Child Abuse Charges in Texas
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Child abuse violations are found in both the Texas Family Code, which deals with civil actions and the Texas Penal Code, which speaks to criminal offenses. It is important to understand that if you are arrested on charges of child abuse, you may be subject to both civil and criminal penalties.
Specifically, the Penal Code defines the basis for criminal prosecution of an individual who assaults or commits a crime against a child. Meanwhile, the Family Code defines child abuse to mean an act or omission that endangers or impairs a child’s physical, mental, or emotional health and development. The abuse involved may involve various forms of abuse, including:
- Physical or emotional injury;
- Sexual abuse;
- Sexual exploitation;
- Physical neglect;
- Medical neglect; or
- Inadequate supervision.
While child abuse may take many different forms, one specific area that is exempted from this category is that of “reasonable” discipline coming from a parent, guardian, or conservator of the child.
Also take the note that the crime of neglect is often judged on a case-by-case basis. This is to say that charges will not be brought against a parent or guardian that is not financially capable of providing for the child. For example, a child living in poverty will not be considered to have suffered from neglect under Texas law.
An individual will normally not be charged with abuse from an action stemming from an accidental injury. However, the individual may be charged with a crime if he puts the child in a situation where the child is exposed to “substantial risk” of either injury or harm. It is also a violation if the individual fails to make a reasonable effort to prevent harm to the child brought on by another.
Indications of Abuse & Texas Law
There are certain indications and circumstances that will cause specially trained professionals to make the determination that any number of abuses have been inflicted upon the child. The professional will look at a variety of factors including:
- No reasonable explanation of the injury: This often comes up when a child comes to school in unseasonable clothes, has trouble explaining where a bruise came from, or is absent from school or daycare for any given amount of time. In these cases, the parent(s) will be seem disinterested or unconcerned about the injury or absence.
- Unique injury for the child’s specific age: Older children are more capable of explaining an injury as having occurred through normal activity or behavior attributed to that age. Meanwhile, a fracture apparent in an infant is suspect because that is abnormal for that age.
- The location and frequency of the wounds: If the injuries on the child are primarily located on the back of the body or seem to be defensive wounds, the wounds may likely be caused by intentional abuse. Doctors and other trained professionals are capable of determining ages of wounds based on their color. This may alert the doctor or other individual that there is an ongoing cycle of abuse.
- Unique burns or patterns of scalding: If a child shows evidence of a unique type of burn, there is cause to assume abuse has occurred. A common example of this is a cigarette burn on the child’s skin. Because it is instinctive for an individual to withdraw from something that is hot to the touch, it is strange for the burn to be present on the child. Along with that, there are also clear indicators of child abuse when a unique pattern of scalding appears on the child. One situation where this occurs is when a child is forced to sit in too hot of water.
- Head injuries: Head injuries in children prove to be disconcerting for a couple of reasons. First, they are often not visible. Second, they can range from mild to quite severe and even life threatening. Lastly, they can be caused by the children themselves, especially when the child is quite young.
- Unexplained death: Any death of a child that is caused by unexplained reasons must be considered a homicide from the start and investigated as such.
- Shaken Baby Syndrome: A professional may notice evidence of a child having been shaken violently if vomiting, seizures, or convulsions have occurred. If a young child survives this shaking, he will often suffer permanent injuries that may leave him blind, deaf, or otherwise disabled.
Penalties for Child Abuse in Texas
Under Texas state law, the penalties related to child abuse charges will vary depending on the type of injury inflicted upon the child:
- First Degree Felony: Punishable by 5-99 years in prison and a fine for as much as $10,000. This will be the appropriate charge if the defendant acted intentionally or knowingly and caused serious bodily or mental injury.
- Second Degree Felony: Punishable by 2-20 years in prison and a fine for as much as $10,000. This is the appropriate charge if the defendant acted recklessly and caused serious bodily or mental injury.
- Third Degree Felony: Punishable by 2-10 years in prison and a fine for as much as $10,000. This charge is employed when the defendant acted intentionally or knowingly and caused bodily injury.
- State Jail Felony: Punishable by 180 days-2 years in jail and a fine for as much as $10,000. This is the appropriate charge when the defendant acted recklessly and caused bodily injury.
Can I be Charged in Texas for NOT Reporting Child Abuse?
In Texas, one can be charged with a misdemeanor for failing to report child abuse. The law states that an individual must immediately report suspected abuse to a state or local law enforcement agency or the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
Certain individuals who are employed as teachers, doctors, nurses, or daycare workers must make a verbal report within 48 hours after suspected child abuse. A conviction of this nature is punishable by up to 180 days in jail and/or a fine for as much as $2,000.
Don’t Wait to Contact an Attorney
As you can see, child abuse charges can lead to severe penalties that include both fines and imprisonment. That is why it is in your best interest to contact an experienced, professional criminal defense attorney who will help you work through your legal matters and help to ensure that you receive the best outcome possible in your case. Get in touch with The Wilder Firm to schedule a free initial consultation.
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