If an individual is accused of child abuse, the accusation alone can have a significant impact on the accused’s career and reputation in the community. The significant consequences associated with child abuse make it essential that you contact Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer immediately after you have been accused of the crime, this will provide you the best opportunity to minimize the damage associated with the accusation as well as provide you the best chance to obtain a favorable outcome to your case. There are several benefits to contacting LACL immediately after you have been accused.
Once you contact Los Angeles Criminal lawyer, an FREE initial consultation will be scheduled. At that consultation you will have the opportunity to provide your attorney with all the information surrounding the event that resulted in you being accused of child abuse while it is still fresh in your mind. At LACL we know that know piece of information is meaningless, and having all of that information will allow your attorney to build the strongest defense possible to your case.
One your attorney has developed a theory of defense to your case utilizing the information you have given them, they will approach the District Attorney and present a persuasive argument in support of dismissing the charges against you altogether, or reducing the charges against you. In an ideal world, the charges will be dropped and the harms associated with an accusation of child abuse will not manifest.
In the event that your case must go to trial, your attorney will have had a significant amount of time to develop and perfect their theory of defense. Having additional time to prepare will place your attorney at a significant advantage over the Prosecution in the courtroom, and will provide you the best chance of obtaining a favorable outcome to your case.
It is a well-known fact that sometimes parents need to discipline their children, and the law acknowledges that. The crime of child abuse occurs when a parent goes beyond what is reasonable or necessary to discipline their children and causes harm to the child. Parents are authorized, to a certain extent, to discipline their children physically. The law punishes any discipline that is considered cruel and unusual. California Penal Code §273(d) makes it a crime to perform any conduct which could cause a child physical harm.
- Leaving finger sized bruises on your child’s arm from grabbing them too tightly
- Striking a child with enough force to leave a bruise
- Spanking a child
In order to obtain a conviction for child abuse, the Prosecution must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- You inflicted cruel and unusual punishment on a child;
- When you inflicted the punishment you were acting willfully;
- As a consequence of your willful punishment, a child suffered a traumatic condition; AND
- When you willfully performed the punishment, you it was not a reasonable manner of discipline.
There are two types of criminal intent required for nearly every criminal act; general or specific. General intent means that the Defendant intended to do the act that gave rise to the crime. Specific intent means the Defendant intended the outcome of their act, or acted for a specific reason. Almost all forms of battery are general intent crimes, which means that to satisfy the intent element of the crime, the Defendant only had to intend to do the action that resulted in the touching. It does not matter if the Defendant had no ill-will, or only meant to frighten the Victim The legal community has been engaged in a discussion as to whether this definition is sufficient, it has been suggested that the correct definition of willfully is a person acts “willfully” when they engage in conduct on purpose, they are aware of what they are doing, and they intend to engage in that act[i]. For practical purposes, absent extenuating circumstances, this element is fairly easy for the Prosecution to prove; many of the defenses your LACL attorney can raise will be aimed at negating the possibility that the Defendant was acting willfully.
For Child Abuse charges, it is irrelevant that you didn’t intend to harm the child, it only matters that you intended to engage in the conduct which resulted in the harm to the child. Willfully in the child abuse context requires that the Defendant knew, or should have known, that their conduct could result in harm to a child. Whether the Defendant should have known something is determined by the jury, which applies the “reasonable person test” to decide if a reasonable person aware of the same facts as the Defendant would have determined that the act may cause harm to a child.
“Cruel and Unusual Punishment”
As mentioned above, proving that the Defendant acted willfully is a simple element for the Prosecution to satisfy in most cases. The next element the Prosecution must prove is that the Defendant inflicted “cruel and unusual punishment” on a child. This means the Prosecution must show that the conduct the Defendant engaged in was intended to inflict harm on a child in manner devoid of pity or kindness. Specific examples of this conduct include kicking, slapping, throwing items, burning, choking, shaking, and punching a child. It is important to note that you can discipline your child physically, so long as it does not rise to the level of being cruel and unusual. A parent is also restricted from disciplining their child in a manner that is excessive, unreasonable, or unnecessary. Thus, if your conduct was for the purpose of disciplining your child, and it was not over the top, there is a strong defense against a conviction for child abuse.
u, as a parent in California, has a right to discipline your child, including spanking. This true, as long as your conduct isn’t unreasonable, unnecessary, or excessive. This means that if your conduct was for the purpose of discipline, and not excessive, you have a viable defense to a child abuse charge. Whether or not conduct amounted to excessive discipline is a question for the jury, and requires the most skilled advocates to persuade the jury that the conduct was acceptable discipline.
“Traumatic Physical Condition”
If the Prosecution is able to prove that the Defendant acted willfully, and exceeded their authority to discipline their child, the Prosecution must then prove that the conduct resulted in a traumatic condition to the child. The Courts are very strict in determining whether or not a traumatic condition is present, holding that even slight scratches and bruises constitute a traumatic condition. It is essential that the Prosecution prove that your act resulted in the traumatic condition however.
What is a Child?
A “child” is any individual who has not reached the age of 18, this means a person is no longer a child at 12:00AM on the day of their 18th birthday.
I Have Been Convicted of Child Abuse, What Penalties Might I Face?
As mentioned throughout this article, California acknowledges that parents have the authority and the right to discipline their children. However, California has created specific limitations on that authority. Unless the Prosecution shows that a parent exceeded their authority in disciplining their child, they cannot be convicted of child abuse.
Child abuse can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, and is known as a wobbler offense in California. The determination of how to bring the charge will be made by the District Attorney, and will be decided based on the facts surrounding your alleged child abuse.
If you are convicted of misdemeanor child abuse, you will face up to one (1) year of incarceration in county jail and/or a fine of up to six-thousand ($6,000) dollars, and/or misdemeanor probation.
If you are convicted of felony child abuse, you will face incarceration in a California State Prison for a period of time between two (2) and four (4) years.
I Have Been Accused of Child Abuse, How Can Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer Assist Me?
The crime of child abuse is known as a “wobbler offense”, which means the charge could be bought as either a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the facts of your case. Regardless of the form it takes, a criminal conviction appears on your criminal background and can cause significant hardship to you if you are forced to seek work.
Many employers conduct a background check on potential candidates for positions with their company, and are hesitant to hire someone with a prior conviction, especially one for child abuse. Convictions may serve as an absolute bar to employment with certain government agencies, and can have a significant impact on any licenses you currently hold, or any licenses you intend to obtain in the future.
Further, a conviction for child abuse will require you to place your name on the “Domestic Violence Register.” In Addition to all of these potential consequences, the social stigma associated with being convicted of child abuse are palpable.
The attorneys at LACL will fight to have the charges against you dismissed. If that does not occur, they will bring their considerable experience in the courtroom to bear and provide a theory of defense tailored to you and your case in an effort to obtain a favorable outcome to your case. Some of the defenses your LACL attorney will raise include:
- Wrongfully accused.
- You did not cause a traumatic condition
While different people have different opinions about what constitutes child abuse, the law makes clear that your conduct must be the cause of a traumatic condition in a child before you can be convicted of child abuse. Since the burden is on the Prosecution to prove every element of child abuse beyond a reasonable doubt, they also have the burden of proving a causal link between your actions and the harm to the child.
- Right to discipline
Everyone knows that children can be a handful, and are frequently petulant. As a result, everyone implicitly understands that a parent has a right, and even a duty, to discipline their children and raise productive members of society. This authority to discipline your child is limited to reasonable discipline. The Prosecution bears the burden of proving that you exceeded your right to discipline however, ad if they cannot do so you will not be convicted of child abuse.
- The injury was an accident
If you or a loved one has been accused of child abuse, contact Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer immediately at 310-502-1314 for a FREE consultation.
i California Crim. Jury Instr. Companion Handbook § 5:1, California Crim. Jury Instr. Companion Handbook § 5:1