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Endangering the Life or Health of a Child

When most people read or hear about a person arrested for endangering the life or health of a child they typically assume the child was left home alone or with a friend or relative who was not fit to properly care for the child. However, under Illinois law, there are many other circumstances where this offense could be charged, including cases involving the use of a motor vehicle.

While there are a variety of scenarios which may result in an allegation of child endangerment, we have seen many cases where otherwise responsible parents made a regrettable mistake or misunderstood the law.

What is Considered Child Endangerment?

Under Illinois law, 720 ILCS 5/12C-5, it is unlawful for any person to willfully cause or permit the life or health of a child under the age of 18 to be endangered or to willfully cause or permit the child to be placed in circumstances that endanger the child’s life or health.

Child Endangerment Involving a Motor Vehicle

In the context of the use of a motor vehicle, the most common example of endangerment is the person who is in physical control of a motor vehicle while impaired with a child present in the vehicle. Similarly, a person who drives recklessly with a child in the vehicle could be charged with the offense of child endangerment.

Under Illinois law, a child left unattended may also be considered endangered. The law defines unattended as a child not accompanied by a person age 14 or older or, if accompanied by a person age 14 or older, out of sight of that person.

Also, any child under the age of 6 left alone in a vehicle for a period longer than 10 minutes may be considered unattended and, therefore, endangered.

Penalties for Child Endangerment

Generally, endangering the life or health of a child is charged as a Class A misdemeanor, which carries a maximum sentence of up to one year in jail and up to a $2,500.00 fine plus mandatory fees and costs.

A second or subsequent offense is a Class 3 felony, which carries 2-5 years in the penitentiary and up to a $25,000.00 fine plus mandatory fees and costs. If the offense results in the death of the child, it is also a Class 3 felony, however, if a term of imprisonment is imposed, the person must be sentenced to a minimum of 2 and a maximum of 10 years.

Contact our Criminal Defense Attorneys

The criminal defense attorneys at The Davis Law Group, P.C. represent clients throughout the Chicago area including Cook County, Lake County and DuPage County. If you or a loved one has been charged with child endangerment, your first call should be to a criminal defense attorney. These charges can arise from a very poor decision to a simple misunderstanding. Taking the right steps from the start can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case. Contact our attorneys today to discuss your case.

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