Child Endangerment Laws In Arizona


Caregivers like parents, grandparents, and babysitters can all face charges of child endangerment if they intentionally or recklessly put a child in harm’s way. Child endangerment is any scenario in which an adult exposes a minor to a significant risk of injury or death. The type of abuse may fall into one of two categories, and that will determine what kind of punishment the offender may face.

Multiple statutes in Arizona discuss child abuse, mistreatment of children, or endangerment of others. Three statutes can apply to cases of child abuse and endangerment—A.R.S. 13-1201, A.R.S. 13-705, and A.R.S. 13-3623.

The various laws that can encompass child endangerment can be confusing, which is why our team at JacksonWhite is here to help clarify. If you have been charged with child endangerment, it’s important to understand the potential penalties of a conviction and the options you have for a defense.

Child Abuse Likely To Produce Death or Serious Injury

In the first of the two categories of felony child abuse, the abuse is deemed likely to produce death or serious physical injury. Because of the seriousness of the offense and the level of potential harm, this category comes with harsh penalties. It’s important to note that in either of the two categories, a person is not required to have care or custody of the child to be charged with child endangerment.

Classification of Child Abuse Likely To Produce Death or Serious Injury

According to A.R.S. 13-1201, endangerment of another person involving a substantial risk of imminent death is a class 6 felony. However, in cases of child endangerment or abuse, an offender is likely to be charged according to A.R.S. 13-3623, which classifies endangerment based on the following criteria:

  1. If the abuse was done intentionally or knowingly, it’s a class 2 felony. If the victim is under the age of 15, the offender can be sentenced according to A.R.S. 13-705.
  2. If the abuse was done recklessly, it’s a class 3 felony.
  3. If the abuse was done because of criminal negligence, it’s a class 4 felony.

A.R.S. 13-705 is the third statute covering dangerous crimes against children. Dangerous crimes include sexual assault and first-degree murder of a minor. These crimes come with the harshest penalties under the law, ranging from a presumptive minimum of 13 years in prison to a presumptive maximum of 35 years.

Examples of Child Abuse Likely to Produce Death or Serious Injury

Child abuse with a risk of serious injury or death can take many forms. An offender may commit serious child endangerment either intentionally or recklessly. Some examples that could lead to a charge include:

Intentional child abuse likely to produce death or serious injury may include:

  • Attacking a child to the point of severe, life-threatening injuries
  • Willingly giving a child medication or dangerous substances that could be life-threatening
  • Sexually abusing or assaulting a child

Examples of child abuse through recklessness may include: 

  • Leaving a child in a hot car during the summer
  • Operating a vehicle with a child inside while under the influence
  • Using excessive force when disciplining a child

Lastly, criminal negligence could be any case where someone caring for a child failed to meet the appropriate standard of care and should have been aware of the potential risks that led to an incident. Examples of criminal negligence would include:

  • Leaving a child unattended near an unfenced pool, which leads to the child’s drowning
  • Providing inadequate supervision in hazardous environments, like near busy roadways or dangerous construction sites, leading to serious injury
  • Neglecting serious medical care that leads to a life-threatening condition
  • Leaving a child unsupervised around dangerous substances that could seriously harm the child if ingested, like alcohol or medications

Child Abuse Not Likely to Produce Death or Serious Injury

Meanwhile, any form of abuse that does not pose a risk of imminent death or serious injury is classified separately under the law with different penalties. In some cases of abuse, the situation could be classified as either likely or not likely to cause serious injury or death. It may be open to a judge’s interpretation whether an act of abuse was likely to produce death or serious injury based on the gravity of the offense.

Classification of Child Abuse Not Likely To Produce Death or Serious Injury

Classification of child abuse can range from a class 1 misdemeanor to a class 4 felony, often depending on the level of risk involved. According to A.R.S. 13-1201, if endangerment to another person occurred under any circumstances other than those likely to produce death or serious physical injury, the offender faces a class 1 misdemeanor.

Under A.R.S. 13-3623, covering child or vulnerable adult abuse, a person who commits endangerment against a child may also be subject to the following charges depending on the circumstances:

  1. If the abuse was done intentionally or knowingly, it’s a class 4 felony.
  2. If the abuse was done recklessly, it’s a class 5 felony.
  3. If the abuse was done because of criminal negligence, it’s a class 6 felony.

Examples of Child Abuse Not Likely To Produce Death or Serious Injury

Determining whether a case of abuse was committed intentionally, recklessly, or as the result of criminal negligence heavily influences the possible consequences. Examples of child abuse not likely to produce death or serious injury include emotional abuse, physical abuse, and neglect—whether these are intentional, reckless, or acts of negligence depends on the case.

Examples of intentional or known abuse outlined by ARS 13-3623 include:

  • Maintaining a pattern of verbally abusing or demeaning a child
  • Committing a crime while caring for a child
  • Intentional infliction of physical harm
  • Sexual abuse or sexual assault
  • Unlawful imprisonment

Examples of reckless abuse could include:

  • Leaving hazardous items within reach
  • Using excessive force in an attempt to discipline a child
  • Failing to address an important medical need, like dental work
  • Failing to provide adequate nutrition to a child

Examples of criminal negligence would be:

  • Leaving a child unattended near a pool that led to a near-drowning incident
  • Leaving a toddler alone in a home where they can access sharp objects or dangerous weapons
  • Exposing a child to an unsafe home environment, like domestic violence

Felony Child Abuse Prison Sentences in Arizona

A prison sentence for felony child abuse depends on the severity of the crime and the level of danger that was inflicted upon the child. If an offender is convicted of felony child abuse, they will face one of the following prison sentences:

Felony Mitigated Minimum Presumptive Maximum Aggravated
Class 2 3 years 4 years 5 years 10 years 12.5 years
Class 3 2 years 2.5 years 3.5 years 7 years 8.75 years
Class 4 1 year 1.5 years 2.5 years 3 years 3.75 years
Class 5 .5 years .75 years 1.5 years 2 years 2.5 years
Class 6 .33 years .5 years 1 year 1.5 years 2 years

The sentencing for child abuse varies greatly depending on the particular circumstances of the case and how violent the abuse was. Arizona courts do not handle child abuse cases with much, if any, leniency, and offenders are likely to face extremely harsh punishments.

Possible Defenses for Child Engagement Charges

If you are charged with child endangerment, the prosecution must be able to prove that you indisputably caused harm to a child to obtain a conviction. A prosecutor must have enough evidence that the abuse was due to your actions, either as a result of your intentions, recklessness, or negligence.

In fact, many cases are settled outside of court or dropped entirely due to false accusations or insufficient evidence, emphasizing the potential for those charged to avoid a conviction with the help of an experienced defense attorney.

Some potential defenses against child endangerment charges:

  • Lack of intent – A lack of intent could pose as a defense to child endangerment charges. If the harm caused to a child was reckless or unintentional, it could reduce the harshness of the penalties against you.
  • False accusations – Many child endangerment charges originate from false accusations. If you believe the accusations have no basis, your defense team can argue that the accusations are false and the charges are unjustified.
  • Insufficient evidence – The prosecution must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you caused harm to a child. If the charges are mostly the result of speculation, you may be able to pose the lack of evidence as a defense.
  • Reasonable discipline – Arizona law allows parents to discipline their children within reasonable means. However, what constitutes reasonable discipline can be up for debate, providing the opportunity for the defense to argue that the reasoning behind the charges is misguided.

Meet the East Valley’s Premier Legal Defense Team

Child endangerment can be a hefty charge with harsh penalties, especially if the action could lead to a risk of death or serious injury. However, there are several defenses that someone charged with child endangerment can use to avoid the harshest penalties under the law, and having the right defense attorney can make a valuable difference.

If you are facing felony child abuse charges in the Phoenix Metro area or Arizona at large, look to the domestic violence defense attorneys at JacksonWhite Law. Our child abuse defense team will work to get your sentence minimized and your penalties reduced so that you can move forward with your life.

Call the JacksonWhite Criminal Law team at (480) 418-4281 to discuss your case today.

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