Although parents are permitted to use physical force in disciplining children, using excessive force is against the law. California Penal Code 273d PC defines the crime of child abuse as inflicting cruel punishment or a physical injury on a minor who is under the age of 18 years old. This statute is also commonly known as “corporal injury on a child,” and frequently falls under the umbrella of domestic violence.
Parents always have the right to raise and discipline their children however they see fit. However, this right comes with the responsibility to protect the child from potential harm. If your attempt to discipline your child goes too far and you cause them injury, you risk facing arrest and criminal charges under PC 273(d).
Laws of Child Abuse in Los Angeles
Sometimes it is really hard for people to understand what does child abuse mean. Many of us get confused between the terms child abuse and child endangerment, which is similar in many respects. According to the laws in California we need to have three elements present in order for an act to be considered child abuse / inflicting physical punishment on a child under PC 273(d). Those elements are:
- The victim must be a child according to the laws of the state of California. This means they must be under the age of 18.
- The abuse must be willfully inflicted. That means that if you accidentally injure a child, you have not violated PC 273(d).
- The act must either be a cruel or inhumane corporal punishment or infliction of an injury that results in a traumatic physical condition.
In California, parents have the right to raise and discipline their children the way they think is good. However, this right comes with the responsibility to protect them from potential harm. If parents’ attempt to discipline their children goes too far and they cause them injury, they risk facing arrest and criminal charges under PC 273(d).
Child abuse can occur in different forms, including:
Any non-accidental physical harm inflicted on a child by someone entrusted with their care or protection is considered physical abuse. Even though you may be disciplining the child, if he/she gets hurt, your actions might be viewed as abuse. There are many reasons caregivers and parents could cause physical harm to a child, including anger and unrealistic expectations. A child who has been physically abused may exhibit aggressive behavior that is easily noted by other people and reported to the police.
Maltreatment and psychological torture are two forms of child emotional abuse. This type of child abuse is often experienced by minors who have witnessed domestic violence. The court does not require proof of physical abuse to prosecute offenders, even though emotional abuse is often coupled with other types of child abuse. Emotional child abuse is typically committed by either omission or commission. An omission is the failure to protect the child while the commission acts in a way that causes them emotional distress.
Sexual abuse of minors happen when an adult engages in lewd conduct with a child. Children cannot give their consent to any kind of sexual activity, that is why exposing a child to sexual content is considered abuse and is punishable by arrest and conviction under PC 273(d). All kids are at risk for child sexual abuse, which often occurs in secret.
Penalties and Consequences
In the Los Angeles County court system, child abuse is a “wobbler” under California law, and prosecutor can choose to file the case as a misdemeanor or felony case depending on: The specific circumstances of the alleged child abuse case, The criminal history of the defendant.
If the defendant is convicted of a misdemeanor child abuse case, the penalties usually include a sentence of up to one year in the Los Angeles County jail and a fine of up to $6,000.
If convicted of a felony offense, the defendant could face a sentence of two, four, or six years in state prison and a fine of up to $6,000. If the defendant has a prior child abuse conviction, the jail sentence can be increased by another four years.
If you are an undocumented immigrant and convicted of domestic violence, you could face immigration consequences, such as deportation.
Strategies and Legal Defenses
Obviously, the best defense will depend on the exact charges you face and the specifics of your situation. However, some of the most common arguments used in these types of cases include false accusation, acted within legal rights and accidents.
You Were Falsely Accused
Unfortunately, people are often accused of crimes they did not commit. There are a variety of reasons that this occurs. Often, these types of false accusations will occur during custody proceedings. One parent will accuse the other in hopes that it will help them in their fight. Sometimes it is simply a case of mistaken identity, with the accuser confusing the defendant with another person. Other times, the identification may be correct, but the accuser may have mistaken what they witnessed.
You Acted within Your Legal Rights
In the state of California, parents have the right to discipline their children as they see fit, within reason. What may be a simple punishment could be misinterpreted as abuse or neglect by a third party.
It Was Truly an Accident
Children come to harm all the time which is part of growing up. But when that harm is truly an accident and does not result from putting a child in a position where they are unreasonably subjected to danger, you are not guilty of a crime. Intent and willful negligence are critical aspects of these crimes.
Legal Advice and Free Consultation
If you or a loved one have been arrested for child abuse, we recommend to discuss your case with a qualified Los Angeles Child Abuse lawyer immediately. Attorneys at LACD understand how to effectively represent clients charged with sensitive cases such as these.
You also have the option to schedule your 30 minutes face to face Free Consultation with your criminal lawyer through this link. Do not hesitate as we are more than happy to help.