Citation. 676 S.W.2d 282, 1984 Mo. App. 4784.
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Brief Fact Summary.
The Defendant, Sandra Nations (Defendant) owns and operates the Main Street Disco, in which police officers found a scantily clad sixteen-year-old girl dancing for tips. Consequently, the Defendant was charged with endangering the welfare of a child less than seventeen years old. The Defendant was convicted and fined $1,000.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
The Missouri criminal code defines “knowingly” as actual knowledge. A person acts knowingly, or with knowledge, with respect to attendant circumstances when he is aware that those circumstances exist.
When the police arrived at the disco, the police watched the child dance for five to seven minutes and recognized that she appeared to be young. As a result, the police questioned the Defendant about the girl’s age. The Defendant told the police that the girl was of legal age and that she had checked her identification when she was hired. When the police questioned the girl, she initially told them that she was eighteen but later admitted that she was only sixteen. She had no identification. At trial, the child testified that when the Defendant asked for identification, the child replied that she would “show it to her in a minute.” The child further testified that she was merely crossing the stage to retrieve her identification when police took her into custody.
Did the Defendant knowingly encourage a child less than seventeen years old to engage in conduct tending to injure the child’s welfare?
The facts show that the Defendant could not have checked the child’s age because the child did not have any identification on her person and the night in question was the child’s first night dancing at the disco. However, at best, the facts show that the Defendant did not know or refused to learn the child’s age. However, this is not “knowledge” as required for conviction under the statute, it is mere recklessness and nothing more. As a result, the Defendant’s conviction in the lower court is reversed.
The court focused on the statutory definition of “knowingly” and its distinctions from the lesser offense of “recklessness.” The court based its holding upon the fact that the Defendant’s refusal to learn the age of the young child simply proved that the Defendant was aware of a “high probability” that the child was under seventeen. Although the Defendant was reckless in that she was conscious of a substantial and unjustifiable risk, her actions did not rise to the level of knowledge.