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Hastings Law Journal

Authors

Kirsten Howe

Abstract

Parents' failure to provide necessary support for their children contributes greatly to the increasing childhood poverty rate in the United States. Nonsupport is a crime in all fifty states, but in California this crime is no longer chargeable as a felony. The California Court of Appeal in People v. Gregori held that Penal Code section 270, which prescribed felony sanctions only for defendants whose parental status had previously been adjudicated, violated the equal protection clauses of the United States and California Constitutions by impairing the fundamental right of access to the courts. This Note discusses the magnitude of the problems, primarily childhood poverty, caused by nonsupport and explains why a felony-misdemeanor distinction should be returned to the statute. The Note then proposes a felony-misdemeanor distinction based on the amount of time the nonsupport continues as a step toward eliminating the harm caused by nonsupport.

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