Abandoning a Child in Texas
Abandoning and endangering a child are two different offenses, but they are both found in Texas Penal Code Section 22.041. Learn about criminal charges that stem from accusations of abandoning or endangering a child in Texas and the duty to report suspected abuse or neglect.
Abandoning a child is defined in Penal Code Section 22.041(b) and is an allegation that a person left a child under the age of 15 without reasonable supervision or care, exposing the child to an unreasonable risk of harm. To abandon means to leave the child in a place without providing reasonable and necessary care for the child, in circumstances which no other reasonable adult would leave that same child.
Endangering a child is defined in Section 22.041(c) is when a person places a child under the age of 15 in a situation where the child in imminent danger of death, bodily injury or physical or mental impairment. This can be done intentionally, knowingly, or even negligently.
What is the punishment for endangering or abandoning a child in Texas?
Abandoning a child is a state jail felony, if the accused intended to return for the child.
Abandoning a child is a third degree felony if the accused did not intend to return for the child.
Abandoning a child is a second degree felony of the accused abandoned the child in a manner that a reasonable person would believe placed the child in imminent danger of death or bodily injury.
Endangering a Child is a state jail felony.
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Duty to report child abuse or neglect in Texas
Family Code 261.101 sets a fairly low bar for reporting child abuse and neglect. It provides that any person who has reason to believe a child’s physical or mental welfare has been adversely affected must make a report to law enforcement or Department of Family and Protective Services.
Failure to report suspected child abuse or neglect is a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment of up to one year and a fine of up to $4,000. The punishment can be increased to a State Jail Felony if it is shown that the accused intended to conceal the abuse or neglect.
A person who makes a false report with the intent to deceive commits a state jail felony offense under Family Code 261.107.
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Abandoning or Endangering a Child: Texas Penal Code Section 22.041
(a) In this section, “abandon” means to leave a child in any place without providing reasonable and necessary care for the child, under circumstances under which no reasonable, similarly situated adult would leave a child of that age and ability.
(b) A person commits an offense if, having custody, care, or control of a child younger than 15 years, he intentionally abandons the child in any place under circumstances that expose the child to an unreasonable risk of harm.
(c) A person commits an offense if he intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence, by act or omission, engages in conduct that places a child younger than 15 years in imminent danger of death, bodily injury, or physical or mental impairment.
(c-1) For purposes of Subsection (c), it is presumed that a person engaged in conduct that places a child in imminent danger of death, bodily injury, or physical or mental impairment if:
(1) the person manufactured, possessed, or in any way introduced into the body of any person the controlled substance methamphetamine in the presence of the child;
(2) the person’s conduct related to the proximity or accessibility of the controlled substance methamphetamine to the child and an analysis of a specimen of the child’s blood, urine, or other bodily substance indicates the presence of methamphetamine in the child’s body; or
(3) the person injected, ingested, inhaled, or otherwise introduced a controlled substance listed in Penalty Group 1, Section 481.102, Health and Safety Code, into the human body when the person was not in lawful possession of the substance as defined by Section 481.002(24) of that code.
(d) Except as provided by Subsection (e), an offense under Subsection (b) is:
(1) a state jail felony if the actor abandoned the child with intent to return for the child; or
(2) a felony of the third degree if the actor abandoned the child without intent to return for the child.
(e) An offense under Subsection (b) is a felony of the second degree if the actor abandons the child under circumstances that a reasonable person would believe would place the child in imminent danger of death, bodily injury, or physical or mental impairment.
(f) An offense under Subsection (c) is a state jail felony.
(g) It is a defense to prosecution under Subsection (c) that the act or omission enables the child to practice for or participate in an organized athletic event and that appropriate safety equipment and procedures are employed in the event.
(h) It is an exception to the application of this section that the actor voluntarily delivered the child to a designated emergency infant care provider under Section 262.302, Family Code.
False Reporting Family Code § 261.107
A person commits an offense if, with the intent to deceive, he or she knowingly makes a report of child abuse or neglect that is false. An offense under this subsection is:
- A State jail felony
- A felony of the third degree if the person has previously been convicted under this section.
A person who is convicted of an offense under this section shall:
- Pay any reasonable attorney’s fees incurred by the person who was falsely accused of abuse or neglect
- Be liable to the State for a civil penalty of $1,000
Failure to Report Family Code § 261.109
A person commits an offense if the person is required to make a report under § 261.101 and knowingly fails to make a report as required. A person who is a professional as defined by § 261.101 commits an offense if the person is required to make a report and knowingly fails to make a report as provided in this chapter. An offense by a person is a Class A misdemeanor, except that the offense is a State jail felony if it is shown on the trial of the offense that the child was a person with an intellectual disability who resided in a State-supported living center, the medical assistance program for persons with intellectual disabilities component of the Rio Grande State Center, or a facility licensed under Chapter 252, Health and Safety Code, and the actor knew that the child had suffered serious bodily injury as a result of the abuse or neglect. An offense by a professional is a Class A misdemeanor, except that the offense is a State jail felony if it is shown on the trial of the offense that the actor intended to conceal the abuse or neglect.