In Southern California, the law permits parents to use physical force to discipline a child, such as spanking or using a paddle, for example. However, California Penal Code Section 273d PC sets the parameters for when such physical punishment constitutes child abuse, a criminal offense.
Child abuse occurs when an individual intentionally inflicts a cruel or inhuman physical punishment or an injury that caused a traumatic injury. In these instances, the individual was not disciplining the child in a reasonable manner.
Many cases of alleged child abuse present a gray area wherein the disciplinary actions constituted child abuse or acceptable physical punishment. In these cases, prosecutors will weigh other factors when determining whether not to move forward with charging a defendant for criminal child abuse in Southern California. They will consider whether or not the child suffered an injury if an object was physically used on the child and if the defendant has a history of child abuse.
A child abuse case typically starts with a mandatory reporter like a teacher or a health care professional that identifies a child’s injuries or is told by the child that they are abused at home. Despite gray areas, mandatory reporters must notify authorities of child abuse. Once the report has been received, police will investigate by interviewing the parents and the children in the home. At the same time, the applicable local California Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) conducts its own investigation. It can recommend the removal of the children from the home to be then relocated to a safe setting.
There are several defense strategies to consider in child abuse cases. Defense attorneys handle cases frequently that result from false accusations, often stemming from child abuse allegations during divorce proceedings. In these cases, the defense attorney’s strategy would show that child abuse allegations were exaggerated or entirely made up.
Defense attorneys also handle child abuse cases where their client’s behavior abides with what the law permits and would not be guilty of child abuse.
As noted above, a child abuse case can be filed as a misdemeanor or a felony. A child abuse misdemeanor conviction prevents an individual from ever working in areas like childcare, teaching, or nursing.
A child abuse felony conviction can mean up to six years in prison, or up to 10 years, for defendants with previous child abuse convictions.
If you or someone you know has been arrested for child abuse, contact DRE Law immediately to consult with a child abuse defense attorney. You need an attorney with deep experience in managing such complex and sensitive cases.