How To Fight A Child Abuse Charge In NC
There are over 300,000 reports of child abuse each year in the United States alone. Many are factual and warranted, but some are baseless and untrue. The one thing all child abuse accusations have in common, however, is their potential to ruin the alleged assailant’s life.
At Manning Law Firm in Raleigh NC, our expert child abuse defense attorneys are here to fight for your life. If you have been charged with child neglect, endangerment or abuse, read this blog to better understand the law, proactively fight for your freedom and prepare for what comes next.
North Carolina Child Abuse Laws
Before getting into the do’s and don’ts of defending your charge, it’s important to understand the applicable laws which govern these crimes:
NC Misdemeanor Child Abuse Charges
According to North Carolina General Statute 14-318.2., Misdemeanor Child Abuse exists when any parent of a child less than 16 years of age, or any other person providing care to or supervision of such child, inflicts physical injury, or who allows physical injury to be inflicted, or who creates or allows to be created a substantial risk of physical injury, upon or to such child by other than accidental means.
In North Carolina, misdemeanor child abuse is classified as an A1 misdemeanor – one of the most serious misdemeanor violations. Depending on prior criminal history and other details of the crime, a judge can impose an Active, Intermediate or Community status to your sentence. An Active punishment means jail time, while Intermediate and Community punishments yield much less severe consequences.
NC Felony Child Abuse Charges
North Carolina General Statute 14-318.4. characterizes felony child abuse as any parent or any other person providing care to or supervision of a child less than 16 years of age who intentionally inflicts any serious physical injury upon or to the child or who intentionally commits an assault upon the child which results in any serious physical injury to the child. The statute classifies felony child abuse as a Class D felony. Other felony child abuse classifications include:
- Class B2 Child Abuse – Serious bodily injury to a minor.
- Class D Child Abuse – Serious injury, prostitution or other sexual acts against a minor.
- Class E Child Abuse – Willful or grossly negligent omission which shows a reckless disregard for human life resulting in serious bodily injury to a minor.
- Class G Child Abuse – Willful or grossly negligent acts or omissions showing a reckless disregard for human life and results in serious physical injury to the child.
I was accused of child abuse. What now?
It’s natural to panic when you’ve been accused of child neglect, endangerment or abuse. And though there are serious consequences to a conviction, you can successfully fight the charges if you stay smart, patient and determined. If you’ve been charged with child abuse in Wake or the surrounding counties, here are some essential do’s and don’ts of defending yourself:
Do: Take the charges seriously. The first thing you must do when charged with child abuse is understand the severity of the crime. The State views child abuse as one of the more repulsive infractions against another human, and it will dedicate the necessary time, money and other resources to prevent and deter it.
Don’t: Believe innocence will save you. Innocence is obviously critical to defending yourself. However, many innocent defendants believe their innocence allows them to be more relaxed, colloquial and off-guard throughout the investigation. This is not the case! You still need a lawyer, you still should not talk to the police without one present, and you should still do everything in your power to defend yourself and your innocence. This is your life. Do not take it lightly.
Do: Find a lawyer for child abuse. If you are charged with child abuse in Raleigh or the surrounding areas, your first order of business should be to find the best lawyer you can possibly hire. You need a lawyer with experience defending child abuse charges, someone who is detailed, relentless and sharp.
Don’t: Give a statement to the police without a lawyer present. Even if you are confident in your innocence, do not speak to the police or give a statement without your lawyer present! Any statements you make can be used against you throughout the investigation and potentially in court at trial.
How do officials investigate child abuse charges?
Once you get a feel for the first couple steps in defending yourself against a child abuse charge, it’s then time to prepare yourself for what comes next: the police investigation.
There are a variety of ways police investigate these crimes because every allegation is different. But as a starting point, investigators will follow two main rules of thumb when working a child abuse case:
- Evaluate the child. When abuse is alleged, the judge will typically order the child be examined by medical and mental health experts, which can be especially burdensome for the children. It can also be a time-consuming and expensive process.
- Evaluate the family/parent. Per judge discretion, family protective services may be ordered to evaluate the holistic family environment and your individual parenting skills. They will question people close to you about your behavior and your parenting, which can be intrusive and straining for families and friends.
How do the NC courts evaluate child abuse charges?
Much of what law enforcement and other state officials find in their investigation will influence the Court at trial. As it weighs the evidence, the Court will generally apply the following values to help direct its verdict:
- Child safety above all else. Child abuse laws are in place, first and foremost, to protect children from harm. The Court will exercise every resource to ensure the child is safe. This is its number one priority.
- Protect parental rights. The Court hears the arguments from both sides and is careful to pass down any harsh decisions. This is because the Court aims to protect not just the child, but the rights of the parent as well. A child should be with its parents and parents with child, and the Court will consider this value heavily when passing its verdict.
- Bring child abusers to justice. The Court acts as the mouthpiece of the NC judicial branch. In addition to ensuring child safety and protecting the rights of parents, the Court’s most critical role perhaps is bringing criminals to justice. If found guilty, defendants will endure whatever sentence the Court deems necessary to satisfy that judicial duty. We’ll talk more about sentencing below.
My case is going to trial. How can I strengthen my child abuse defense?
Like most child abuse cases, you could go to trial if you do not accept a plea bargain. Going to trial can be a daunting task for defendants and their families, but in order to win, you must work with your defense team. Here are some important ways you can help your case:
- Record everything. Discard nothing. Keeping meticulous documentation and record of everything having to do with your case is critical for your defense team. This will help prove or disprove points of contention in your favor as the case progresses.
- Find witnesses to testify on your behalf. Expert witnesses are some of the most important assets you can have on your side. An expert witness is a professional, usually in a medical field, whose testimony carries immense value with the Court. Equally important are character witnesses, such as other family members, friends, etc. who can testify to your character as a person and a parent.
What happens if I am found guilty of child abuse in North Carolina?
Even after understanding the law, how it is applied and doing everything you can to help your defense attorney, it is possible you could still be found guilty. In the event you are convicted, there are a variety of factors which determine what happens next. Below are some potential consequences of each conviction tier.
Possible consequences of a misdemeanor child abuse conviction:
- Allowed only supervised access to your child
- Lose complete custody of and/or visitation rights with your child
- Lifetime placement on the NC Sex Offender Registry (Read: How To Get Off the Sex Offender Registry in NC)
- Prison term up to 5 years
Possible consequences of a felony child abuse conviction:
- Prison term of 1 or more years, up to lifetime imprisonment
- Lose complete custody of and/or visitation rights with your child
- Lifetime placement on the NC Sex Offender Registry
Are you ready to fight your child abuse charge?
If you have been accused of child abuse in North Carolina, you face life-changing circumstances that could not only impair your future, but that of your family as well. You need a powerful, experienced, intelligent child abuse defense attorney at your back to successfully fight your charges and move on with your life. Contact the child abuse defense experts at Manning Law Firm immediately.
This article is intended for general information only. The information presented in this article should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship.