(512) 476-4626

Texas defines several laws to protect the more vulnerable members of our society. One such law is Texas Penal Code § 22.041, endangering or abandoning a child, elderly or disabled individual.

Simply put, it is a crime in Texas to leave a child under one’s care in a place that would expose that child to unreasonable risk or harm. Generally, child endangerment and abandonment is a felony and is classified as domestic violence.

In the following article, we’ll go over the specifics of Texas’s child endangerment laws.

Travis County Child Endangerment Lawyer

If you are facing charges of child endangerment or abandonment in Travis County, you can have an experienced lawyer on your side. Kevin Bennett represents those accused of domestic violence. He can represent you in both the criminal charges and in any emergency protective order hearings that may stem from the accusations.

As part of a commitment to providing every client with an unmatched level of personal attention, our Austin domestic violence attorney does not accept every case that comes across his desk. Kevin Bennett maintains open communication with all of his clients about the matters facing them, and he aims to help them understand what is happening during dark and frightening times.

Kevin Bennett represents people throughout Travis County, including in Austin, Pflugerville, Lago Vista and Lakeway. Call The Law Office of Kevin Bennett today at (512) 476-4626 to set up a free consultation.

Child Abandonment and Endangerment Laws


Back to top

Texas Child Endangerment Law Definitions

In Texas, it is illegal to place a child under your care in danger. In Texas law, “child” is generally defined as a person under the age of 15.

Texas law does not generally enumerate the qualifications for “endangerment.” Therefore, it is usually up to the court to decide whether or not the alleged action placed the child at a high risk of being injured or harmed. Some examples include:

  • Leaving a child in a car alone
  • Leaving a young child at home for an extended period of time
  • Allowing a child to engage in criminal or otherwise excessively dangerous activity

In addition, Texas law does specify that allowing children access to, or providing them with, methamphetamine, is illegal. The same goes for controlled substances in penalty group 1 and 1-B. Some drugs in these penalty groups include Adderall and Codeine – allowing your child to take these substances when not prescribed them is child endangerment.

This law is not the same as directly causing injury to a child or to an elderly person.


Abandonment is punishable by either a state jail felony or a felony in the third degree, depending on whether or not the custodian intended to return for the child.

For example, Leaving a child in a hot car for hours when he or she is discovered by a police officer would constitute a state jail felony. If left unattended, the child may get heatstroke, dehydrate, or be stolen from the vehicle.

In the 2019 Marvel movie Shazam! It is revealed that our protagonist was likely abandoned at a carnival. Our protagonist searches for his mother, but never finds her, and he is relegated to child custody services. Unfortunately, this type of abandonment is not just a movie trope, and happens across the United States to very small children. Generally classified as child abandonment without the intent to return, the crime committed in Shazam! is a second-degree felony in the state of Texas.

Elderly and Disabled Individual Laws

TPC 22.041 does not just cover the endangerment of children. Rather, the statute was created to protect anyone under a person’s custody who may require protection. This includes disabled and elderly individuals.

Disabled individual refers to a person who is 13 years or older and is, for some mental or physical defect or injury, unable to protect or provide food, shelter and/or medical care for the person’s self. These mental injuries include autism, mental illness, traumatic brain injury or a developmental or intellectual disability.

Elderly individual means a person who is 65 years of age or older.

The same laws as in the previous section, including endangerment and abandonment, refer to disabled and elderly individuals. Some specific examples include:

  • Refusing or neglecting to bathe the person
  • Refusing or neglecting to feed the person
  • Refusing or neglecting to give the person the required treatments or medication
  • Overdosing the individual through non-criminal negligence
  • Leaving a protected person alone without adequate care

Back to top

Criminal Punishments for Abandoning or Endangering a Child

Endangerment of a child, elderly individual or disabled individual is either a state jail felony or a second-degree felony. Below are a list of the penalties associated with both charges.
State Jail Felony:

  • Imprisonment for 6 months to 2 years
  • A fine of up to $10,000

Third-Degree Felony

  • Imprisonment for 2 to 10 years
  • A fine of up to $10,000

Second-Degree Felony

  • Imprisonment for 2 to 20 years
  • A fine of up to $10,000

Collateral Consequences

In addition to the above punishments, the following penalties may apply:

  • Loss of custody rights: If the charge is in regards to a child, that child may be taken to live with another family member or otherwise relegated to the public care system. Elderly and disabled individuals may be similarly placed under state care.
  • Restraining Orders: The court may issue restraining orders, prohibiting the accused individual from contacting the child or other parties involved in the case.
  • Loss of employment and housing opportunities: If convicted of child endangerment or abandonment, it is likely that the person will be denied opportunities due to the permanent felony conviction.
  • Loss of voting rights: In Texas, felons are unable to vote until the term of imprisonment, parole and probation have completed.

Back to top

Defenses for Child Endangerment

Some defenses for child endangerment are built into state code. We’ll go over these defenses and a few common ones in this section.

Sports: Because of the physical nature of sports, child endangerment laws don’t apply in the same way. However, forceful overtraining or pushing a child beyond what may be reasonably expected of them is still a chargeable offense.

Emergency Care: In some rare cases, the custodian may deliver the child to a designated emergency infant care provider.

Parental Rights and Discipline: Some cases involve disagreements about appropriate parenting methods. Defenses may focus on asserting the parent’s right to discipline their child within reasonable bounds and challenging whether the actions alleged constitute endangerment.

Reasonable Care and Supervision: Demonstrating that the accused exercised reasonable care and supervision given the circumstances can be a defense. This may involve showing that the actions taken were in line with commonly accepted parenting practices. In some cases, leaving a child in a car for a few minutes may be acceptable. In others, it may not.

Emergency Situations: In some cases, actions taken to protect a child in an emergency situation may be misconstrued as endangerment. The defense may focus on the necessity of the actions taken to prevent harm.

Back to top

Additional Resources

When and How to Report Child Abuse – The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services offers a guide on spotting and reporting child abuse. The guide goes in-depth on what child abuse can look like, including tell-tale signs and when it becomes your responsibility to help.

Family First Program – Travis County’s Family First Program is a voluntary home visiting program that provides services intended to enhance the abilities of parents and caregivers to protect children from abuse and neglect. The program offers parent education, access to resources, support and training for parents.

Back to top

Hire a Child Endangerment Defense Attorney in Travis County

With such serious consequences, you’ll want serious legal representation. Kevin Bennett is a skilled Austin domestic violence lawyer you can represent you if you are charged with any charge of endangerment or abandonment charge in Travis County, including in Manor, Oak Hill, and Bee Cave.

Kevin Bennett represents clients with charges pending in the Travis County Criminal County Court-at-law #4 which is designated as the Family Violence Court.

Call The Law Office of Kevin Bennett today at (512) 476-4626 to set up a consultation.

Back to top