October 4, 2018
There’s an uncomfortable truth that our state has to face: a lot of child abuse occurs in Texas.
How much? From 2012 to 2016, Texas had more reported cases of child abuse than any other state.
Obviously, this is a huge social problem that we need to tackle, and law enforcement are under enormous pressure to identify child abuse and bring the perpetrators to justice.
The downside of all this attention is that sometimes people can be overzealous in their crusade against abuse, targeting innocent individuals and/or cutting corners to make sure “bad” people face consequences.
Because of this, if you are charged with child abuse, you need to understand the laws and penalties that govern these types of crimes. We’re going to detail those in this post, as well as letting you know how you can fight back against your charges.
Child Abuse Laws in Texas
In Texas, the child abuse laws prohibit the emotional, physical, or sexual abuse of minors.
These are some of the specific actions that constitute abuse under Texas law:
- Inflicting mental or emotional injury on a child, which impairs the child’s development, growth, or psychological functioning
- Failing to reasonably prevent someone from inflicting mental or emotional injury on a child
- Inflicting physical injury that results in substantial harm to a child
- Sexually abusing or exploiting a child
- Using a controlled substance which causes physical or mental harm to a child
If someone threatens or acts with intent to cause injury to a child, a charge of domestic assault can apply. Accidental injury will not normally be charged as abuse unless the action exposed the child to substantial risk of harm or injury
If a child is injured due to disciplinary actions, the actions will be measured against what is reasonable discipline in the eyes of the judge and jury. Reasonable discipline factors include the child’s age, the severity level of the offender’s actions, the level of harm or potential harm the child experienced, and the individuals’ cultural backgrounds.
Sexual abuse is harshly punished in Texas. Minors are not able to provide consent, and the laws always work in a minor’s favor. Importantly, sexual abuse does not always involve force. Coercion may also result in a conviction.
Neglect is another form of abuse. Acts of neglect include failure to provide shelter, medical care, and/or emotional support. The age of the child will factor into a charge of neglect. The judge will also consider the socioeconomic class of the parent and whether that factored into the case.
Factors that Determine Texas Child Abuse
Texas courts look at each accusation of child abuse on a case-by-case basis. These factors will be used to determine whether the charges can be prosecuted.
- Evidence of injury without a reasonable explanation
- Evidence of shaking an infant
- Various head injuries
- Injury that is not typical for the child’s age
- Certain burn or scalding patterns
- Frequency and location of injuries
If you are accused of child abuse, it’s important to contact a knowledgeable Texas defense attorney as soon as possible to start building a defense.
Texas Child Abuse Penalties
If you are convicted of child abuse in Texas, you can expect to receive stiff penalties depending on the child’s injuries. These are the possible charges and penalties for child abuse offenses.
State Jail Felony
If you are accused of reckless actions that caused bodily injury to a child, this charge will apply. You could spend between 180 days and 2 years in jail and be required to pay a fine of up to $10,000 if convicted.
Third Degree Felony
This charge is issued if you act with intent or knowledge and cause bodily injury to a child. You may face between two and 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Second Degree Felony
You may receive this charge if you are accused of acting recklessly and causing serious mental or bodily injury to a child. Your prison sentence will vary between two and 20 years, and you will be required to pay a fine of up to $10,000 if convicted.
First Degree Felony
If you knowingly or intentionally caused serious mental or bodily injury to a child, this charge will apply. The sentence if convicted is 5 to 99 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
You could also be subject to civil penalties if the victim’s family presses charges against you.
If You Want a Positive Outcome, Start Crafting Your Defense Strategy Immediately
Since a conviction for child abuse will result in serious fines and incarceration, it’s essential that you begin working on your defense as soon as possible. It is not hyperbole to say that a conviction can ruin your life and destroy your reputation, forever branding you in a certain way.
There are things you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones, but the earlier you begin, the better your chance at the best possible outcome.
About the Author:
The strength of Brian S. Eppes as a lawyer is in his unique and varied background. Like many other private attorneys, at one point he worked as a prosecutor. However, he also served in George W. Bush’s White House, has helped Texas legislators to write laws, and spent time at a tax and estate planning firm. These experiences have enabled him to look at cases in a different way than his peers and find creative solutions that benefit his clients.