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Endangering the Life or Health of a Child

In Illinois there is a criminal offense of Endangering the life or health of a child. The law is codified by statute 720 ILCS 5/12C-5 (previously it was named 720 ILCS 5/12-21.6)

The law basically states that when a person knowingly permits a child to be placed in circumstances that endanger the child's life or health or endangers the life or health of a child when they cause or permit the life or health of a child under the age of 18 to be endangered.

The law further states that the Judge or Jury may infer that if a 6 year old child, or younger, is left in a motor vehicle for more than 10 minutes that is unattended it is a violation of the law if that child is not accompanied by a person over the age of 14 or not within sight of the person who left the child in the vehicle.

Possible Sentence

A first offense of this law is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail. A second, or further, violation of the offense is a Class 3 Felony punishable by 2 to 7 years in the State penitentiary. If during the offense it causes the proximate death of the child then the minimum sentence in the State penitentiary is 2 years with a maximum sentence of 10 years, however, if the offender is the parent of the child a sentence of probation is available.

If Charged with this Offense You Need a Skilled Attorney

Because of the sensitive nature of this offense, that being that a child is the victim, you will need the assistance of an attorney with experience in this very specific area of law. It is human nature that when a child is the alleged victim of a crime the chances of conviction and the consequences increase dramatically. There are many factors that need to be taken into consideration before going to trial on these types of charges. Most importantly it is the age of the child and whether the child is willing or going to testify. Also there needs to be a consideration of the injuries to the child. If there are severe injuries to the child, or even death, the stakes go up.

After that is considered it needs to be determined whether or not there are other potential witnesses to the events that led to the arrest and charges. Commonly the other witnesses include doctors, police, independent witnesses, and outcry witnesses such as teachers, relatives, counselors, and the Department of Child Family Services (DCFS.) There are laws in place that may or may not allow the child’s statements into evidence at trial. Most commonly the issue is whether or not the child testifies against the defendant. The law usually will not permit the child’s statements to other witnesses as they are hearsay, however there are exceptions to that rule that the prosecution will try and use to secure a conviction. Most importantly, there is a fine balance in how, as an attorney, you question a child about the offense that harmed them, knowing that usually the accused is a parent, sibling, or relative.

The questioning of a child on the witness stand can not be taught, it can only learned by representing defendants in hundreds of cases where there is a child victim. Attorney David Olshansky is very well experienced with trying hundreds of cases where there has been a child victim or witness. The questioning of a child witness is called cross-examination and to preform the process correctly it takes careful preparation. There needs to be a complete review of the evidence, including all police reports, medical examinations, doctors notes, DCFS records, statements of witnesses, any surveillance video, phone records, GPS data, and all of the other relevant potential evidence that can prepare your attorney to successfully litigate the case.

Another issue that comes up during these types of cases is the age of the child and whether or not they are capable to take the witness stand. With younger children there is usually a short hearing before the child testifies to determine there ability to know the difference between the truth and a lie. If the judge finds that the child’s veracity is not to the legal standard then the child’s testimony will not be allowed, but on the other hand if the Judge finds that the child can articulate the difference between the truth and a lie then not only will the child’s testimony be admissible but if the child testifies then any outcry witness hearsay statements from the child will be admissible if that witness testifies. If you are subject to a charge of Endangering the Life or Health of a Child attorney David Olshansky can help. Please call (312) 203-5500 for a consultation.