DC Child Abuse Lawyer

Under D.C. law, a person accused of child abuse can be charged with an offense called cruelty to children. A seasoned domestic violence lawyer can explain that there are two different degrees of criminal offenses that are referred to as cruelty to children offenses.

The more serious type of child abuse case is the charge of cruelty to children in the first degree. Cruelty to children in the first degree is when a person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly tortures or willfully maltreats a child under 18 years of age or engages in conduct which creates a grave risk of bodily injury to the child, thereby causing bodily injury. The penalties and stigma of this offense can be extremely serious, and as such it is imperative that anyone facing this offense consult with a DC child abuse lawyer.

DC Child Mistreatment Charges

The lower level criminal offense in D.C. for child abuse is the charge of cruelty to children in the second degree. A person has committed second-degree cruelty to children if that person intentionally, knowingly and/or recklessly:

  • maltreats a child, engages in conduct which causes a grave risk of bodily injury to the child
  • exposes a child or an event exposing a child in any highway, street, field house, outhouse, other place, with the intent to abandon the child

Those are the two different types of cruelty to children offenses both of which warrant the attention of a DC child abuse lawyer as soon as possible.

Following the Child Abuse Report

Aside from the administrative actions that Child Protective Services could take if an incident of cruelty to children is reported, these are not criminal. Nonetheless, they are serious; a person can be arrested and charged with a criminal offense of first-degree or second-degree cruelty to children.

When a child or an adult on behalf of the child alleges to have been mistreated in a way that constitutes a criminal offense, the city will usually conduct an interview with the child. If city investigators believe that the child or some other guardian or adult has made a credible allegation that the child was abused or maltreated, the situation could be referred to the Metropolitan Police Department or other criminal investigators to see whether there is enough evidence to prosecute the case.

Evidence of Abuse

If the police or a D.C. prosecutor believes that there is enough evidence, based on the statements of the child or statements of adults with whom that child has spoken, such as teachers or other caretakers of the child, the police can apply for a warrant for the suspect’s arrest. In that warrant, the police would have to lay out the allegations and what they believe the evidence would show. If a judge believes that there is probable cause that the suspect committed the offense of cruelty to children, the judge could sign off on that warrant.

Probable cause is a low standard, meaning the judge would not need to find a high degree of evidence or have a high degree confidence in that evidence to sign off on the arrest warrant. Simply because an arrest warrant has been issued does not mean that a judge has found enough evidence to convict a person of a crime. The judge has found enough evidence to arrest the person for the offense so that the person can be charged and prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Those allegations can still be challenged in court with the help of a DC child abuse lawyer experienced with cruelty to children cases.

Effect of Domestic Violence Accusations on a Civil Case

When a person has been charged with a criminal offense, like cruelty to children, there can often be other legal situations for that the defendant. That can include domestic relation matters, issues related to a parent’s continued custody of the child, and civil lawsuits filed by the city or by other adults as it relates to the child.

If a person has multiple legal issues that arise out of a criminal charge or cruelty to children, it is important to explore the different legal issues and address these legal issues adequately. One could have an effect on the other, for instance, an administrative finding by Child Protective Services could potentially be used as evidence in a criminal case.

Criminal conviction for child abuse could be used by Child Protective Services to impose administrative sanctions upon a person’s continued ability to be an involved parent. Addressing the various legal issues with the help of a DC child custody lawyer is important in this kind of extremely complicated family case.

Impact of Child Abuse Charges on a Criminal Case

Any matter that is proper for a court or that may involve an accused person making statements about an allegation of cruelty to children could have an impact on a criminal case. Any statements that a suspect makes whether they are inculpatory or exculpatory statements can be used against that suspect if the person is charged with a crime.

Before a person makes any statements in a civil matter about an allegation of cruelty to children, the very first thing the person should do is speak with a lawyer about how their statements could impact them later. Statements that a person makes, even if not under oath, can possibly be used as an admission against that person in a criminal case. Before a person makes any statements in a civil or administrative matter or speaks to any possible witnesses, a person should consult with a DC child abuse lawyer.