Child Abuse

Los Angeles Child Abuse Defense Attorney

Have You Been Accused of Child Abuse?

If you are under investigation for or charged with Child Abuse you should immediately consult with an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer. Do not, under any circumstances, talk to the police or anyone regarding the Child Abuse allegations before hiring an attorney. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a criminal case. Talking to the police, the victim or to family members will only make your situation worse.

Crimes involving children carry very serious consequences and often there is a presumption of guilt associated with these crimes, not only by law enforcement but by the community at large. Due to this presumption of guilt, lenient sentences such as little or no jail time and probation are generally not on the negotiating table with most prosecuting agencies.

In fact, the penalties for sexual child abuse convictions (specifically with children under the age of 14) in California are quite severe and in many cases result in a harsher sentence than those convicted for murder. Such charges must be aggressively defended from the start! Please contact the criminal defense team at Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners to get a no-charge confidential case evaluation.

What is Child Abuse?

Child abuse is the maltreatment of a child by an adult or caregiver, which can result in physical, emotional, or psychological harm. It's a significant and distressing social problem that affects millions of children worldwide.

Common forms of child abuse include:

  • Physical Abuse: Involves the intentional use of force that results in bodily injury, physical pain, or impairment. This can include hitting, kicking, shaking, burning, or any form of physical harm.
  • Emotional Abuse: Also known as psychological abuse, it involves behaviors that harm a child's emotional well-being, such as constant criticism, rejection, humiliation, or withholding love and support. Emotional abuse can have long-lasting effects on a child's mental health.
  • Sexual Abuse: Involves any form of sexual activity with a child, including but not limited to molestation, incest, rape, exposure to sexually explicit material, or any form of sexual exploitation.
  • Neglect: Occurs when caregivers fail to provide for a child's basic needs, including food, shelter, clothing, medical care, supervision, education, or emotional support. Neglect can be physical (basic needs) or emotional (failure to provide nurturing and care).
  • Child Labor: Forcing or exploiting children into labor or work that is inappropriate for their age, depriving them of education, play, or the opportunity to live a normal childhood.

Common Types of Child Abuse Charges in CA

Depending on the circumstances, there may be a number of California criminal laws that will come into play if you have been accused of acting inappropriately with a child. For example:

  • Lewd or Lascivious Acts Upon a Child - Penal Code sections 288(a), 288.5: In California, most child sexual abuse or child molestation sex crime cases are charged under these sections of the Penal Code. Child molestation occurs when any lewd or lascivious act is committed on a child under 14 years old with the "intent of arousing, appealing to or gratifying the lust, passions or sexual desires of that person or the child." A lewd or lascivious act refers to any touching of the child with the intent to sexually arouse the perpetrator (defendant) or the child. If the defendant asks the child to touch the defendant, it is also considered sexual abuse. A lewd and lascivious act includes touching any part of the child's body, either on the bare skin or through the clothing of the child. Each unique act of child abuse can be charged as a separate criminal count potentially resulting in a criminal complaint with multiple acts of Child Abuse. Penal Code section 288.5 is charged in cases where the number and the date of incidents involving the abuse are vague. Penal Code section 288.5 punishes “continuous sexual abuse” of a child over a period of 3 months involving 3 or more incidents of child abuse.
  • Lewd or Lascivious Act On A Child /Using Force or Violence -California Penal Code section 288(b)(2). This crime is similar to Penal Code section 288(a) crime (see above) except that the perpetrator uses force, violence, duress, menace, or fear of immediate and unlawful bodily injury on the child.
  • Physical Abuse of a ChildCalifornia Penal Code 273d: Beating or inflicting cruel or corporal punishment on a child. Corporal punishment includes any kind of punishment inflicted on the body.
  • Abuse or Endangerment to a ChildCalifornia Penal Code 273a (a): Child endangerment can be charged when any person under conditions likely to produce great bodily harm or death, willfully causes or permits a child to suffer unjustifiable physical pain or suffering or having the care or custody of a child willfully causes or permits the child to be placed in a situation where the child's person or health may have been endangered.
  • Statutory RapeCalifornia Penal Code section 261.5: It is a crime to engage in sexual intercourse with a person who is not the spouse of the perpetrator and who is a minor (under 18 years of age). This is known as statutory rape. Sexual intercourse is defined as any vaginal penetration, regardless of however slight.
  • Possession of Child PornographyCalifornia Penal Code section 311.11: It is unlawful for any person to knowingly possess or control child porn, including any image, photograph, video, files, computer-generated image, or other representation which shows a child under 18 years of age engaging in or simulating sexual behavior.
  • Annoying or Molesting a ChildCalifornia Penal Code section 647.6: Annoy or molest a child refers to conduct aimed at a child, which is motivated by a strange sexual interest in a child, and which likely disturbs or irritates the child. It includes making sexual advances to the child. In order to be convicted of this crime, there does not have to be a lewd act or any actual touching.

Penalties and Sentencing

Specific penalties for convictions of child abuse include the following:

  • Lewd Acts/Molestation: These crimes are charged as felonies and carry lengthy state prison sentences, 3 to 16 years. Additional penalties include sex registration for life; payment for victim's medical or psychological treatment, a "Strike" according to the Three Strikes Law.
  • Lewd Acts/ Molestation By Use Of Force: These crimes are prosecuted as felonies and are punishable by five to ten years in state prison.
  • Physical Abuse of a Child: If charged as a misdemeanor, the sentence is up to one year county jail and if a felony, the sentence is 2-6 years in state prison.
  • Child Abuse or Endangerment: If charged as a misdemeanor, the sentence is up to one year county jail and if charged as a felony, the sentence is 2-6 years in state prison.
  • Possession of Child Pornography: Can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. As a misdemeanor it carries a sentence of up to one year in county jail and if a felony then it is punishable by 16 months to three years in prison. A conviction requires life-long sex registration.
  • Statutory Rape: If the unlawful sexual intercourse is with a minor, who is not more than three years younger than the perpetrator, the crime is charged as a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in county jail. If the unlawful sexual intercourse is with a minor who is more than three years younger than the perpetrator, the crime can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or felony, punishable by one year in county jail or 16 months to four years in state prison. No sex registration is required.
  • Annoying or Molesting a Child: Usually charged as a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in county jail. A felony can be charged if there is a prior conviction and is child punishable by up to three years in state prison. If there is a felony prior similar prior conviction there is a potential state prison sentence of 2 to 6 years. Sex registration for life is also required.

If you are convicted of child abuse or any other sexually-related crime involving a child, you will be required to register as a sex offender for life. According to California Penal Code Section 290, all sex offenders must register within 5 days of being released from prison as well as when an address or name is changed.

You also must update your registration information annually. Some sex offenders, such as sexually violent predators, need to update registration information more frequently. Deliberately failing to register is a felony, punishable by fines and imprisonment.

Common Legal Defenses to Child Abuse Charges

Legal defenses to child abuse charges can vary based on the circumstances of the case and the laws in a particular jurisdiction. Here are some common defenses that might be used:

  • False Accusations: Sometimes, individuals might be falsely accused of child abuse due to misunderstandings, manipulation, or mistaken identity. A defense might involve demonstrating inconsistencies in the accuser's statements or providing evidence that contradicts the allegations.
  • Lack of Evidence: The defense might argue that there is insufficient evidence to prove the alleged abuse. This could involve challenging the credibility of witnesses, the reliability of evidence presented, or showing that there's no substantial proof of abuse.
  • Accidental Injury: In cases involving physical abuse, the defense might argue that the injuries sustained by the child were accidental rather than intentional. This defense relies on proving that the injuries occurred due to an unforeseen accident rather than deliberate harm.
  • Parental Discipline: In some situations, the defense might claim that the actions taken by the accused were within the realm of reasonable parental discipline. This defense asserts that the actions were not abusive but rather constituted appropriate disciplinary measures.
  • Mental Incapacity: If the accused had a mental condition that impaired their ability to understand the consequences of their actions or to control their behavior, this might be used as a defense.
  • Statute of Limitations: Depending on the jurisdiction, there might be a statute of limitations that limits the time within which charges for child abuse can be filed. If the alleged abuse occurred outside this timeframe, it might serve as a defense.
  • Self-Defense: In rare cases, if the accused can show that they were defending themselves or the child from harm or danger, it might be used as a defense. This defense typically applies to situations where the alleged abuse was in response to imminent danger.

Experienced & Knowledgeable Criminal Defense Lawyers

Child Sexual Abuse cases are the most difficult cases to defend – even harder to defend than murder. With murder or other crimes, prosecutors require some corroborative evidence before filing charges and juries likewise would rely on that evidence to convict. In child sexual abuse cases there are often no witnesses, DNA or physical evidence – in fact there may be no evidence other than the child's statements to law enforcement. So these cases come down to a “he said – she said” case where the entire case will depend solely on the victim's testimony versus that of the accused.

The credibility of the child victim is the sole driving force in many of these cases. Why is that? Part of the reason is that prosecutors, courts, juries, and society as a whole view child abuse crimes as the most vile and despicable crimes in our society. Consequently, juries are more sympathetic with child victims and are more likely to believe an unconfirmed and uncorroborated accusation by the child victim with little or virtually no evidence, which could result in a conviction and a lengthy state prison sentence.

The criminal defense team at Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners have the knowledge, skill, and experience to defend you in simple and complicated child abuse cases. We will help you navigate the complex and intimidating criminal court system. We have a successful track record representing clients in these types of cases. With over 70 years of combined criminal law experience, we work closely with our clients to build a defense and obtain the best possible outcome.

To schedule a confidential consultation contact a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney today.

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