The crimes commonly called “child abuse” or “child neglect” in Iowa are formally called “child endangerment. In Iowa, the crime of Child Endangerment is defined by Iowa Code section 726.6.
The Child Endangerment law in Iowa applies to a person who is “the parent, guardian, or person having custody or control over a child or a minor under the age of eighteen with a mental or physical disability, or a person who is a member of the household in which a child or such a minor resides.”
While the child endangerment statute in Iowa is somewhat lengthy, it is fair to summarize that child endangerment is committed if a person acts in the following fashion:
- Knowingly acts in a manner that creates a substantial risk to a child or minor’s physical, mental or emotional health or safety.
- By an intentional act or series of intentional acts, uses unreasonable force, torture or cruelty that results in bodily injury, or that is intended to cause serious injury.
- By an intentional act or series of intentional acts, evidences unreasonable force, torture or cruelty which causes substantial mental or emotional harm to a child or minor.
- Willfully deprives a child or minor of necessary food, clothing, shelter, health care or supervision appropriate to the child or minor’s age, when the person is reasonably able to make the necessary provisions and which deprivation substantially harms the child or minor’s physical, mental or emotional health. For purposes of this paragraph, the failure to provide specific medical treatment shall not for that reason alone be considered willful deprivation of health care if the person can show that such treatment would conflict with the tenets and practice of a recognized religious denomination of which the person is an adherent or member. This exception does not in any manner restrict the right of an interested party to petition the court on behalf of the best interest of the child or minor.
- Knowingly permits the continuing physical or sexual abuse of a child or minor. However, it is an affirmative defense to this subsection if the person had a reasonable apprehension that any action to stop the continuing abuse would result in substantial bodily harm to the person or the child or minor.
- Abandons the child or minor to fend for the child or minor’s self, knowing that the child or minor is unable to do so.
- Knowingly permits a child or minor to be present at a location where amphetamine, or methamphetamine manufactured
- Knowingly allows a person custody or control of, or unsupervised access to a child or a minor after knowing the person is required to register or is on the sex offender registry as a sex offender under chapter 692A. However, this paragraph does not apply to a person who is a parent or guardian of a child or a minor, who is required to register as a sex offender, or to a person who is married to and living with a person required to register as a sex offender.
As is obvious from that list, the crime of child endangerment in Iowa can be committed in a variety of ways. Making matters even more complex is the somewhat vague langue used in the statute, as many people do not understand what exactly would constitute a “substantial risk” or a when a child is “reasonable able” to “fend for” themselves when left unsupervised for period of time.
Child endangerment in Iowa comes in various degrees, depending upon the harm and risk of harm that is alleged. The most serious form is a Class B felony, which carries a 25 year prison sentence.
In many situations, a child endangerment charge will be accompanied by Iowa DHS involvement and possibly a CINA case. Child endangerment charges can also have a profound effect upon the outcome of a divorce or custody case in Iowa. It is important to handle an Iowa child endangerment charge (and any companion cases) carefully, and for that reason a person accused of child endangerment in Iowa is well advised to seek an attorney at once.