Endangering the Welfare of a Child
New York State has a numerous sections of law to protect our children. There are protections built in to the Domestic Relations Law, the Social Services Law, and the Penal Code. The two most common child-related offenses that we receive calls for at the criminal defense firm of Jeannie D. Michalski are “Endangering the Welfare of a Child,” (EWOC) and “Unlawfully Dealing With a Child.”
Endangering the Welfare of a Child is a Class A Misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1,000.00 and up to a year in jail or 3 years of probation. It can also lead to a neglect petition being filed in Family Court by the county’s social services department.
It has become increasingly more common for law enforcement in the Rochester area, and in Livingston County particularly, to overcharge this offense. Overcharging the offense means that people are being arrested and charged, and Temporary Orders of Protection are being issued in situations that really don’t call for this serious a charge. I’ll give you a couple examples.
A person is guilty of an EWOC when they act in a manner likely to be injurious to a child’s physical, mental, or moral welfare; or when they fail to exercise a reasonable amount of diligence in controlling the child to that the child does not become “neglected” or a juvenile delinquent.Experienced criminal attorneys can help when you are charged with an EWOC.
In one example of what could be considered overcharging an EWOC, one of our clients was arrested and a temporary order of protection was issued because, while in an argument with his teenage daughter, he slammed a broom onto a counter. The broom handle hit at just the right angle, broke, and a piece of the handle hit his daughter in the arm. She wasn’t injured. There was no other allegation of physical contact. His wife called the police, demanded that he be arrested, and sure enough – they filed a charge against him.
In another example of what could be considered overcharging, a client came to us after her 3-year-old walked out the front door. When she realized he was out of his bed, she began frantically looking around the house. Somebody saw him outside in a diaper and called the police. Instead of simply returning her son, the police called Child Protective Services. Our client was charged with Child Neglect in Family Court and EWOC in local court.Call Jeannie D. Michalski in Brighton or Avon if you are charged with an offense involving a child. Our number is (585) 351-2500.
Those are not normal cases. Law enforcement and prosecutors are typically careful about how they charge cases. When it comes to children, however, there seems to be a tendency for people to err on the side of caution. In some cases, however, an EWOC charge is understandable. Common scenarios that lead to an EWOC charge include:
- Driving While Impaired or Intoxicated with children in the car.
- Having a child under 16 drive an intoxicated adult.
- Dealing or using illegal drugs in a home where there is a child.
- Drinking to intoxication when you are the sole caretaker of a child.
- Allowing a child access to pornography.
New York State Law prohibits a person from being charged with an EWOC if the charge is based on a failure to treat an ill child because of their religious beliefs if they are a member of an organized religious group that promotes healing through prayer.Unlawfully Dealing With a Child is a charge that can be defended against.
Unlawfully Dealing With a Child 1st Degree is a charge that comes up when a person gives a child under 18 alcohol, or lets that child stay in a place where marijuana or other illegal drugs are being used, or takes a child under 18 to a house of prostitution or illicit ‘massage parlor.’
Unlawfully Dealing With a Child 1st Degree is a Class A Misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1,000.00 and up to a year in jail or 3 years of probation.
This law is most confounding when it involves two under-age persons. We recently had a client, age 18 but emancipated (living on his own), who was charged after securing a bottle of hard liquor getting intoxicated a 15-year-old. The 15-year-old had been away from his parents for days, and the night before had taken a girl under the age of 18 out to drink alcohol to the point of intoxication. The 15-year-old boy’s parents were upset and called the police. Instead of charging his parents with an EWOC for letting their son run loose for three days, and instead of finding and charging the adult who provided the alcohol, our 18-year-old client was charged. I am not saying he didn’t break the law, but there was a lot of blame to go around, and he was the only one to receive it.
There are also instances when children have parties without their parent’s knowledge – sometimes it isn’t even a party. Sometimes teenagers will invite a few friends over after Mom and Dad have gone to bed, and then they hang out in the basement and drink. The parents are now liable under the Social Host Law, the penal code, and possibly even in civil court if a child is hurt in their home.
The attorneys at Jeannie D. Michalski have an integrated practice. We know that charges like Unlawfully Dealing With a Child and Endangering the Welfare of a Child can lead to problems in not only criminal court, but also in Family Court and Supreme Court.
If you have been charged with an offense involving a child, contact the criminal attorneys at Jeannie D. Michalski and take advantage of our integrated practice. We have offices in Brighton, NY and Avon, NY. We help people in courts all over Monroe, Ontario, and Genesee Counties, and we appear in Geneseo and throughout Livingston County regularly. For a free consultation call us at (585) 351-2500.