When a parent or custodian fails to act or acts in a manner that exposes a child to serious bodily injuries, death, exploitation, sexual abuse or even places the youngster in looming risk of severe injuries, it amounts to child abuse. The law provides for the right of families to solitude and the right of parents or custodians to nurture and discipline their children without interference from the government. Regardless of the permission to discipline their child, parents are required by the law to only use reasonable force. This, therefore, implies that the use of unwarranted force is breaching the law, which is a criminal offense according to California PC 273 (d).
Child abuse charges can greatly affect your career, reputation, freedom, and family. It’s therefore important to talk to a qualified criminal attorney in the quickest way possible. The attorney will help you fight for your rights and ensure that you do not face severe penalties associated with child abuse given that it falls under domestic violence crimes.
Definition of Terms Related to Child Abuse under the California Law
As stated above, Child abuse in itself is a criminal offense that incorporates different actions involving emotional, physical, or sexual exploitation or negligence against a minor. Under the California law, legal delineation of child abuse is based on the elements of this crime. In other words, these are vital components that the prosecutor must demonstrate before you are found guilty of this crime. These include:
- You deliberately imposed harsh and inhuman punishment on a child
- The punishment or injury resulted to the child suffering traumatic physical injury
- Your actions towards the child were not part of reasonable discipline
Willfully. This implies that the person’s actions were deliberate or purposeful. It’s important to note that you can be found guilty of child abuse even if you had no intentions of breaching the law or causing harm to the child, provided it’s proven that you had the intention of committing the act that resulted in injury.
Traumatic physical condition- Severe or minor wounds or injuries resulting from application of excessive force when disciplining a child. The injury results in traumatic injury if the condition wouldn’t have occurred without the punishment or injury.
Parent of the child
According to law, one is considered the parent to a child if they are married to or separated from the custodial parent. As a parent, one is required to provide the following necessities to the child; food, clothing, shelter, remedial care, and medical care.
A child. A child is basically any person under the age of eighteen (18) years
Cruel or inhuman punishment
Despite being a key definition of child abuse, cruel or inhuman punishment is not defined under the California Law Penal Code section 273 (d). Under a standard dictionary, cruel is defined as the act to inflict pain in a ferocious or nasty approach. Below are examples of punishments that if applied on a child may be considered cruel and inhuman.
- Throwing a dangerous object at a child
Reasonable spanking to a child cannot amount to cruel or inhuman punishment. However, it can be considered as cruel or inhuman only if the act was not necessary and unreasonable under the given circumstances.
Potential Penalties for Child Abuse
Under Penal Code Section 273 (d), child abuse is a ‘wobbler’ offense. This implies that the possible criminal charges can be either a felony or misdemeanor. This will, however, depend on the circumstances of the alleged offense and your criminal history. For instance, if the child suffered serious bodily injury, which can be, for example, in the form of a broken limb, you will be convicted of a felony.
The potential penalties for a misdemeanor conviction include either or both of:
- A maximum of one year imprisonment in county jail
- A fine of up to $6,000
Penalties for felony child abuse may include:
- A jail sentence of two, four, or six years
- A $6,000 maximum fine
Also, your sentence will increase by four (4) years if you have a prior child abuse conviction. However, this sentence enhancement only applies in some case and will not apply in your case if it’s been ten years since you finished any prison term and in those ten years, you have not served jail time for any other felony offense.
It’s common for probation to be imposed in cases involving child abuse or cases connected to corporal punishment causing injury to a child, regardless of whether the conviction is a misdemeanor or felony. Probation can be imposed in addition to the penalties listed above or served as the punishment instead of those penalties. Probation in connection to Penal Code 273 (d) comes with the following conditions:
- Probation term of 3 years
- A protective order or a residence exclusion and/ or stay away order
- A requirement to complete a treatment counseling program designed for child abusers for a minimum of one (1) year
- If you were under the influence of drugs when the incident occurred, random drug tests will be conducted throughout the probation period.
If you do not comply with any of these requirements, you may face a bench warrant ordered by the court, or a probation violation, which means that you will be facing an increasing jail or prison time. However, complying fully with all the terms and conditions of probation time for the first year or two may result in the court granting an early termination of probation.
A felony conviction will also result in a strike on your record pursuant to California’s Three Strikes Law. This implies that you will be considered a second striker if you are subsequently with any other felony. A third striker, on the other hand, will serve a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years to life in the state prison.
The California Child Abuse Central Index (CACI)
Your life can change completely if you are convicted for child abuse. From the time of sentencing to the rest of your life, you will be placed on the Child Abuse Central Index. This can significantly affect your reputation and ability to get a job. Also, you may experience custody issues involving your own children. The Child Abuse Central Index is a statewide database administered by the California Department of Justice (CDOJ). It’s used by agencies that provide children’s services and law enforcement. The CACI aids in the prevention and investigation of child abuse and neglect. It also helps protect affected minors from further abuse. Entities that use the CACI include foster homes, child welfare agencies, adoption agencies, schools, and licensed child care homes and centers.
There are certain professionals obligated by law to report incidents of actual or suspect child abuse. These individuals are referred to as mandatory reporters. If they fail to report or attempt to prevent someone else from reporting, that is considered to be a misdemeanor and is subject to criminal prosecution.
Information inputted by the CDOJ into the CACI database include:
- Names and descriptions of suspects and victims
- The agency that filed the report
- Information about the case
- Type of abuse involved
Those listed on CACI have the right to petition for removal of their names from the list. This request is referred to as grievance hearing. Being in this list can bring humiliation and lifelong stigma. If you or a family member has been listed on the CACI, you need to speak to one of the experienced child abuse defense attorneys at Pasadena Criminal Attorney. Our lawyers have extensive experience defending parents, family members and other individuals facing false allegations of child abuse. Call us 24/7 at 626-689-2277 to learn how we can protect your rights and get your name removed from the CACI.
Common Defenses to Child Abuse Charges
Although child abuse laws in California aim to protect children, the justice system also works in favor of those who are falsely accused. There are a number of defenses that your experienced California criminal defense attorney can raise on your behalf against corporal injury or punishment on a child charge. The specific defense of your case will determine the particular defense and defense strategy that will ultimately be employed. Some of the most common legal defenses to child abuse include:
False allegations of child abuse
Often times, child abuse accusations can be as a result of matrimonial or family conflict. It’s easy for your family to accuse you of child abuse due to anger, jealousy, revenge, or desire to be in control in connection with a child custody battle. Also, children are impressionable and can be brainwashed by the estranged spouse to create false allegations, misinterpret, or exaggerate what happened. Children may also have the motive to punish their parents or the boy/girlfriend of the parent. With a skilled and experienced attorney can analyze the specific facts of the case and seek evidence that will show the insufficiencies in such allegations. This way, the attorney may successfully prove to the prosecution and jury that you are a victim of false accusation.
Injuries unrelated to claims of child abuse
Children have accidents- they bump into things, fall, wrestle with each other, get into fights with each other, wrestle with you, and play contact sports. Such playful cases can lead to cuts, bruises, scrapes, or other innocent injuries. These can be mistaken for abuse. If professionals who have the mandate to report such incidents sees a bruise or other injury on a child, they might be compelled to complain to the authorities that you engaged in Penal Code 273d child abuse. Professionals considered as “mandatory reporters” include teachers, doctors, nurses, social workers, school administrators, and clergy. Your defense attorney may be able to show that the injuries were not caused by child abuse through the use of medical reports and testimony of medical experts.
Injuries caused by accidents
it’s a felony to willfully injure a child in a traumatic way under Penal Code 273(d). The legal defense of accident applies in child abuse cases, but it has to be a genuine accident that didn’t arise out of aggressive or reckless behavior. For example, if you slammed the door without knowing that your child’s hand was in the door jam, that can be a defense strategy to show your action was not on the basis of abuse. This, therefore, implies that you must show that you did not intentionally injure your child.
Your right to discipline your child
As a parent, you have the right to discipline your child physically so long as the discipline is reasonable and does not cause bodily injury. This is referred to as corporal punishment. For instance, using your hand or an object like a paddle to spank your child with the aim of disciplining the child is not considered child abuse. However, this is only applicable if your action was not unnecessary, unreasonable, or excessive. You are likely to be exonerated if your child abuse defense attorney will be able to convince the prosecutor and the jury that you inflicted corporal punishment that was reasonable and not excessive based on the circumstances.
If You Have Been Accused of Child Abuse, Call Our Offices Today
Being accused of committing a child abuse crime is an extremely dangerous legal problem that needs to be addressed as soon as possible. There is often a bias against those accused of child abuse, and a mere accusation can send law enforcement to your home. Protecting your freedom can be an uphill battle, and the outcome largely depends on the skills and trial experience of the defense attorney you retain. At Pasadena Criminal Attorney, our legal team understands how much is at stake when facing child abuse charges. Our attorneys will utilize their experience to exploit any weaknesses in the prosecution’s case and fight to safeguard your reputation, rights, and freedom. We have a proven track record for successfully defending difficult criminal cases. We are on your side at all times, and we will take time to listen to your side of the story.
Your defense attorney will thoroughly examine the particular facts of your case to develop a defense strategy that will be used to get the charges reduced or dismissed altogether. If you have lost custody of your child due to these allegations, our attorneys will show that the allegations are unfounded, and return custody. Do not hesitate to call us at 626-689-2277 for a free, confidential consultation on the details of your case. You can as well fill our online contact form, and we’ll get back to you soonest possible.