California law provides penalties to those considered the legal guardian of a minor child he is the victim of abuse, neglect, or endangerment. California Penal Code §270 sets forth the crime of “failure to provide care.” The statute itself sets out specific actions that may result in the Prosecution bringing charges for failure to provide care, and ultimately may result in a conviction for failure to provide care. §270 states that the crime of failure to provide care occurs when any person causes a physical injury to a child, or places the child in danger. A prerequisite to a conviction under this statute is that the person whose conduct is being prosecuted was the “parent” of the child. There are a number of actions, which may lead to a conviction under §270, the following are a few examples of conduct, which is sufficient to support a guilty verdict in California:

  • Your son comes down with pneumonia because you did not provide him a winter jacket, during a particularly cold winter in San Diego.
  • Your son becomes anemic because you don’t feed him enough food, and the food you do provide is not nutritious in any way.
  • You do not take your son, who has come down with pneumonia, to the doctor despite the fact that he is obviously sick.

To be convicted for violating California Penal Code §270, the Prosecution must prove four elements to the jury beyond a reasonable doubt.

  • You were the parent of the victim;
  • The victim was a minor at the time of the crime;
  • You failed to provide necessary items, actions, for the victim; and
  • Your failure was willful, and not legally excusable.

Who Is The “Parent” Of A Child?

The first element the Prosecution must convince the jury of, beyond a reasonable doubt, is that the Defendant was the parent of the child; this crime does not apply to individuals who are not considered the “parent” of the victim. The law has established that your obligation to care for a child begins before the child is born. Thus, an individual can be found guilty pursuant to California Penal Code §270 if the fail to provide appropriate prenatal care to their unborn child.

An individual could be convicted of a §270 violation, even if they do not have legal custody of their minor child; to put it simply, you are the parent of a child, you will always be considered the parent of that child even if you never married, or are divorced with no custody of the minor child. Thus, if you do not provide assistance to your minor child, you may be guilty of failure to provide care in California.

Further, as it relates to a failure to provide care charge, if a female reproduces through sperm donated by someone else, as opposed to her spouse, with the consent of the other parent, the other parent is treated by law as the legal parent of the unborn child. In other words, a child born through assisted reproduction, with the consent of the husband or wife, they are both considered the legal parents of the child despite the reality that biologically they are not the child of both individuals.

Who Is A Minor Child?

Pursuant to California law, a conviction for failure to provide care cannot occur unless the victim is that person’s child, and the child is a minor (under 18 years old); a person is considered a full year older immediately at midnight on their birthday. Thus if a child is 17 years and 364 days old, a parent could commit the crime of failure to provide care, but the moment the clock strikes midnight that day, they can no longer convict the crime.


Jazzy Jeff is a 17 year old boy. One day, Jazzy Jeff became extremely ill, and needed medical treatment immediately. However, Jazzy Jeff’s father, Phil, did not believe Jazzy Jeff was actually sick, and did not take any actions to care for his son. Phil could be convicted of failure to provide care because Jazzy Jeff is his minor son, and he caused his son to suffer harm by virtue of Phil’s failure to act.

Failed To Provide Necessities

Pursuant to California law, the term “necessities” means all things that are necessary to survival; specifically shelter, food, clothing, and medical or remedial care,

A parent of a minor child has a legal duty to provide all objectively reasonable assistance and necessities for their child. There is a legal excuse to a charge of failure to provide care if the parent, through no fault of their own, does not earn a sufficient amount of money, and does not have other funds available through other means, to provide those necessities. Alternatively, there is no legal defense to a charge of failure to provide care if the reason the parent does not have enough money to provide necessities to their child because they spent the money on other things.

The United States Constitution, as well as the California Constitution all an individual the freedom to practice the religion of their choice; thus California allows treatment through prayer alone, if that is consistent with the tenets of a recognized religious denomination; the practitioner must be accredited. Thus, a person who does not seek traditional care, because of their faith, and seeks religious treatment instead, they cannot be found guilty of violating

California Penal Code §270. If the child dies however, the parents may be convicted of involuntary manslaughter, or child endangerment.

The Failure To Provide Was Willful And Without Lawful Excuse.

The final element the Prosecution must prove is that the parents conduct was “willful” willful, in this context, means that the act which forms the basis of the charge was done intentionally. For purposes of a violation of §270, it is not necessary that the parent did not act with an intent to cause harm or gain an advantage; all that matters is that the parent committed the act on purpose.

To prove their case, the Prosecution must show willful conduct, which by its intrinsic nature, is probably going to result in direct harm to the child. The Prosecutor does not need to show, or even argue, a specific intent to harm the child, the Prosecutor must only show that the parent engaged in conduct where the natural result would be a harmful consequence to a child in the form of not providing food, clothing, shelter, or medical care.

As mentioned above, there is a legal excuse to this charge if the reason for the failure to provide necessaries to a child is a lack of money, provided the cause of the lack of money isn’t that the parent spent it on other items


Denise, a single mother of two, is hooked on pain killers. Denise does not make much money, but all of her income is spent on pain killers. Denis could be found guilty of failure to provide care, notwithstanding her lack of money, because her lack of money is the direct result of her spending all of it on pain killers.


KoJo is Denise’s ex-boyfriend, and the father of her daughter. When Denise was pregnant, she informed Kojo that she was not sure if the child was his. Outraged, KoJo stopped talking to Denise. KoJo was a very successful attorney, and could be guilty of failure to provide care to the child if something happens. This is true despite the fact that KoJo believes the child isn’t his (if it actually is), because he has a duty to provide care to the child.

What Are The Penalties If I Am Convicted Of Failing To Provide Care?

Under California law, failure to provide care to a minor child is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one (1) year in county lock-up, a fine of up to two thousand ($2,000) dollars, or a combination of both.

If the Defendant has been convicted of a §270 violation, the second violation can be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony depending on the facts surrounding the case.

What Are The Legal Defenses My OCCA Attorney Can Raise If I Am Charged With Failure To Provide Care?

As noted above, failure to provide care to a minor child is treated as a misdemeanor in California. However, if you have been convicted of failure to provide care before, you may be charged with a felony violation of §270. If you are convicted of either form of failure to provide care, the conviction will appear on your criminal background, which is viewable by anybody who is conducting a background check on you. The most common people who conduct background checks on people are potential employers seeking to ascertain if an individual will be a good fit with their company. Many employers view previous convictions as an indicator that the person would not be a good fit with their company. If you have been charged with failure to provide care to a minor child in California, contact an attorney at Orange County Criminal Attorney immediately. It is import to have representation as early as possible so that your attorney can build the strongest case possible for you. Some of the legal defenses your OCCA attorney can raise for you include:

  • Your conduct was not willful
  • You have a lawful excuse for your failure to provide care

Under California law, you have a legal excuse for failing to provide care to a minor child if you do not have sufficient money to provide care for your child, and the reason for your lack of money is not that you spent all your money on other stuff.

  • You were Wrongfully accused