Child abuse charges, of any severity, carry a certain stigma. It often does not feel as though a person charged is in fact, “innocent until proven guilty.” This is because, just the mere charge of child abuse carries sometimes quick, collateral consequences. The collateral consequences of a child abuse charge can affect almost every area of a person’s life from their home, life and their employment.
A few of the collateral consequences a person can face as a result of a child abuse charge include losing a position of employment and/or not being eligible for an educational or employment opportunity. A person charged with child abuse could lose their child or children through a DHS proceeding and even possibly be mistreated or harassed in the community all due to being charged (or mischarged as is often the case) with child abuse.
If you or someone you know has been charged with child abuse, it’s imperative you seek legal representation. You may be facing severe penalties including steep fines and time behind bars. If you’re the parent of the child, then you could even lose custody and your child could be placed with the Department of Human Services in Colorado.
Defense Attorney for Child Abuse in El Paso County, CO
Have you been charged with child abuse in the El Paso County area? If so, it’s important you have legal counsel. A child abuse charge could lead to you losing custody of your children or issues with future employers. Hiring a defense lawyer can significantly increase your chances of having your charges reduced or dismissed.
Many times a person accused of child abuse faces a two-pronged legal-proceeding. One legal proceeding is from the State, county or city government in the form of a criminal charge. The other legal proceeding comes from the Department of Human Services (DHS) in the form of an investigation, which could result in removal of the children and/or a dependency and neglect action (D&N). Anyone charged with child abuse should have an experienced and reputable attorney to provide a defense from both of these legal proceedings and make sure every single one of their rights is respected and honored.
Contact the attorneys at Law Offices of Clifton Black, P.C. to discuss your legal options. We can provide a formidable defense for you through quality legal service. Call us now at (719) 328-1616 to set up a consultation. Law Offices of Clifton Black, P.C. represents people throughout the greater Colorado Springs area including Manitou Springs, Calhan and Fountain.
Overview of Child Abuse in Colorado
- What Does Colorado Consider to Be Child Abuse?
- Penalties for Child Abuse
- Child Abuse Charge Defenses
- Additional Resources
What Does Colorado Consider to be Child Abuse?
We hear the term “child abuse” frequently through the nightly news or other forms of media. However, the legal definition of child abuse is very specific. Colorado defines child abuse as:
- Causing injury or death to a child;
- Permitting a child to be placed in an unreasonable situation that involves a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury;
- Subjecting a child to a continued pattern that results in the child being:
- Without proper medical care
- Punished cruelly;
- Mistreated badly; or
- Killed or seriously harmed because of an accumulation of injuries
- Driving with a child while you’re under the influence of drugs or alcohol;
- Performing or allowing genital mutilation or female circumcision on a child; or
- Allowing the child near illegal drug manufacturers and certain drugs such as methamphetamines (meth)
Child abuse in Colorado covers numerous situations including those beyond what traditionally is thought of as child abuse. Many situations not traditionally thought of as child abuse can result in child abuse charges, including, but not limited to:
- Leaving a child who is not responsible on their own for any period of time, leaving your child in a running car or leaving your child in a car on a hot day;
- Using drugs or alcohol in front of the child or while caring for a child;
- Manufacturing drugs in a house in which the child lives (possibly including growing marijuana pursuant to a medical license or State law);
- Getting into an argument or physical altercation in front of the child (getting charged with Domestic Violence in the presence of the child);
- Getting charged with Driving Under the Influence (DUI), Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI) for drugs or alcohol with the child in the car, and;
- Placing the child in an unreasonably dangerous position can be considered neglect, and therefore can be considered child abuse under Colorado Revised Statutes. Neglect is placing the child in an unreasonably dangerous position and/or failing to provide for the child’s basic needs (e.g. food, clothing, shelter or proper medical care). Please note there are possible religious defense to the charge of neglect for failing to provide proper medical care. This list is not meant to cover every possible scenario but rather, is meant to illustrate many untraditional types of child abuse that can result in criminal charges in Colorado.
Penalties for Child Abuse in Colorado
Child abuse charges in Colorado range from a Class 2 Misdemeanor to a Class 2 Felony depending upon the circumstances and severity of injury. Child abuse can even result in Class 1 Felony charges under some very limited circumstances. The penalties form child abuse depends heavily on:
- The victim’s age;
- Whether the act was intentional, reckless or negligent; and
- If it resulted in injury or death of the child
If the abuse didn’t result in serious bodily injury or death, then it will likely be charged as a class 1 misdemeanor, which can result in:
- Up to 18 months in jail; and
- A fine of up to $1,000
Your crime could be enhanced to a class 5 felony if:
- You have a prior child abuse conviction or relatable offense;
- You were in a position of trust with the child and:
- You malnourished the child through a consistent pattern of conduct;
- You ensured the child wouldn’t have access to proper medical care;
- The child was cruelly isolated or confined by you;
- You committed a continuous pattern of domestic violence in front of the child;
- The child was subjected to repeat threats of harm or death; or
- The child was extremely deprived of hygienics or sanitary conditions
Being in a position of trust means you are lawfully in charge of the health, education, happiness and welfare of the child. Usually, a person who is in a position of trust is a parent or family member. However, you can also be considered a person in position of trust if you’re not related such as a teacher or youth camp counselor.
A class 5 felony can result in:
- Up to 5 years in prison; and
- A fine of up to $100,000
Knowingly or recklessly causing serious bodily injury to a child is a class 3 felony. Serious bodily injury is an injury that involves a substantial risk of death, disfigurement, second or first-degree burns, bone fractures, or the loss or impairment of a limb or organ. For example, burning another person’s face to the point of disfigurement is a serious bodily injury.
Child abuse that results in death is a class 2 felony, which is punishable by:
- Up to 24 years in prison; and
- A fine of up to $1,000,000
If the death occurred because of negligence, then the crime is reduced to a class 3 felony. The penalties for a class 3 felony include:
- Up to 16 years in prison; and
- A fine of up to $750,000
Child abuse is first-degree murder if:
- The child was under the age of 12 years old;
- You were in a position of trust with the child; and
- You knowingly caused their death
First-degree murder can result in life imprisonment without parole or the death penalty.
There are also collateral consequences of a child abuse charge and the stigma associated with it can feel especially unfair given that many cases come about due solely to the mandatory disclosure requirements. In Colorado, people with certain job titles (teachers, doctors, psychiatrists, law enforcement officers, etc.) are required by law to report any issue they suspect to be child abuse to law enforcement. This is a legal requirement for mandatory reporters which results in many of the mandatory reporters erring on the side of caution.
Mandatory reporters report anything remotely close to child abuse in an effort to protect themselves from liability. This is the often case even when the mandatory reporter does not think child abuse has occurred. Mandatory reporters often do not know the profound effects that these mere allegations can have on people’s lives regardless of any criminal charges being filed.
Child Abuse Charge Defenses
A person charged with child abuse may have many possible defenses available depending upon the facts and circumstances of the case. In addition to the traditional defenses associated with any criminal case (general denial, lack of intent, alibi, etc.) there are affirmative defenses possibly available in a child abuse case including the right of self-defense, defense of others, defense of property and the right to use physical force when there is the existence of a special relationship 18-1-703 Colorado Revised Statutes. (C.R.S.).
This statute allows a parent or guardian or anyone with a special relationship as defined by statute to use physical force to maintain discipline or promote the welfare of the child or children. In these situations, the parent or guardian may use reasonable and appropriate physical force upon the child when and to the extent necessary and appropriate to maintain discipline or promote the welfare of the child.
CO-4-KIDS – Visit the official website of the Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Public Awareness Campaign, which was launched by the Colorado Department of Human Services in conjunction with community partners in Colorado. Access the site for victim resources, information about child abuse, and how you can help the organization.
Child Abuse Laws in Colorado – Visit the official website of the Colorado Revised Statues to learn more about their child abuse laws. Access their legislation to find out the legal definition of child abuse, how habitual child abusers are defined and limitations to the statute of limitations.
Child Abuse Lawyer in Colorado Springs, CO
If you or someone you know has been charged with abusing a child, it’s vital you have the aid of an experienced attorney. With Law Offices of Clifton Black, P.C., you can rest assured someone will be working on your case around the clock. Our attorneys are experienced with domestic violence and criminal child cases such as child abuse.
Call Law Offices of Clifton Black, P.C. now to learn more. You can set up an appointment by contacting (719) 328-1616. Our attorneys represent people throughout El Paso County including Teller County, Elbert County, Douglas County, Lincoln County, and Crowley County.