Child abuse is prohibited by statute in the state of California, and prosecutors are known for aggressively pursuing suspected violators. This is equally true for prosecutors at the Los Angeles courthouse in Los Angeles, California. Unfortunately, this often means that parents who are disciplining their child can face serious allegations of child abuse, as can parents of children who were hurt in other situations, like by a bully in school.
Parents facing allegations of child abuse often need a lawyer to clear things up. Los Angeles criminal defense attorney William Kroger can help.
Child Abuse Laws in Los Angeles, California
The main statute dealing with child abuse is California Penal Code 273d. This law prohibits the willful infliction of two types of conduct on someone under the age of 18:
Any cruel or inhuman corporal punishment
An injury resulting in a traumatic condition
There are several important words and phrases to unpack.
Willful Infliction in Los Angeles, CA
Not all cruel or inhuman corporal punishments or traumatic conditions lead to strong allegations of child abuse. Instead, the conduct has to be done willfully. Hurting a child by accident – even if the resulting injury is a terrible one – does not rise to the level of child abuse because there is no intent to cause harm.
Injuries From a Traumatic Condition in Los Angeles, CA
The statute's use of the phrase “traumatic condition” is slightly misleading. Instead of meaning a situation that causes emotional trauma, California's child abuse statute is focused on instances of physical trauma, or direct physical contact between an adult and a child. These include:
Strikes with an object, like a belt or wooden spoon, or projectile, like a shoe
If any of these sources of trauma hits a child and causes a wound or other injury – even a minor one – it can lead to child abuse allegations.
Cruel or Inhuman Corporal Punishment in Los Angeles, CA
Corporal punishment, as used in the child abuse statute, means any physical reprimand. Words, threats, or other emotional punishment do not fall under the guise of corporal punishment.
What constitutes corporal punishment that is “cruel or inhuman,” though, is often a very fact-intensive debate that can take into account factors such as:
The child's age
The size and physique of the parent compared to that of the child
The gender of the parent and child
In the end, the definition of what constitutes punishment that is cruel or inhuman is something that a jury would have to decide if a case goes to trial.
Penalties of a Conviction for Child Abuse in Los Angeles
Child abuse charges are “wobblers” in California: They can be pursued by prosecutors as either a misdemeanor or as a felony-level offense, depending on the circumstances of a given case and your criminal history. Generally, first offenses for child abuse are pursued as misdemeanors.
A conviction for a misdemeanor offense of child abuse can come with a jail sentence of up to a year, a fine of up to $6,000. A felony-level offense of child abuse, on the other hand, carries a jail sentence of up to six years in addition to the fine of up to $6,000.
However, the jail sentence can have four years added to it if you have been convicted for child abuse in the past.
In many cases, though, judges will choose to forego a jail sentence in favor of a strict period of probation. The terms of this probation sentence can include:
Drug testing, if drugs were involved in the offense
A one-year child abuse treatment program
Anger management classes
A restraining order
Defending Against a Charge of Child Abuse in Los Angeles, CA
Allegations of child abuse are shocking for parents and family members. However, even when the accused is innocent, saying that it is all a misunderstanding is rarely enough to have the charges dropped. Child abuse defendants have an uphill battle to show that they were not responsible and fight the allegations to have the charges dismissed.
There are several legal defense strategies that can work against an allegation of child abuse both in Los Angeles, CA and in LA County.
Accident vs Willfully Caused - Abuse in Los Angeles, CA
For a charge of child abuse to stick, the prosecutor has to show that the injuries or punishment were willfully caused. If they were just an accident – if the child fell or even if you hit them by mistake – the lack of intent can be an effective defense.
The Injury was Caused by Someone Else in Los Angeles
Children get hurt by siblings, friends, or foes all the time. Not every injury that they suffer was caused by a parent in an instance of child abuse. Showing that this was the case in your situation can prevent an allegation of child abuse from getting too far.
Lawful Discipline in Los Angeles
Disciplining a child is a right that every parent has in Los Angeles, California. This includes the right to use corporal punishment as a disciplinary technique. So long as the discipline is reasonable and causes no bodily injury, parents are free to spank their children without fearing a conviction for child abuse.
False Allegations in Los Angeles
Unfortunately, there are many reasons why people report allegations of child abuse and start the investigation process. Some of them are legitimate, while others are not. Parents going through a divorce can face child abuse allegations from a spouse who wants to taint their reputation in an attempt to get more child custody. Some children even report their parents for child abuse because they are angry.
Defending against a false allegation of child abuse can be tricky. However, by pointing to the context in which the allegation was made and highlighting the interests or biases of the people behind the allegation, a false charge of child abuse can be contained.
William Kroger: Los Angeles's Child Abuse Defense Lawyer
William Kroger is a criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles who represents people who have been accused of child abuse. By gathering evidence that it was all a misunderstanding and showing that what you did does not amount to child abuse, attorney Kroger can protect you from a serious criminal charge and protect your reputation as a parent. Contact him online or call his Los Angeles law office at 323-655-5700.