In the District of Columbia, child abuse is referred to as “cruelty to children.” Cruelty to children is separated into two categories: first-degree cruelty to children and second-degree cruelty to children. First-degree cruelty to children is defined as the intentional, knowing or reckless torture, beating, or willful maltreatment of a child under the age of 18 that results in bodily injury to the child.
Second-degree cruelty to children is defined as the intentional knowing or reckless maltreatment of a child or engaging in conduct which causes a grave risk of bodily injury to a child. Second-degree cruelty to children also includes the exposure of a child in a highway, street, outhouse, or other places with the intention to abandon the child.
Regardless of which someone has been accused of, both are a serious offense that can result in severe consequences for those accused making it important a DC child abuse lawyer is contacted as soon as possible. An experienced domestic violence attorney could assist both in building a strong defense and mitigating the effects this charge could have on your personal and professional life.
When an instance of child abuse is reported, there are two agencies that may investigate the case: the DC Child and Family Services Agency as well as the Metropolitan Police Department. Depending on the outcome of each investigation, there can be either a family court civil case or a criminal charge.
It is possible to have a criminal case filed against a person for cruelty to children as well as a case in the family court regarding the custody of the child. With this in mind, it is important to know that if you stipulate to any facts in a civil proceeding for child abuse, those stipulations can be used against you in a following criminal prosecution for cruelty to children or any other criminal charge.
The DC Child and Family Services Agency will take reports of suspected abuse against a child and investigate the allegations. If the agency finds the allegations to be true, it is possible that a complaint will be filed against the accused in the family court division of the DC Superior Court.
The Office of the Attorney General in DC has a specific division for child protection services and are trained to represent the Child and Family Services Agency in child abuse cases at family court. These are not considered criminal cases.
In a civil case in the family court for allegations of violence against a child, a fact-finding hearing will be held and decided by the judge. The proof necessary to support a finding of neglect or child abuse is by a preponderance of the evidence, which is a lesser legal standard making it imperative a lawyer in DC is contacted.
The purpose of these cases is to determine if a child has been neglected or abused and then to determine who will get custody of the child if the court finds the child has been neglected or abused.
The Metropolitan Police Department can also investigate allegations of abuse against a child. If law enforcement finds probable cause to believe that the accused has committed the offense of cruelty to children, they can be arrested and prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office. In a criminal case involving cruelty to children charges, the prosecution is required to prove the allegations beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a much higher standard than in a family court child abuse case.
The potential criminal consequences associated with child abuse depend on the degree to which a person is convicted. If a person is convicted of first-degree cruelty to children, the maximum potential penalties include a term of imprisonment of up to 15 years, a $37,500 fine, or both.
If they are convicted of second-degree cruelty to children, the maximum potential penalties include a term of imprisonment of up to 10 years, a $25,000 fine, or both. Therefore, it is crucial a DC attorney is consulted with as soon as possible after being accused of child abuse.
It is imperative to contact a DC child abuse lawyer if you have been accused of cruelty to children. Child abuse, whether it is in the first or second degree, is a felony offense and is prosecuted very aggressively in DC. If convicted, the potential penalties are severe. Additionally, a conviction for cruelty to children can have long-lasting effects on your professional and personal life. A DC lawyer is in the best position to advise you throughout your case and help develop potential defenses and help in the overall preparation of your case.
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