Potential Penalties of Child Abuse
There was a time in the past when child abuse wasn't considered a concern of the state. Those times have long passed. Today, child abuse is considered a serious crime in California. Instances of child abuse regularly take precedence in the media with gruesome stories of parents willfully neglecting or torturing their child. Although these stories certainly make for grabbing headlines, they don't represent what child abuse typically looks like. Not everyone who is charged with child abuse is a cruel caregiver. People have been convicted of child abuse offenses for much less. Unfortunately, no matter how slight the offense, the penalties are severe. A conviction can result in jail time, fines, and mandatory counseling or anger management classes just to name a few of the potential consequences.
Sentencing for a child abuse conviction can vary based on the defendant's criminal history, the age and maturity of the child, the nature of the offense, and the results of the abuse on the child. Some child abuse offenses are felonies, some are misdemeanors, and some can be charged as either. These are called wobbler crimes. How the crime is charged will depend on a number of factors, including the criminal history of the defendant and the severity of the abuse. Some minor misdemeanor offenses may not come with jail time, but more serious misdemeanors and felonies typically carry some jail time or a prison sentence. Other consequences of a child abuse conviction could include several years of probation and a requirement to register as a child sex offender. Being convicted of a child abuse offense or any domestic violence offense can also affect your custody rights.
Charged as a misdemeanor, the willful harming or injury of a child can result in up to one year in a county jail. Under aggravating circumstances, you could face two, four, or six years in a state prison. You will also face probation. Probation for a child abuse offense will be for a period of at least 48 months. A criminal protective order will be issued, and you will also be ordered to attend one year of a child abuser's treatment program at a cost to you.
Corporal injury or willful harm resulting in a traumatic condition, i.e. an injury, is charged as a felony. You can face one year in a county jail, or two, four, or six years in a state prison. Your sentence will increase by four years if you have a prior conviction. You can also face a fine of up to $6,000. You will get at least 36 months of probation, a criminal protective order will be issued, and you will have to complete the child abuser's treatment program at a cost to you.
Child abuse is a little different than domestic abuse in the traditional sense, against an intimate partner. For the purposes of California law, a child is anyone under the age of 18 years. Because adults have a duty to care for and protect children, simply failing to fulfill that duty is neglect, and, in some cases, can be considered child abuse in the eyes of the court. This can include failing to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care, supervision, or other necessities. Child abuse certainly goes beyond failing to properly care for a child. It can include any acts of violence or abuse as defined in other California domestic violence laws. It can include physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, psychological abuse, and exploitation.
If you are facing allegations of child abuse, speak to a California criminal defense attorney immediately. Everything is stacked against you in these types of cases, and you have little room for negotiations. Having skilled legal representation is your best chance at beating your charge or reducing your sentence. An attorney can examine the facts and circumstances of your case and help you develop a defense strategy with which to approach your case. There are many different classifications of child abuse crimes in California, and sometimes which one you will be charged with is a matter of an interpretation of the evidence. An attorney can help you navigate the prosecution process, and may be able to challenge the evidence against you. This could result in your case being dropped or you being charged with a lesser offense.
Are you facing charges for a child abuse offense in California? Contact attorney Christopher Martens and his legal team for help in Tulare, Fresno or Kings County. Experienced in criminal defense, our Visalia area legal team can help you plan and prepare for your defense. Attorney Martens has over ten years experience in criminal defense and has taken over 50 cases to trial; he has the experienced needed to skillfully handle criminal defense trials. Call our Visalia or Hanford, CA offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] for a free consultation.