is required to register as a sex offender or if the parent is married to and living with a sex offender.  

If a parent knowingly allows a child to be present at a location where amphetamine or methamphetamine is manufactured or possessed, it is also child endangerment.  

Finally, it is child endangerment to supervise someone under 21. At the same time, they possess a pistol or revolver or their ammunition if the person above 21 is intoxicated.  

When does Someone Have Control Over a Child?

Apart from parents and guardians, someone with control over a child can be convicted of child endangerment. These include people who have accepted, undertaken, or assumed supervision of a child from their parent or guardian or temporarily assumed temporary supervision of a child without explicit consent from the parent or guardian. Specifically, this also includes a person who operates a motor vehicle with a child in the vehicle.  

In general, “control” means restricting or governing the child and the risk sought to be avoided by child endangerment statutes. For instance, if someone takes a child into a car driven by someone she knew was intoxicated, she will likely be found to have control of the child for child endangerment (she could have controlled getting into the car, who was driving, calling a cab, calling a friend for transportation, etc.).  

What are the Penalties for Child Endangerment?

The penalties for child endangerment depend on the harm caused to the child.  

If a child dies due to child endangerment, the person is guilty of a class B felony. Usually, a person convicted of a class B felony can be convicted for no more than 25 years. However, in child endangerment convictions, a person can be convicted for no more than 50 years, double that of a typical class B felony.  

A person who commits child endangerment resulting in a severe injury to a child is guilty of a class “C” felony. There is a maximum sentence of no more than ten years, and you will be sentenced to a fine of $1,370-$13,660, with additional surcharges.  

A person who commits child endangerment, which results in a bodily injury that is not serious, or who knowingly allows a child to be present at a location where amphetamine or methamphetamine is possessed or manufactured, is guilty of a class D felony. There is a maximum sentence of 5 years and a fine of $1,225-$10,245, with additional surcharges.    

Any child endangerment not subject to one of the above, which results in no bodily injury, is guilty of an aggravated misdemeanor. There is a maximum sentence of up to 2 years in prison, a fine of $855-$8,540, and additional surcharges.  

What if Someone Commits Multiple Acts of Child Endangerment?

Suppose someone has three or more acts of child endangerment within 12 months involving the same child. The statute must establish these three separate acts. One or more acts result in serious injury to the child or a skeletal injury. In that case, the person is guilty of a class B felony.  

Note this statute says “acts,” not “convictions,” so even if a person wasn’t charged with a crime, if a prosecutor can show the acts that happened, a person can be convicted of the class B felony. Again, the person can be convicted for up to no more than 50 years.  

To speak with our experienced family law attorneys about your family law case, call our office at (630) 324-6666 or schedule a consultation. You can also fill out our confidential contact form and we will get back to you shortly.

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