Child Endangerment Laws in Texas

By Stephanie Dube Dwilson
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Abandoning or endangering a child is a serious offense in Texas. You can face years of jail time and assessed a hefty fine of up to $10,000 if you put a child's life in danger or leave a child alone in circumstances where he could possibly be harmed. Child endangerment laws apply to any child younger than 15 years of age.

Intentional Abandonment of a Child

In Texas, you've intentionally abandoned a child if you leave him alone in a location that puts him at risk of harm. If a reasonable adult would not leave a child of the same age and ability alone in that same circumstance, then the child has been abandoned. For example, leaving a toddler alone in a park where he could be kidnapped or get hurt would qualify as child abandonment.

Putting Child in Imminent Danger

You can also endanger a child by putting the child in imminent danger. In Texas, this means participating in any action that puts the child in immediate danger of death or physical or mental injury. Even if the endangerment is reckless or negligent but the person didn't actually intend to harm the child, he can still be found guilty of endangerment. For example, accidentally leaving a child alone in a locked, hot car in summer could be endangerment because the child is in danger of dying.

Presumed Endangerment of a Child

Texas has a few circumstances where it automatically assumes endangerment has occurred. For example, state law assumes a child is endangered if an adult possesses methamphetamine in the child's presence. A child is also viewed as being in danger of death if his body shows the presence of meth and the caregiver kept the child anywhere near the drug. In addition, taking any drug listed the statute under Penalty Group 1 that a caregiver possessed illegally can bring an immediate presumption of child endangerment. Penalty Group 1 refers to one of five categories of drugs under Texas law and includes drugs such as cocaine and heroin.

Penalties for Abandonment and Endangerment

Texas has stiff penalties for child abandonment and endangerment. Abandoning a child but intending to return to that child or meeting an endangerment presumption is a state jail felony. This can result in a jail term of 180 days to two years and a fine of up to $10,000. Abandoning a child without intending to return for the child is a third-degree felony. The punishment for this is a fine of up to $10,000 and a prison sentence of two to 10 years. Abandoning a child in a situation that puts the child in imminent danger of death or harm is a second-degree felony. This carries the toughest sentence of all, with a fine of up to $10,000 and a prison term of two to 20 years.

Exceptions to Abandonment and Endangerment

Texas law allows a few exceptions to the child endangerment law. For example, even though certain sports like football can put a child under 15 in danger of injury, the caregiver is not charged with endangerment as long as the child is wearing safety equipment and taking part in good safety procedures. In addition, if a parent delivers an infant to an emergency infant care provider, he won't be found guilty of abandonment, unless the child was abused or neglected. These providers include emergency services, hospitals and child-placement agencies with a registered nurse on staff.