Child abuse is a serious charge that can have significant consequences on a person’s future. If you have been charged with child abuse in California, the criminal defense attorneys in Irvine at The Law Offices of David A. Stein can effectively defend your legal rights against an unjust conviction.
Some of the most aggressively prosecuted crimes in California and throughout the United States are crimes against children. Though “child abuse” is the most common crime committed against children, it is not simply defined. There are many different acts that may be considered child abuse; these can be physical, emotional, mental, or sexual abuse. Neglect is also considered a form of child abuse. In any instance, a child abuser may face considerable criminal penalties and long-term consequences related to their personal and professional lives. Being convicted of child abuse has many repercussions beyond a criminal sentence.
California Child Abuse Laws and Penalties
There are a great many laws governing what constitutes child abuse under California’s Penal Code, however, the most commonly prosecuted concerns section 273d, which states that “any person who willfully inflicts upon a child any cruel or inhuman corporal punishment or an injury resulting in a traumatic condition is guilty of a felony” and is punishable by a prison sentence of two, four, or six years for crimes deemed a felony, or imprisonment in a county jail for a maximum of one year for those considered a misdemeanor, and/or a maximum fine of $6,000.
Dissecting the Law
Any act that causes any injury to a child may be prosecuted as an act of child abuse. But in order to prove that it is, the prosecution must show that the act was 1) willful; 2) cruel or inhuman; and 3) that it resulted in a “traumatic condition,” which is understood as an injury, whether internal or external. A prosecutor must prove all of these things, not just the first or the third.
Proving a Child Abuse Case
In most cases, if the act was committed, whether it was hitting the child or grabbing his or her arm, it is considered willful, regardless of whether the person intended to actually cause physical harm. But then the prosecution also has to prove that the willful act was a cruel and inhuman form of corporal punishment. This is where it gets tricky, as the Penal Code does not define what it means by “cruel and inhuman.” Most often, it is up to the prosecution to prove that the act fits the definitions of cruel and inhuman. Typically, unless the level of punishment is morally repugnant or shocking, it will likely not be considered cruel and inhuman. Finally, the prosecution must prove that the willful act of cruel and inhuman corporal punishment resulted in injury, whether minor or severe.
Because child abuse cases are rarely clear-cut, it is often left up to the prosecution to convince the jury that the circumstances of the case are in line with an incident of child abuse.
Defending Against Child Abuse Accusations
A parent has the right to, within reason, physically discipline his or her own child as long as it does not cause bodily harm. Unless physical discipline becomes excessive, it is not considered child abuse under California law. An experienced Orange County child abuse defense attorney can effectively argue against child abuse charges if he or she can prove that the inflicted corporal punishment was warranted, reasonable, and not excessive in any way.
False accusations are, unfortunately, common among child abuse cases. Ex-spouses, as well as ex-girlfriends and/or boyfriends, may bring child abuse charges against you as the result of ulterior motives and not as the result of your actions. In certain circumstances, a child may even inflict injury upon him- or herself to “punish” one of the parents.
Part of being a kid is being clumsy. Children often suffer injuries as the result of falling off their bike, bumping into a tree while playing tag, and other innocent accidents. But those injuries may give someone the idea that they are being abused at home and result in him or her submitting a report to authorities. An experienced criminal defense attorney would be able to call this misleading evidence into question.
Protecting Your Legal Rights
David A. Stein is an aggressive child abuse defense attorney in Orange County and has the skills and resources necessary to ensure that false accusations and misleading evidence have no bearing on your case. If you have been charged with child abuse, contact The Law Offices of David A. Stein today at (949) 445-0040 for a consultation of your legal rights and options.