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Glendale Child Abuse Lawyer

Glendale child abuse attorney, Craig Orent, understands the legal, social, and public relations aspects of criminal child abuse cases. The rest of your life depends on how your case is handled.

Child abuse sounds like a simple concept until you try to define it in specific terms. Some things clearly amount to abuse, such as sexual activity and severe physical injuries. A Glendale sex crimes lawyer can gather significant evidence to determine if a sexual assault occurred. Other things may equate to abuse in the minds of some people, but not others, such as frequent insults aimed at the child or leaving a child alone in a car.

Any discussion of criminal child abuse should include at least a reminder that:

  • Courts, police, and the public at large have a very negative view of child abuse, and it is very easy for that view to color their view of whether the accused is guilty, and if so, how severe a sentence should be imposed.
  • The cases frequently involve the potential for non-criminal consequences, like loss of custody or even of all parental rights.

While not all abuse complaints to Arizona’s Department of Child Safety are justified, the fact that the Department recently received 51,963 reports of abuse in a one-year period─30,000 of which involved Maricopa County—illustrates how extensive the problem of child abuse is. 

Arizona Statutes

Arizona’s criminal child abuse laws consist primarily of three parts. Section 8-201 defines the term “abuse” to mean inflicting or allowing someone else to inflict either

  • Physical injury (defined to include disfigurement and impaired body function)
  • Serious emotional damage

For emotional damage to be abuse there has to be evidence of at least one of the following:

  • Severe anxiety
  • Depression
  • Withdrawal
  • Untoward aggressive behavior

In addition, a psychologist or medical doctor has to diagnose the emotional damage.

Several child sex offenses are specifically declared to amount to abuse, as is unreasonable confinement of a child and physical injuries associated with materials and equipment used to manufacture dangerous drugs.

Then section 13-3623 adopts the definition of abuse above and makes various forms of child abuse felonies. Under this law, there are two major distinctions that determine how severe the crime and the penalty are:

  1. Whether the abuse was likely to produce serious physical injury or death
  2. The mental state of the defendant, (i.e., whether the abuse was inflicted intentionally, recklessly, or negligently)

If the abuse was likely to cause serious injury or death, it is a class 2 felony if committed intentionally or knowingly, a class 3 felony if committed recklessly, and a class 4 felony if committed negligently. If, however, the abuse was committed intentionally on a victim under the age of 15, it is treated as a “Dangerous Crime Against Children” under section 13-705, and punished more severely. A person who commits aggravated assault of a child receives a punishment of imprisonment for not less than ten nor more than thirty years. If the victim is under 15, a conviction would automatically become an aggravated assault charge, can be a serious felony, and a person involved in the case should contact an aggravated assault lawyer in Glendale.

If the abuse was not likely to cause serious injury or death, it is a class 4 felony if it was intentional or knowing, a class 5 felony if reckless, and a class 6 felony if negligent.

Penalties

The penalty for child abuse depends on how the specific crime is classed. The harshest sentences are for abuse that meets the definition of “aggravated.” For cases of aggravated felony child abuse, the maximum sentences are:

  • Class 2 felonies, 12.5 years
  • Class 3 felonies, 8.75 years
  • Class 4 felonies, 3.75 years
  • Class 5 felonies, 2.5 years
  • Class 6 felonies, 2 years 

Dangerous Crimes Against Children (DCAC)

Under the explicit terms of Dangerous Crimes Against Children (DCAC) law, anyone 18 or older who is convicted of a first degree DCAC based on the crime of child abuse faces a sentence of 10 to 24 years. That range increases to 21 to 35 years if the defendant has been convicted of one “predicate felony” and to life in prison if there are 2 or more predicate felonies.

Potential Defenses Against Child Abuse Charges

Defending criminal child abuse charges is a challenge given the public attitude toward those who commit these crimes. The police and prosecutors often let their zeal get the better of their objectivity. The confirmation bias often inhibits the courts, police and the public to interpret the evidence fairly as they will be secured to their preconceived beliefs. This is why it is important for you to work with an attorney. For instance, an experienced sex crimes lawyer will be able to discern the evidence fairly for child sexual abuse cases and objectively see if the evidence supports the potential conviction.

Among the many, many defenses that may be available depending on the circumstances are:

  • Showing that the injuries to the child were likely the result of an accident or illness rather than abuse
  • Showing that a complaining witness has personal reasons for fabricating the charges
  • Showing that the accused could not have been the one to inflict the injuries
  • Showing that the accused’s actions were not intentional, reckless, or negligent
  • Showing that any physical injuries were not serious or life-threatening

Get Quality Legal Help

For someone suspected of child abuse, the negative consequences begin when that fact becomes known to family, friends, employers, etc. It gets worse if the police arrest that person, and much worse than that if there is a conviction. Regardless of the outcome of the case, family relationships are often damaged beyond repair, friendships end, and employers may find any number of reasons not to need your services anymore.

If you have been formally accused of child abuse or have reason to think you will be, now is the time to get experienced legal help. Glendale criminal defense attorney Craig Orent knows Arizona criminal law from every angle.