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 Long Beach child abuse attorney, 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, 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.
- 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.
I Have Been Charged with Child Abuse, What Should I Do First?
The Orange County laws on child abuse are complex, making it hard at times for a person to understand when they are even in the wrong and whether they can face some profoundly serious charges. The Long Beach & Southern California law firm of Jerry Nicholson has been professionally and effectively defending clients against child abuse charges and knows the process well. Take this type of charge with utmost concern and consult with them today to preserve your freedom tomorrow.