Child Endangerment Charges For Utah Mom Who Threw Underage Drinking Party

A Utah mom who threw an underage drinking party for her son and his friends is being charged with child endangerment after one of the party goers died.

Contributing to the delinquency of a minor

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40 year old Kristina Teresa Valdez was throwing a birthday party for her teenage son at their Kearns, Utah home when she told one of her son’s friends to leave. The teens were enjoying alcohol and drugs while under the care of Valdez when the friend started acting belligerent. After being kicked out into the cold with only light clothing on, the 17 year old boy passed out in a nearby field and died, possibly from exposure. The teen’s parents assumed he had run way and searched for him for over two weeks before his body was discovered. An autopsy revealed the teen had been intoxicated and under the influence of marijuana. Valdez was charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor and child endangerment.

Child endangerment

Not only was Valdez charged with letting the teenagers have alcohol, she is also facing charges for allegedly letting them use marijuana while in her home. This is considered child endangerment which is punishable as a first, second, or third degree felony. Utah code 76-5-112.5 states regarding child endangerment:

  • “. . . a person is guilty of a felony of the third degree if the person knowingly or intentionally causes or permits a child or a vulnerable adult to be exposed to, inhale, ingest, or have contact with a controlled substance, chemical substance, or drug paraphernalia;
  • . . . a person is guilty of a felony of the second degree, if: the person engages in the conduct described [above]; and as a result of the conduct . . . a child or a vulnerable adult suffers bodily injury, substantial bodily injury, or serious bodily injury; or
  • a person is guilty of a felony of the first degree, if: the person engages in the conduct described [above]; and as a result of the conduct . . . a child or a vulnerable adult dies.”

Photo by: Tony Webster

Although the teen died after Valdez kicked him out of the party drunk and high, she is only facing a third degree felony instead of a first degree felony. Parents are encouraged to not use illegal activity as a way to be the “cool parent”.Those parents who are facing charges for allowing children to break the law in their home should consult with a criminal defense attorney.

Child Endangerment Resulting in Death

A 1 year old baby girl from Provo Utah died of a heroin overdose earlier this month and it is possible that charges for child endangerment resulting in death may follow.

Infant overdose

Photo by: Janine

Photo by: Janine

1 year old Penny Cormani died January 2 after somehow ingesting a lethal amount of heroin. The mother of the baby girl found the 1 year old unresponsive and turning purple in her crib following a routine nap. Penny was rushed to the hospital where she was pronounced dead. An autopsy performed on the child found enough heroin in her system to prove fatal along with traces of another drug, codeine.

Fault of the homeowner or the parent?

Penny’s mother stated she left the baby unattended briefly in a living room of a friend’s home which they were staying in temporarily while the mother tended to some laundry. After hearing the mother’s statement and hearing the findings of the autopsy, police searched the house and discovered several pieces of paraphernalia scattered in multiple rooms of the house. Penny’s mother and father claim the contraband belonged to the homeowners while the homeowners claim the parents were at fault. Until the investigation is complete, it isn’t clear whose paraphernalia was found in the home and all adult parties living there are potential suspects as they all have histories of drug abuse. While no one is found to be directly at fault yet, it is possible that both the parents AND the homeowners could face charges for child endangerment resulting in death because the items were located in private and shared areas.

Child endangerment resulting in death

Utah Code 76-5-112.5 states regarding child endangerment: “Unless a greater penalty is otherwise provided by law, any person who knowingly or intentionally causes or permits a child ( . . . ) to be exposed to, to ingest or inhale, or to have contact with a controlled substance, chemical substance, or drug paraphernalia ( . . . )is guilty of a felony of the third degree. “ 76-5-112.5 also states that if “a child ( . . . ) actually suffers bodily injury, substantial bodily injury, or serious bodily injury by exposure to, ingestion of, inhalation of, or contact with a controlled substance, chemical substance, or drug paraphernalia, [the person] is guilty of a felony of the second degree[. Regarding child endangerment resulting in death] unless the exposure, ingestion, inhalation, or contact results in the death of the child ( . . . ), in which case the person is guilty of a felony of the first degree.”

Five to Life

If either the parents or the homeowners are found guilty of child endangerment resulting in death for the demise of Penny Cormani, they could face five years to life in prison for a 1st degree felony. Even if authorities can’t tie the paraphernalia directly to any person, by allowing dangerous items to remain in plain view and reach in the home where Penny Cormani was staying, all adults could potentially be charged with child endangerment resulting in death. This lack of babyproofing or drugproofing the home could be “knowingly ( . . . ) permit[ing] a child to be exposed to ( . . . )a controlled substance.”

Know who you’re living with

Photo by: Mr. Theklan

Photo by: Mr. Theklan

Currently there is no proof that any of the adults in the home of Penny Cormani intentionally meant to harm her, however having paraphernalia laced with heroin laying around the house was dangerous. Prosecutors will likely make sure that someone ends up doing time for child endangerment resulting in death; The question is who? For those who are temporarily staying with friends or allow others to live in their home, it is critical to know what your roommates are doing and what they bring into the shared home. Anyone facing charges for a crime that a roommate was responsible for or for charges related to child endangerment should contact a criminal defense attorney. For information on receiving help to overcome drug abuse, contact the public health department in your area.