In Washington, DC, there are three kinds of criminal abuse: cruelty to vulnerable adults, cruelty to animals, and cruelty to children. Below is a brief outline of the statutory framework surrounding criminal abuse of vulnerable adults and cruelty to children. These are both very serious criminal offenses.
If you have been charged with either, or with a related crime, it is important that you contact a DC criminal lawyer. Learn more about how an experienced DC abuse attorney can help here.
The DC Code Section 22-932 defines a “vulnerable adult” as a person who is at least 18 years old with a physical or mental condition that prevents the person from adequately providing for his/her own care or protection. Elderly individuals who cannot adequately care for themselves are included in this definition.
Criminal abuse of a vulnerable adult occurs when a person knowingly or purposefully:
Keep in mind that one does not need to inflict physical pain or injury for one’s actions to qualify as criminal abuse under this statute. In fact, Section 22-933 makes it explicitly clear that oral and/or written statements can qualify as criminal abuse, as can involuntary confinement and/or seclusion.
The penalties for criminal abuse of a vulnerable adult may change depending on the result of the abuse.
As a base, the penalties for a person who committed criminal abuse of a vulnerable person is a fine of up to $1,000, up to 180 days in jail, or both.
However, if the vulnerable person was caused serious bodily injury or severe mental distress, the penalties jump to a felony conviction with up to $25,000 in fines, up to 10 years in prison, or both.
Lastly, if the vulnerable person was caused permanent bodily harm or death, the perpetrator faces a felony conviction with up to $75,000 in fines, up to 20 years in prison, or both. Section 22-3571.01.
In the District of Columbia, child abuse (which is distinct from sexual abuse) falls under cruelty to children, a crime outlined in DC Code Section 22-1101. Cruelty to children is a felony criminal offense that is broken down into two degrees.
Cruelty to Children in the first degree occurs when the perpetrator
Typical examples of the type of harm done to the child that fulfill these requirements include torturing, beating, or injuring the child. Furthermore, the risk outlined in (2) must be a risk of bodily injury and, likewise, must cause bodily injury. This is distinct from the “severe mental distress” sufficient for criminal abuse of a vulnerable adult.
The penalty for cruelty to children in the first degree is a felony conviction with up to $37,500 in fines, up to 15 years in prison, or both. Section 22-1101(c)(1).
Unlike cruelty to children in the first degree, cruelty to children in the second degree does not require the child to suffer bodily injury. However, it still requires that the perpetrator deliberately, knowingly, or recklessly:
When referring to harming a child, it does not require the harm to be as serious as torture or beatings. Legally, it only requires the “maltreatment” of the child. This includes any kind of treatment that causes harm to the child.
The penalty for cruelty to children in the second degree is a felony conviction with up to $25,000 in fines, up to 10 years in prison, or both. Section 22-1101(c)(2).
Sexual abuse (which is the DC violation for rape, among other sexual offenses) is covered in a different section.
These crimes have severe penalties for imprisonment and hefty fines upon conviction. Furthermore, abuse charges carry a social stigma. In addition, a criminal conviction will become part of your permanent criminal record that could jeopardize your employability, security clearance, ability to secure a loan, and education opportunities. Contact a DC abuse lawyer today if you or a loved one has been charged with one of these violations.
David Benowitz and his firm are the best strategic and compassionate teams you will work with. Mr. Benowitz and his team are diligent and proactive, which is further enhanced by David’s methodic and strategic approach to law. My case was a very complicated and emotionally charged case involving classified information, where I was facing three indictments, two carrying life sentences and one carrying 20 years. Mr. Benowitz utilized a network of lawyers coupled with his own strategy to navigate the case to success! I sincerely recommend David Benowitz quite literally with my life.
I found David to be very dedicated to fighting for your loved one’s rights. I also highly appreciated the fact that David kept us informed and empowered throughout the whole process.
Mr. Benowitz is an incredibly knowledgeable and dedicated professional. His commitments to social justice and community outreach are exemplary. I wholeheartedly recommend him for any matter.