Is child neglect a crime in Virginia?

Accidents happen. Just because a child in your care was hurt does not mean that you are guilty of child neglect. However, child neglect is a crime, and the Commonwealth may charge you with child neglect if you violate Virginia Code §18.2-371.1.

Child Neglect: A Class 4 Felony

Virginia Code §18.2-371.1(A) makes it a crime for a parent, guardian, or another person responsible for caring for a minor child to willfully omit or refuse to provide any necessary Child Sitting on a Bench With a Backpackcare for a child’s health or permit serious injury to the life or health of a child. Serious injuries include but are not limited to disfigurements, fractures, severe burns, severe lacerations, mutilations, maiming, forced ingestion of dangerous substances, and life-threatening internal injuries.

If you are found guilty of violating this section of the law, you may be sentenced to two to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.

Child Neglect: A Class 6 Felony

You may only be charged with a Class 4 felony if a child was hurt because of your willful failure to act or provide necessary care.

However, you may still be charged with a crime even if the child was not hurt. Virginia Code §18.2-371.1(B)(1) makes it a crime for someone responsible for the care of a minor child to act with willful omission in the care of the child in a way that is so gross, wanton, and culpable as to show a reckless disregard for human life. In this case, child neglect is a Class 6 felony and is punishable by up to five years in jail, a fine of up to $2,500, or both a fine and jail time.

Child Neglect Defenses

Every case is unique, and an experienced Virginia criminal defense lawyer can carefully review all of the possible defenses in your case. Some of the possible defenses to consider include:

  • Lack of willful intent. The Virginia child neglect statute specifically includes the word willful. If you lacked intent and the child in your care was hurt by accident, then you have not violated the law.
     
  • Treating a child by spiritual means. Virginia Code §18.2-371.1(C) allows adults to care for a minor child by spiritual means or through prayer as long as the adults do so in good faith and in accordance with the tenets and practices of a recognized church or religious denomination.
     
  • The child got hurt in another way. Children sometimes suffer severe injuries for reasons other than child neglect.
     
  • Someone else hurt the child. If another adult was caring for the child at the time the neglect occurred, then you may not have committed the crime.

Learn more about your possible defense before it’s too late to avoid the consequences of a criminal conviction. Contact our Fairfax child neglect defense lawyers for a free consultation about your rights and potential defense.