There are not many crimes that conjure as many negative emotions as child abuse. While there are some child abuse cases that are extremely serious where a child is seriously hurt, in other cases the child is not hurt at all but the defendant’s behavior put the child at risk, resulting in the child abuse charge.
Recently, there have been several high profile child abuse cases in North Carolina, prompting the legislature to strengthen the penalties for child abuse charges. These types of charges have far reaching impact in that they are handled in the criminal system but also can include CPS involvement and potential impacts to custody.
North Carolina child abuse charges can be either misdemeanors or felonies. Misdemeanor child abuse is defined any parent or person providing car or supervision to a child under the age of 16 who inflicts injury, allows physical injury to be inflicted, or who creates are allows a substantial risk of physical injury to be created by other than accidental means. This is a Class A1 misdemeanor, meaning it is the most serious misdemeanor classification.
Felony child abuse can be categorized as either a Class B2, Class D, E, or G felony. As a point of note, a B2 felony classification is the same classification used for 2nd degree murder. A further analysis of the various classifications is as follows:
- Class B2 – A parent or any other person providing care to or supervision of a child less than 16 years of age who intentionally inflicts any serious bodily injury to the child or who intentionally commits an assault upon the child which results in any serious bodily injury to the child, or which results in permanent or protracted loss or impairment of any mental or emotional function of the child.
- Class D – A person providing care to a child less than 16 years of age who intentionally inflicts any serious physical injury upon the child or who intentionally commits an assault upon the child which results in any serious physical injury to the child; A person who commits, permits, or encourages any act of prostitution with or by the child; A person who commits or allows the commission of any sexual act upon the child.
- Class E – A willful act or grossly negligent omission in the care of the child shows a reckless disregard for human life if the act or omission results in serious bodily injury to the child.
- Class G – A willful act or grossly negligent omission in the care of the child shows a reckless disregard for human life if the act or omission results in serious physical injury to the child.
When dealing with the criminal justice system, especially in terms of Class E and above felonies, structured sentencing requires a mandatory minimum prison sentence.
Beyond the criminal implications, Child Protective Services (CPS) usually gets involved in child abuse cases. This can result in recommendations of parenting classes, regular home visits, removal of children from the home, and being places on what’s called a responsible party list. The responsible party list is a listing of individuals that CPS believes should not have children in their care. Even if a criminal charge is favorably resolved, the CPS implications can still continue.
While accusations of child abuse often occur with a single parent or caregiver, there are times where multiple caregivers are accused of the abuse. In these cases, it is important to recognize that each defendant will need their own attorney. Using the same attorney will present a conflict of interest which will negatively impact at least one party, if not all parties. Using the same attorney for multiple co-defendants means that a plea deal would most likely not be offered, as many pleas in cases of this nature involve once client testifying against the other.
If you or a loved one are charged with a child abuse charge, no matter how minor or serious, contact an experienced, ethical child abuse lawyer for help as soon as possible. Raleigh criminal lawyer Damon Chetson has significant experience with these types of cases, including a recent case that would now be classified as a B2 felony in a shaken baby syndrome case. In that case, he was able to have his client found not-guilty after a protracted legal battle and a jury trial.