You stopped at the grocery store to pick up a few things. Your toddler was asleep so you left him in his car seat. When you returned, the police were waiting. Now you are charged with child endangerment.

What is it? What can you do?

In Illinois, you can be charged with child endangerment if you knowingly cause a child under age 18 to become endangered, or if you place that child in circumstances that endanger their life or health. Also, you may not leave a child under age seven unattended in a motor vehicle for more than ten minutes. A child is unattended if they are not accompanied by or within sight of a person age 14 or older.

While a first offense is a Class A misdemeanor, later offenses can be charged as a Class 3 felony. You may also be charged with a Class 3 felony if your actions proximately cause the death of a child.

Child endangerment may involve leaving drugs or dangerous weapons within reach of a child. In People v. Radford, the defendant tucked a child into bed roughly despite knowing that the child’s previous injuries would make her more susceptible to trauma. In People v. Rudell, a mother was convicted for leaving her six-month old baby alone for about an hour in a car at 1 a.m.

If you have been charged with child endangerment or a similar crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. As with most crimes, the state must prove all the elements of your offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Did you knowingly place the child in danger? If the child died, did your actions proximately cause the death or was it something else?

If you are charged with child endangerment, do not try to talk your way out of your situation. What you think is a reasonable explanation could give the state the evidence they need to convict you.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

Source: 720 ILCS 5/12C-5.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

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