Endangering the Welfare of Child – Neglect vs. Abuse
While most of my blogs pertain to concepts involved with the defense of illegal drugs, narcotics, drunk driving (DUI/DWI), and firearms (Graves Act) in New Jersey, I sometimes write on topics outside of these areas to provide readers with general information. As the parent of 2 children, the issue of child safety is incredibly important, and I, like any parent, never wants to put his or her child in a situation which would cause them harm.
Today many parents, like myself, work a considerable amount of time and often need to put their child under the care of a nanny, babysitter, au pair, or a daycare facility. While people sometimes use these words interchangeably, it’s important to understand that each of them is treated differently. While a babysitter is usually only asked to care for a child for a limited duration, a nanny and an au pair, however, often live within the home and maintain a higher level of responsibility with regards to the child’s activities and their well being.
A daycare center, like a babysitter, assumes responsibility for a child for a limited amount of time, during a fixed period of time. Similar to a babysitter, a daycare center is normally not responsible for providing overnight care. Fu
In New Jersey, endangering the welfare of a child is defined very broadly under 2C: 24-4. While the statute itself provides for sexually based offenses, it also covers the legal duty for the care of a child. Any sexually based offenses which would “impair or debauch” the morals of a child are considered a crime of the 2nd degree in New Jersey if it’s committed by a person who has the legal duty to care for that child. All non-sexually based offenses are crimes of the 3rd degree. These offenses include child abuse or neglect, as is defined in RS 9: 6-1.
According to the statute, abuse of a child is defined as any of the following:
- Disposing of the custody of a child contrary to the law
- Employing or permitting a child to be employed in any vocation or area injurious to his or her health
- Employing or permitting a child to be employed in any occupation which is dangerous to their morals
- Using habitual profane language
- Performing any indecent, immoral, or unlawful act in the presence of a child
- Excessive physical restraint
- Permitting or allowing another person any indecent, immoral, or unlawful conduct in the presence of a child
Abandonment is defined as any of the following in New Jersey:
- willfully forsaking a child
- Failing to care for and keep control and custody of a child so that the child is exposed to physical or moral risk
- Failing to care for and keep control and custody of a child so that the child shall be liable to be supported and maintained at the expense of the public or private persons not legally chargeable with their care
As indicated by these definitions, the definition of child abuse and neglect are very broad in New Jersey. As an indictable offense, a person who is charged and convicted faces all of the penalties associated with crimes of the 2nd or 3rd degree in New Jersey. A crime of the 2nd degree carries with it a presumption of state incarceration. While a crime of the 3rd degree doesn’t carry with it the same presumption of state incarceration, many county prosecutors, at the very least, will seriously consider a county jail sentence.
I have written this article to provide parents and caregivers with a better understanding of child abuse and neglect. Unlike my other articles, you may have noticed that I haven’t providing any strategies or techniques for contesting for fighting these criminal charges. While everyone is entitled to a defense under the law, my firm chooses not to represent persons charged with these types of offenses.