Child abuse accusations are quite common nowadays, and the most worrying trend is the rate at which the relationship between accused parents and their children change afterwards. A case of an abused child will draw sympathy from everyone around them, and many people end up pointing fingers at the accused, without first establishing if the accusations are true or not. A child abuse charge is severe and may affect several aspects of a person’s life, including the way one relates to their family, children, and other people. However, Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer can help you fight these charges and ensure that you gain back your freedom and your reputation.

Legal Definition of Child Abuse

Child abuse is defined as acting or failing to act, on the part of a parent or caregiver, which results to the death, emotional harm or severe physical harm, exploitation or sexual abuse of a child. Child abuse laws in California are provided under Penal Code 11164 and are meant to protect children against any form of abuse and neglect. A broad definition of the crime is any cruelty that can be perpetrated on a minor, such as physical abuse, mental abuse, exploitation, sexual abuse, and neglect. Laws on child abuse also contain provisions that require those adults who have access to minors, for example, doctors and teachers, to report any signs of damage as soon as they notice it.

In the country, parents and guardians have the right to bring up as well as discipline their child the way they think is right, but the laws about child abuse will come in to protect the child against any serious harm that could befall them in the process of being brought up and disciplined. Sadly, child abuse cases are more common in the country than anyone would expect, even when such clear laws are in place. Statistics show that every year, over three (3) million cases of child abuse are reported, which involve more than six (6) million children.

Child abuse laws in the country vary greatly depending on one’s jurisdiction and so in California; strict child abuse laws are in place, as well as laws requiring mandatory reporting and steep penalties for those who fail to report and those who are found guilty of the offense.

Because of the general nature of the crime, child abuse is a critical legal issue to have. If a person is accused of child abuse, it is crucial for them to have a well-trained and experienced Los Angeles criminal attorney by their side. In such cases, the outcome is mainly based on the kind of legal defense your attorney has put in the case

Forms of Child Abuse

Child abuse can happen for several reasons and in different circumstances. The unfortunate thing to note is that in most cases, children do not go through one type of exploitation at a time. There is also no form of child abuse that is more superior to the other. Emotional abuse will be as detrimental to the child’s life as neglect, sexual abuse, and physical abuse. Some forms of abuse occur at the same time as others; for instance, sexual abuse may occur at the same time as neglect and mistreatment. Here are the common forms of child abuse in California:

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse of children also comes as a form of psychological abuse or maltreatment. This has been reported as the most popular type of minor abuse in the state and could also be experienced by minors who have witnessed domestic violence. Often, emotional abuse happens together with other forms of abuse, such as physical abuse.  However, some parents or caregivers abuse their children emotionally, without necessarily getting physical with them.

Emotional abuse can happen in many situations. It could, for instance, be an act of omission, commonly referred to as emotional neglect. This applies to what the parents or caregivers fail to do for the child, for instance, not showing them love or affection. It could also be expressed in acts of commission, for example, what is done to the child, such as ugly humiliation, insults, rejection, restricting them from accessing learning, socializing and exploring opportunities as well as setting unreasonable standards for children.

Both these two acts, of omission and commission, can negatively impact a child’s ability to interact with other children and their self-esteem.

Emotional abuse may even happen without the parent ever realizing it. This is more so with parents who do not see their children as separate people, or those who use their children to achieve personal goals in life. Some parents have aggressive parenting styles, which include intimidation and shouting.

Emotional abuse does not only happen in homes but also in places where children spend time in, including schools. Some teachers and adults who are in a position power directly or indirectly, also abuse children emotionally. Other children are abused emotionally by older children through bullying.

Child Neglect

This too is a form of minor abuse, and it involves failing to meet the basic needs of a child, including failing to provide supervision, adequate health care, nutrition, clothing and housing as well as emotional, physical, social, educational and safety needs of the child. Child neglect is a severe act of omission by the person charged with the responsibility of a minor, to provide all the factors that are necessary for the survival of that child, whether physically or emotionally. A parent is the one fully charged with the responsibility of providing all the basic needs a child will need as they grow failure to which they are referred to The Child Protection Services.

Neglect will happen if the parent or the child’s caregiver fails to provide the child’s needs adequately, including shelter, food, love, Medicare, care, and support. Parents and caregivers should also look out for the children under their care as well as offer the necessary moral and legal guidance to ensure that the child grows to be a responsible human being. In addition to that, parents and caregivers are mandated with ensuring that children under their care are attending school regularly.

Child neglect could be categorized as emotional neglect, supervisory neglect, medical neglect, physical negligence, abandonment, and educational neglect.

There are, however, instances in which the parent or the child’s caretaker is not in a mental or physical position to care for the child under their care. This may occur due to illness, depression, an injury, substance use, or anxiety. Child neglect can also happen because the parent or the caregiver does not have the necessary resources to meet the needs of the child adequately. This is the point where child welfare services come in.

Physical Abuse

Physical child abuse can be defined as any physical activity that is non-accidentally inflicted on a child, by the person who is charged with the responsibility of taking care of that child. Sometimes that physical activity is not usually intended to hurt that child, and in most cases, it is justified as a discipline by the caregiver. Physical abuse on a child can come as a form of anger that is lashed out on the child by their parent or caregiver or an adult and is usually unpredictable. In some instances, physical abuse will come with another form of abuse, such as neglect and emotional abuse.

There are many reasons why parents or caregivers will abuse a child physically, sometimes because of the unrealistic expectations they have on the child. Some adults do not take time to understand the needs of their children or how to interrelate with those children. In other instances, adults who have health, relationship, or even trauma issues or those who have gone through abuse in their childhood may end up physically abusing children under their care. Lastly, if a parent has difficulties managing their emotions, behavior, or anger, they may end up directing them to an innocent child in their care.

A physically abused child will have difficulties relating to its peers as well as grown-ups who are around them. Such children will find it hard to trust and will always be alert and vigilant for any threat or violence. Some of these children will become aggressive and bossy and could be found reacting extremely in various situations. Their academics, coordination, and physical development may also be affected.

Child Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse in kids can be used to refer to incidents in which an adolescent, adult or another child use their authority and power to engage in a sexual act with a minor or expose the minor to inappropriate sexual material or behavior. Sexual abuse can also be done through physical force or threats, and in other instances; it could be done through manipulation. An adult or an older child may make the child believe that the act will be done out of love or that they are the reason why they are being abused.

Sexual abuse could involve physical contact or even non-contact with the offender. It could happen if the offender fondles the genitals of a child, masturbates or performs oral, anal or virginal sex through penetration by their penis, an object, or even their fingers. It could also occur if the offender fondles the breasts of a minor, through exhibitionism, voyeurism or through publicly exposing the child or involving the minor to child pornography.

The sad reality about child sexual abuse is that it happens in secret and all children are vulnerable to the abuse, both girls and boys.

Sexually abused children are usually unhappy, withdrawn, and suicidal and can easily harm themselves. Some have trouble sleeping, and others experience nightmares as well as bedwetting.

Childhood Family and Domestic Violence

Family and domestic violence is a severe pattern of abuse where one person takes a spot of authority over others in a family. That person could use threats, control, fear or force to intimidate members of their family and domestic abuse can sometimes include physical violence, emotional assault, and sexual abuse as well as isolation from friends and other members of the family, stalking and personal damage. Occasionally it can include psychological abuse, where manipulation and denial are used to control the abused person. 

Children who are growing up in a family and domestic violence live with fear and could always anxious and unable to concentrate. Some cases of domestic violence cause severe psychological and emotional trauma to children. In a family where there is domestic violence, children are in most cases neglected, or the abused person may subject the children to other types of abuse such as emotional and physical.

Organized Abuse

This is a situation whereby several abusers target several children. Children in organized abuse situations experience all kinds of harm, which may include prostitution, atypical sexual practices, child pornography, torture, and sometimes ritualistic abuse. Children who grow up in abusive families may find themselves in organized abuse situations, and their abusers sometimes include family members and family friends. Some children are trafficked into these organized groups, especially for homeless children and orphans.

Elements of Abuse in Children

Child abuse is said to occur when a person is proven to have:

  • Unjustifiable inflicted mental suffering or physical pain to a child
  • Willfully allowed or caused a child to suffer physical pain unjustifiably or mentally
  • Willfully permitted or let a child's health to be injured
  • Willfully endangered the health of a child
  • The child was under their custody

The law requires a parent or a person who has been entrusted with the care of a child no to allow the minor to suffer, to get injured or endangered. If this happens, the defendant will not be reasonably disciplining that child but abusing them.

Willfully, in this case, means that the defendant acted willingly or on purpose, knowing too well the consequences of their actions.

A child, in this case, will be a person that is below the age of eighteen (18).

Unjustifiable mental suffering or physical pain is the kind of suffering that is not considered necessary or one that is excessive under given circumstances.

Criminal negligence has been used to refer to carelessness that is beyond normal or failure by the parent or caregiver to pay close attention to a child or a mistake in judgment on their part.

Penalties for Child Abuse

In California, a child abuse charge can either be a misdemeanor or felony depending on the defendant’s prior convictions, the injuries the child sustained, the form of abuse, and the presiding judge. Charges can be heightened if the defendant inflicted harm upon a susceptible child.

If charged with a misdemeanor, the defendant can be sentenced to the county jail for a period of up to one year and fined an amount not exceeding six thousand ($6,000) dollars. They will also be required to pay restitution for the child to ensure that the child gets the necessary medical treatment.

If, on the other hand, you are charged with a felony, you will get a maximum sentence of six (6) years or a minimum of two (2) years in state prison. The defendant could get probation in such a penalty, which is usually for a minimum of three (3) years. During this probation period, they will be required to attend child abuse classes, to engage in meaningful community service as well as protective order for the child. If the defendant was found to be involved in drugs or alcohol, they might be required by the court to attend Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

A person with a previous conviction for the same crime for the past ten years may get an additional four years to their sentence, even if they were sentenced to two years in prison.

California has a mandatory reporting rule for child abuse cases, requiring people like child visitation monitors, health practitioners, animal control officers, firefighters, district attorneys, human society officers, the clergy, social workers, daycare workers and other people who interact with children in one way or the other to report any signs of abuse immediately. If it is established that a person knew or reasonably suspected, or they observed a child being abused and did not report it to a child protective agency, they can be severely punished. Punishment for failing to report may include a jail term for not more than six months and a fine of not more than one thousand ($1000) dollars.

Find a Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer Near Me

A child abuse charge attracts very steep penalties in California and could cause a person to lose custody of their child or children. You could be wrongly accused of child abuse, and without a proper defense, you may end up paying for a crime you did not commit. What you need is a competent attorney, who will take time to listen to you, to understand the story behind the charges and plan for an effective defense. Call the Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer today at 310-502-1314 to learn about the possible defense strategies that could help your case.