What are the Possible Penalties for Child Abuse in Orange County?

  • Post last modified:July 9, 2024

Children occupy a special place in the legal system of Orange County. The California courts presume that children do not have the mental acuity to care for themselves or make their own choices. Conversely, many of the choices a child has are often made by the child’s parent, legal guardian, or custodian.

It’s a part of the child-caring process, for parents or caregivers to discipline a child. This discipline may involve physical acts such as spanking, confinement, or the restriction of privileges. The California courts are often very reluctant to intervene in family matters or dictate how parents raise their children, but some acts of discipline or types of acts against a child are considered abusive and criminal. If you, as a parent, guardian, or child caregiver (or anyone in a position of power) commits violence, sexual acts, or other damaging acts against a child, the courts see these acts as child abuse.

Child abuse laws often allow for either a misdemeanor or felony punishment if you are convicted of the crime. The difference between the two charges often depends on the type of harm you may inflict on the child. If, for example, you are charged with sexual abuse on a child this is typically charged as a felony. If you expose your child to domestic violence, however, you may be charged with a misdemeanor.

California laws differ and are numerous, but usually the following consequences and penalties will follow if you are guilty of child abuse:

  • Substantial fines – A conviction for child abuse can result in very substantial fines. State laws differ greatly on the fines imposed for your child abuse conviction, but fines of several hundred to thousands of dollars are extremely common.
  • Incarceration & jail time – Jail or prison sentences are also quite common with your child abuse conviction. A misdemeanor conviction may bring a few days, months, or up to a year in jail, while a felony conviction can easily result in you being sentenced to 10 years or more in prison.
  • Probation – Probation sentences are usually included with your child abuse sentence. For example, the courts may give a probationary sentence to you, as a couple, who exposed their child to domestic violence. Probation terms usually last at least six months but can extend to a year or more. If you violate the probation terms during that time, the court may then impose your original jail sentence, add fines, or additional probation.
  • Other penalties – When child abuse involves a parent, guardian, or someone with legal custody of a child, the California courts can also limit your parental rights. Courts can impose restraining orders, place your child in protective custody with a state agency or foster family, require that you (as the parent) only visit the child with the supervision of a court-appointed monitor, order individual or family therapy, or even completely remove your rights to care for your child.

Child abuse is an extremely serious charge, one that can not only result in criminal or civil penalties but also one which can lead to your social exclusion and loss of reputation. So, consulting with your attorney specializing in child abuse cases in Long Beach, as soon as possible, is the best way to work through this legal maze and emerge with your best possible outcome.

When Can I Be Charged with Felony Child Abuse?

Child abuse is simply defined as you perpetrating physical injury, putting your child at risk of physical injury, sexual assaulting, or emotional abusing, or encouraging these acts. It is considered neglect for a parent, guardian, custodian, or caregiver to fail to provide proper care, supervision, or discipline.

While some of the above may have you charged with a misdemeanor, the following will almost always result in a felony charge:

  • Physical injury to your child – It is a felony to intentionally inflict serious physical injury on a child or intentionally assault a child.
  • Bodily, emotional, or mental injury – If your child suffers serious bodily injury or permanent (or protracted) loss or impairment of a mental or emotional function because of your intentional act.
  • The willful act or gross negligence – When your intentional act cannot be proven, a person can be charged with a felony for committing a willful act or exhibiting gross neglect or omission that establishes a reckless disregard for your child’s life.
  • Prostitution – Child abuse can be charged if you commit, permit, or may encourage prostitution with or by a child.

What are Some Examples of Jail Time That Can be Imposed for Child Abuse?

Any form of child abuse is taken to be exceptionally serious by the California courts, but the more serious child abuse charges can bring you life-changing jail time. Even what may seem like mild offenses can bring you two, four, or up to six years (or more) of incarceration. You also are likely to have years added if you have a prior felony conviction of child abuse within the last ten years.

Fines can be extremely high also, ranging to $6000 or more.

If you are charged with any type of child abuse, get ahead of the matter immediately. Consult with a California criminal defense firm that will aggressively defend you against these charges.

If I Am Suspected of Child Abuse in Orange County, Must That Be Reported?

The simple answer is yes. California requires specific people to report child abuse crimes as specified in California’s mandatory laws.

Some examples of mandatory reporters are:

  • Teachers, or employees of a school.
  • Employees of childcare agencies.
  • Psychologists
  • Any police officer, district attorney, or officer of the court.
    Clergy, and many more.

The Orange County child abuse law requires that these mandatory reporters call the police or the child protective service immediately after suspecting a case of child abuse.

What Do I Do If Accused of Child Abuse in Orange County?

Most child abuse claims are made out of the manipulation of a co-parent or due to a child’s overactive imagination. And it is among the worst crimes one can be charged with in California. It is a severe crime with strict penalties and lengthy guidelines.

While the law protects children, it also protects parents and caregivers that can be wrongly accused. A conviction can ruin your relationship with the child and others. Without a Long Beach criminal justice attorney, your rights and freedoms may be abused.

How is Child Abuse Defined in California?

Before figuring out what to do regarding an accusation, it is crucial to understand the legal definition of the offense. First of all, the victim must be under the age of 18. Secondly, you need to have severely punished them or inflicted severe bodily harm. Examples of child abuse are:

  • Using a belt to punish a child
  • Punching a teenager as a form of punishment
  • Striking a child hard enough to leave a mark

If a teacher, a social service provider, or a child care worker suspects you of abusing a minor, they have a mandatory obligation to report it.

What Happens if a Parent Makes False Accusations in a Child Custody Case?

Often than not, a parent can falsely accuse the other of child abuse to bar them from getting visitation or custodial rights in a California divorce case. If it is established that they made false accusations of limiting your parental rights maliciously, the family court has powers to limit or prohibit their rights instead.

The court can exercise their powers if they find proof that they:

  • Made a report of child abuse
  • Knew the allegations were false
  • Intended to interfere with your rights with regards to the child

If you feel like your co-parent is conspiring to deny you your rights through child abuse allegations, a child abuse attorney in Long Beach, CA, can help.

How Can I Use the Accuser’s Reputation/Credibility to Defend Myself?

If the accuser’s only evidence is their word of mouth, you can use various approaches to dispute it. Remember that their word is enough to implicate you, and you have to show why they should not be believed. You could claim that the accuser:

  • Has been tricked into believing something untrue
  • Didn’t make the accusation in the first place
  • Has been coached to raise the allegation
  • Is suffering from false memory
  • Is mistaken about the identity of the actual offender
  • Is mistaken about what happened
  • Is lying and demonstrate their motive to lie
  • Is a victim of group psychosis
  • Is not the actual accuser

Note that you can bring up your claims respectfully without undermining your child or the other parent. And you can use text messages, emails, social media posts, and witness testimonies to question the accuser’s testimonies.

How Can I Boost My Own Credibility and Reputation in a Child Abuse?

Stating your own case is an excellent way to beat false allegations of child abuse. You have to make yourself believable and ensure that your statements are credible. Your credibility can be demonstrated by:

  • Passing a psychological evaluation conducted by a psychiatrist who is an expert witness
  • Obtaining witness statements that corroborate your own, e.g., an alibi
  • Passing a polygraph or lie detector test not administered by law enforcement
  • Being consistent with your statements
  • Telling the truth
  • Obtaining character witness statements

Can Attacking Evidence Sufficiency Relieve Me of Child Abuse Charges Against Me?

Another excellent approach to defense is scrutinizing the evidence gathered by law enforcement and the child protective services (CPS) during the investigations. The child abuse case can be undermined if you notice any of the following:

  • Gaps in the investigations
  • Contradictions and inconsistencies by the author of the report
  • Inconsistencies and contradictions by witnesses
  • Prejudice or bias on the part of the investigator or witness
  • Confirmation bias by forensic interviewers, licensing investigators, social workers, and police officers

You can counter faulty evidence with your own witness statements, evidence, and chronology of events. A Long Beach counsel for child abuse matters has the expertise to help you with this.

What Do I Stand to Lose if Convicted of Child Abuse in Orange County?

Child abuse is one of the few wobbler offenses in California. This means that the charges can be brought as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on:

  • Your criminal history, if any
  • The facts of the alleged offense

If charged as a felony, a conviction might earn you:

  • A fine of up to $6,000
  • 2,4, or 6 years in jail
  • Additional four years in jail if you have a felony child abuse conviction on your records

With a misdemeanor charge, you risk:

  • A fine of up to $6,000
  • Up to a year in a county jail

The best way to avoid the above harsh consequences is to invest in an experienced and skilled Long Beach child abuse lawyer. They can represent you in court and negotiate for the best possible outcome.

Under What Conditions Can a Child Abuse Convict Get Probation?

If your Long Beach criminal defense attorney represents you well enough, the judge can substitute a jail sentence with probation. It can be formal probation for felonies or summary probation for misdemeanors. A sentence of probation might come with the following conditions:

  • Successful completion of the child abuser’s treatment program, which is usually one year long
  • A protective order that may prohibit any contact with the victim, or further threats or violence against the victim
  • Mandatory minimum probation of three years
  • Submission to random drug testing if the offense was committed while drunk or drugged

Compassionate Representatives Fighting for Your Rights and Freedom

A lot might be at stake if you are accused of child abuse in California. Whether you are a parent or a caregiver, you stand to lose so much. But, with the help of a skilled child abuse attorney, you can build a defense approach that is uniquely applicable to your case, which can relieve you of all charges.

The lawyers at the Law Offices of Jerry Nicholson can do everything to keep you out of jail. Talk to us today for guidance throughout the legal journey.