Virginia Code §18.2-371.1 makes child abuse a Class 4 felony in the Commonwealth of Virginia. If you are convicted of child abuse, you could face a potential two to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.
What Is Child Abuse?
Child abuse is illegal in every state in the nation. However, the legal definition of child abuse varies from state to state. In Virginia, "Any parent, guardian, or other person responsible for the care of a child under the age of 18 who by willful act or willful omission or refusal to provide any necessary care for the child's health causes or permits serious injury to the life or health of such child is guilty of a Class 4 felony…."
The law describes a serious injury as including, but not limited to:
- Severe burns or lacerations
- Forced ingestion of dangerous substances
- Life-threatening internal injuries
No one wants to see a child get hurt. However, not every child's injury is the result of child abuse. Sometimes, adults are wrongly accused of abusing children and must defend themselves to avoid spending years in prison, paying tens of thousands of dollars in fines, and the other long-term consequences of a criminal conviction.
Defending Yourself Against Child Abuse Charges
Sending someone to jail for a crime they didn't commit does not protect children or serve any legitimate public interest purpose.
If you face child abuse charges, then you have the right to defend yourself. As is the case with any crime, your defense must be truthful and based on the unique facts of your case. Some defenses that could apply in a Virginia child abuse case include:
- False allegations. Unfortunately, false allegations occur in child abuse cases. Another family member may be trying to keep the child from you or may be trying to cover up their own crime. False allegations may lead to probable cause for an arrest, but the government will need strong evidence to prove that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. A skilled attorney can make sure the court knows about the lack of compelling evidence and false allegations so that you are not wrongfully convicted.
- Lack of intent. Before you can be convicted of child abuse, the government must prove that you acted willfully or intentionally to hurt the child. If the child was hurt by accident, then you may be charged with child neglect in some cases, but you should not be convicted of child abuse.
- Lack of injury. The child must be hurt in one of the ways specifically described in the statute or in a similar way for you to be convicted of child abuse. If the child was not hurt, then the child was not criminally abused, and you should not be convicted.
- Treating a child by spiritual means. Virginia Code §18.2-371.1(C) specifically allows parents, guardians, and others entrusted with the care and custody of a minor to treat a minor by spiritual means or prayer as long as this treatment is done in good faith and in accordance with the tenets and practices of a recognized church or religious denomination.
The person who reported the alleged child abuse may (or may not) have had the child's best interests in mind. Either way, that person might not have known the whole story. Now, it is up to you to defend yourself.
Don't Delay Calling a Fairfax Criminal Defense Lawyer
Virginia takes the protection of children seriously, as it should. Therefore, you should expect prosecutors to prosecute your case aggressively. If one or more of the defenses described above applies to you or if you are wrongly accused of child abuse, then you must protect your rights.
Call an experienced Fairfax criminal defense attorney today for a free consultation about your rights. We have years of experience representing defendants, and we will use that experience to make sure every aspect of your case is considered and that all of your rights are protected.