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.
Issue. Did the Defendant knowingly encourage a child less than seventeen years old to engage in conduct tending to injure the child’s welfare?
Held. 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.
Discussion. 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.