House votes to toughen child endangerment penalties

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – The state House has passed a bill with tougher penalties on parents and caregivers who put children in harm’s way.

House Bill 217 would change the law to reflect the degree of risk and the age of the child.

Rep. Rob Kauffman (R-Franklin) said the current child endangerment law makes no distinction between someone who places a very young child at risk and someone who endangers an older child.

Currently, offenders can be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor. If the endangerment was part of a continuing course of conduct, the crime is a third-degree felony.

Under Kauffman’s proposal, child endangerment would be a third-degree felony when someone’s actions create a substantial risk of death or serious injury and a second-degree felony when the risk is from a pattern of conduct. The grading would be increased when the child is under the age of 6.

“The children of our state deserve the best protections possible,” Kauffman said in a statement. “This legislation will help ensure greater safety by making sure those who endanger children face increased penalties.

Kauffman’s proposal is headed to the state Senate, where it stalled after House approval last year.

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