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Child Endangerment Crimes in Iowa

If you were charged with any form of child abuse, neglect or endangerment, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in Des Moines, Iowa, to represent you in the case. The attorneys at McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C. fight to protect clients throughout Des Moines and Polk County and the surrounding areas throughout Iowa. 

Most of these cases involve a child was under fourteen years old or younger. See Iowa Code § 726.6(1)(g); see also Iowa Code § 702.5 (defining “child” as “any person under the age of fourteen years”).

Call (515) 279-9700 for a free consultation to discuss the facts of your case. 


Penalties for Child Endangerment

Anyone who is convicted of the criminal offense of child endangerment by an intentional act or series of intentional acts, or by using unreasonable force, torture, or cruelty that results in bodily injury, or that is intended to cause serious injury, that results in the death of a child or minor, shall serve between 30 and 70 percent of a 50-year class “B” felony sentence. 

In determining when the person first becomes eligible for parole or work release within the parameters of 30 and 70 percent of the 50-year sentence, the sentencing court shall base its determination upon all pertinent information including the person’s criminal record, a validated risk assessment, and whether the offense involved multiple intentional acts or a series of intentional acts, or whether the offense involved torture or cruelty. 

Under prior law, such an offender was sentenced to confinement for 50 years but was eligible for parole upon entering prison. Also under the prior law and act, felonious child endangerment is also classified as a “forcible felony” under Iowa Code section 702.11, which under Iowa Code section 907.3 prohibits a defendant from receiving a suspended or deferred sentence or deferred judgment.


Statute of Limitations for Child Endangerment in Iowa

The statute of limitations in Iowa previously provided that an indictment or information for any felonious child endangerment must be found within three years after its commission. In 2016, the Legislature in Iowa created a new rule that an information or indictment for felonious child endangerment in violation of Iowa Code section 726.6(4), (5), or (6), committed on or with a person who is a child under the age of 14 or who is under the age of 18 and who has a mental or physical disability, shall be found within 10 years after the person upon whom the offense is committed attains 18 years of age.

If the person against whom the information or indictment for felonious child endangerment is sought is identified through the use of a DNA profile, an information or indictment shall be found within 10 years after the person upon whom the offense was committed attains 18 years of age, or within three years from the date the person is identified by the person’s DNA profile, whichever is later. 


Different Types of Child Endangerment Charges in Iowa

If you were charged with “Child Endangerment,” the crime can involve allegations of any of the following:


Child Endangerment - Substantial Risk - Serious Injury

The court in State v. Heacock, 521 N.W.2d 707, 709 (Iowa 1994), recognized that Iowa Code section 726.6(1)(b) for child endangerment divides itself into two separate alternative offenses.  The first offense is a general intent crime and the second offense is a specific offense crime. Aggravated assault and assault causing bodily injury and  are not included offenses to child endangerment.  State v. Heacock, 521 N.W.2d 707, 709 (Iowa 1994).

To prove child endangerment, the State must prove all of the following elements: 

  1. the defendant was the [parent] [guardian] [person having custody or control] of (name).
  2. The child was under the age of fourteen years or a mentally or physically handicapped minor under the age of eighteen.
  3. The defendant knowingly acted in a manner creating a substantial risk to the child’s physical, mental, emotional health or safety.
  4. The defendant's act resulted in serious injury to the victim. 

See Iowa Code section 726.6(1)(a) and 726.6(2). 


Child Endangerment - Use Of Unreasonable Force, Cruelty, Torture - Serious Injury

To prove this form of child endangerment, the State must prove all of the following elements:

  1. The defendant was the parent, guardian, person having custody or control of the victim. 
  2. The victim was under the age of fourteen years or a mentally or physically handicapped minor under the age of eighteen.
  3. The defendant intentionally committed an act, committed a series of acts, used unreasonable force, torture or cruelty that resulted in physical injury to the victim; or
  4. The defendant intentionally committed an act, committed a series of acts, used unreasonable force, torture or cruelty with the specific intent to cause serious injury to the victim. 
  5. The defendant's act resulted in serious injury to the victim. 

See Iowa Code section 726.6(1)(b) and 726.6(2).


Child Endangerment - Evidencing Unreasonable Force, Torture, Cruelty - Serious Injury

For this form of child endangerment, the State must prove the following elements :

  1. The defendant was the parent, guardian, person having custody or control of the victim.
  2. The victim was under the age of fourteen years or a mentally or physically handicapped minor under the age of eighteen.
  3. The defendant intentionally threatened the victim with unreasonable force, torture or cruelty.
  4. The defendant's threats caused substantial mental or emotional harm to the victim.
  5. The harm to the victim was a serious injury.

See Iowa Code section 726.6(1)(c) and 726.6(2).


Child endangerment - Deprivation Of Food, Clothing, Shelter, Health Care, Supervision 

For this form of child endangerment, the State must prove the following elements:

  1. The defendant was the parent, guardian, person having custody or control of the victim. 
  2. The victim was under the age of fourteen years or a mentally or physically handicapped minor under the age of eighteen.
  3. The defendant intentionally deprived (the victim of necessary food, clothing, shelter, health care, or supervision appropriate to the victim’s age.
  4. The defendant was reasonably able to provide it.
  5. As a result, the child suffered substantial physical, mental, emotional harm.
  6. The harm to the victim was a serious injury.

See Iowa Code section 726.6(1)(d).


Child Endangerment - Deprivation Of Health Care

Under Iowa Code section 726.6(1)(d), the defendant can raise a claim that involves the following two elements:  

If the defendant proves both of these propositions by a preponderance of the evidence, then he or she is not guilty.

It is unsettled under Iowa law whether Iowa Code section 726.6(1) (d) is (a) an affirmative defense provable by the defendant or (b) an issue to be raised by the defendant and disproved by the State.


Child Endangerment - Permitting Abuse

For child endangerment under Iowa Code section 726.6(1)(e), the State must prove the following elements:

  1. The defendant was the parent, guardian, person having custody or control of the victim. 
  2. The victim was under the age of fourteen or a mentally or physically handicapped minor under the age of eighteen.
  3. The defendant knowingly permitted the continuing physical or sexual abuse of the victim. 
  4. Defendant's act resulted in serious injury to the victim. 
  5. The defendant's fear that any action to stop the continuing abuse would result in substantial bodily harm to himself, herself or the victim was unreasonable.

The law in Iowa is unsettled on whether Iowa Code section 726.6(1)(e) is (a) an affirmative defense provable by the defendant or (b) an issue to be raised by the defendant and disproved by the State.


Child Endangerment - Abandonment

Under Iowa Code section 726.6(1)(f), to provide this form of child endangerment, the State must prove all of the following elements:

  1. The defendant was the parent, guardian, person having custody or control of the victim; 
  2. The victim was under the age of fourteen or a mentally or physically handicapped minor under the age of eighteen;
  3. The defendant abandoned the victim to fend for himself or herself;
  4. The defendant knew the victim was unable to fend for himself or herself.
  5. The defendant's act resulted in serious injury to the victim. 

Finding an Attorney for Child Endangerment in Iowa

If you were charged with any form of child endangerment, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss your case. The attorneys at McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C. in Des Moines, Iowa, are experienced in fighting a variety of serious criminal charges involving crimes against children.

We can help you protect your good name and your family after a false or exaggerated allegation. Call (515) 279-9700. We can begin your defense today.


This article was last updated on Thursday, September 29, 2016.

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