Child Abuse and Neglect is defined as the willful infliction of unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering on a child or failure to care for a child under one’s custody and care; or the reckless creation of a high risk of harm to the child. CPC 273. Under this definition, leaving your child in the car or home unattended even for a few minutes could be considered child abuse. Child abuse cases are vigilantly prosecuted.
Moreover, the Department of Children’s Protective Services may take away your child by and through the Juvenile Dependency Court System. If declared an unfit parent, the State of California may be awarded custody of your child and you could lose your parental rights.
Child Abuse or Neglect may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. The maximum punishment for a misdemeanor is one-year in jail. Felony Child Abuse or Neglect is punishable by imprisonment for 6 years in state prison. A first time offender however will likely be granted probation if he or she admits guilt at an early stage of the proceedings. It is important to note that the above state prison term could be enhanced if there are aggravating circumstances.