If you have been falsely accused of Child Abuse, it is essential that you hire a Houston Child Abuse Lawyer who specializes in these types of cases to protect your legal rights. A conviction for Child Abuse can lead to serious legal consequences, including the loss of your right to be around children, the loss of the right to be with your own children, and time in jail. A conviction for Child Abuse charges can also lead to more personal consequences like embarrassment and a life-long label as a child abuser. Courts, as well as the public, are generally eager to convict and punish an individual who is responsible for exposing a child to abuse. A child’s testimony may have the ability to sway the outcome of a trial, even if their testimony is not accurate. Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson specializes in effectively and successfully defending his clients against Child Abuse charges.
What is Child Abuse?
According to Chapter 261 of the Family Code (recodified in 1995), child abuse is an act or omission that endangers or impairs a child ‘s physical, emotional or mental health and development. Child abuse may take the form of physical or emotional injury, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, physical neglect, medical neglect, or inadequate supervision.
The law specifically excludes “reasonable” discipline by the child’s conservator, parent, or guardian; corporal punishment is not in itself abusive under the law. An act or omission is abusive only if “material and observable impairment” occurs as a result, or if it causes “substantial harm,” or exposes the child to risk of substantial harm.
Neglect, like physical and emotional abuse, hinges on substantial harm or observable and material impairment. The law excludes from its definition of neglect any failure to provide for the child that is due to lack of financial resources. A child living in poverty is not a victim of neglect under the Texas Family Code except in cases where relief has been offered and refused by the child’s parent, conservator, or guardian .
A person commits abuse if they place a child, or allows a child to be placed, in a situation where the child is exposed to “substantial risk” of injury or harm. The law also clearly states that a person commits abuse if they fail to make a reasonable effort to prevent another person from abusing a child.
If you have been charged with Child Abuse, one of the most important steps you can take is to not speak with anyone other than your lawyer about the details of the case. Often times, defendants incriminate themselves by speaking to the police or engaging in phone conversations where certain statements can be taken out of context.
You need a Child Abuse Lawyer who will treat your Child Abuse defense seriously. Being charged with Child Abuse could have a devastating impact on your life and the lives of your family. Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson will diligently fight for your rights, reputation and future. Contact him now at (713) 222-7577 for expert legal guidance.
Physical abuse typically occurs when a frustrated parent or caregiver strikes, shakes, or throws a child because of anger. Other forms of deliberate assault that may be physically abusive include burning, scalding, biting, kicking, cutting, poking, twisting a child’s limbs, deliberately withholding food, binding, gagging, choking, or hitting the child with a closed fist or other instrument. If it results in injury, any form of corporal punishment may be abusive.
Physical injuries resulting from child abuse can run the gamut from lacerations, burns, and bruises, to head injuries, broken bones, broken teeth, and damage to internal organs. Context, circumstances, and the exact nature of the wounds usually set apart the injuries resulting from abuse. Specially trained professionals must make the determination whether a child has actually been abused or not.
Due to the delicate and sensitive nature of a child abuse case, it is important to have the advice and the counsel of a professional who is experienced in this type of case. Houston Attorney Charles Johnson specializes in cases that deal with Child Abuse. Don’t take chances with your future. Contact him today.
Unexplained Death of a Child
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden, unexplained death of an infant—a child between one month and one year old. It is frightening because it is strikes without warning, and medical science has been unable to determine exactly why it happens.
SUDC (Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood) is the sudden and unexpected death of a child over the age of twelve months, which remains unexplained after a thorough case investigation is conducted. Similar to SIDS, SUDC is a diagnosis of exclusion – given when all known and possible causes of death have been ruled out. By definition, SIDS applies only to the death of babies younger than 12 months, while SUDC victims are past their first birthday whose deaths go unexplained even after an autopsy, a death scene investigation and medical history review.
The death of an infant due to SIDS or SUDC is a devastating event that can leave parents feeling sad, guilty, angry, and confused. Although we all do our best to keep children safe, sometimes the worst happens and kids suffer major injuries. If your child has been seriously hurt and you need legal advice, contact Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson anytime at (713) 222-7577 for a free case review.
Shaken Baby Syndrome
There is a growing trend of misdiagnosed Shaken Baby Syndrome cases occurring in America today. Typically, a parent or caretaker is falsely accused of murdering or injuring a baby by shaking him or her, when the actual cause of the death or injury occurs from another source.
If a child is held by the shoulders or chest and shaken violently, often no external injury is visible. The impact of the brain on the inside of the skull may prove damaging or even fatal, especially if the child is less than two years old or is shaken repeatedly. Symptoms of injury include vomiting and seizures. An infant who is violently shaken may suffer convulsions, permanent brain damage, and death. A young child who survives a severe shaking episode may be blind, deaf, or otherwise disabled as a result. Even less violent shaking of older children may cause neurological deficits, as well as learning and behavioral disorders.
If you have been charged with child abuse involving Shaken Baby Syndrome, it is important to contact an immediately to begin gathering all necessary medical information and begin preparation of your case. If your child or a child you have been caring for has been injured or has passed away, you already have too much to deal with. Do not let overzealous prosecutors portray you as a violent child abuser.
Child sexual abuse remains, in the overwhelming majority of cases, a crime perpetrated by members of the child’s family and circle of trust. Sexual abuse is defined in the Family Code as any sexual conduct harmful to a child’s mental, emotional, or physical welfare as well as failure to make a reasonable effort to prevent sexual conduct with a child. A person who compels or encourages a child to engage in sexual conduct commits abuse, and it is against the law to make or possess child pornography, or to display such material to a child.
If you are facing potential Child Sexual Abuse charges, it is critical that you use a legal defense team with specific experience and expertise dealing with crimes against children. Call Houston Sex Crimes Lawyer Charles Johnson at (713) 222-7577 for a free, confidential initial consultation. Early intervention is critical to obtaining the best results.
Sexual abuse may consist of a single incident or many acts over a long period of time. Boys and girls of any age can be victims of sexual abuse. The molester can be just about anyone, but most often, it is someone known to the child. The abuse may escalate over time, particularly if the abuser is a member of the child’s own family. The child’s non-abusing caregiver(s) may be unaware of the abuse or may be in a state of denial.
Child sexual abuse includes fondling, lewd or lascivious exposure or behavior, intercourse, sodomy, oral copulation, penetration of a genital or anal opening by a foreign object, child pornography, child prostitution, and any other “sexual conduct harmful to a child’s mental, emotional, or physical welfare.” These acts may be forced upon the child or the child may be coaxed, seduced, and persuaded to cooperate. The absence of force or coercion does not diminish the abusive nature of the conduct, but, sadly, it may cause the child to feel responsible for what has occurred.
It is extremely difficult for a child to report sexual abuse. A very young child may not understand that what has happened is not normal or accepted. More importantly, the abuser almost always discourages the child from telling anyone about the abuse. The strategies for silencing a sexual abuse victim are as ruthless as they are varied. The abuser may be someone whom the child depends upon and trusts; s/he may use the child’s dependency and affection to extort a promise of secrecy. A more brutal perpetrator may threaten to harm and even kill the child or other family members or pets. Or the abuser may tell the child that the family will be broken up, the child blamed, or the child taken away from home if the secret becomes known. These are not altogether unrealistic fears for the child, unfortunately.
For many people, an allegation or disclosure of sexual abuse is indeed hard to accept. This is particularly true when the perpetrator is a family member or an otherwise law-abiding, respectable, and seemingly “nice,” “normal” person. Many adults have a tendency to overlook, discount, minimize, explain away, or simply disbelieve allegations of sexual abuse. Yet children rarely lie or invent stories on their own about being sexually abused. The fact that children can sometimes be manipulated or coached should not dissuade anyone from reporting a child’s revelation of sexual abuse. All responsible adults, but particularly those who work with children, should be aware that sexual abuse occurs and should be alert for the opportunity to aid a child who attempts to disclose abuse. The child’s need for support and protection must come first.
Sexual assault by a stranger versus a family member
Sexual assault of a child is a violation of the Penal Code, regardless of whether the perpetrator is a stranger or family member. Assault by a stranger and assault by a family member may involve similar criminal charges. In addition, an assault by a family member, especially one who lives in the household with the child, may be the basis for a civil action such as removal of the child from the home. In fact, assaults by strangers are much less common than assaults by persons known to the child. Perhaps the most common scenario for child sexual assault involves the male partner of a young girl’s mother (the girl is assaulted by her father, stepfather, or her mother’s boyfriend).
The child molester is sexually attracted to children (usually children of a certain age) and assaults them to obtain sexual gratification. While anyone of any age, race, or gender can be a child molester, this person is typically an adult heterosexual male. Most often, molestation is not a “stranger” assault, and may not involve force. Many child molesters relate quite well to children and seek out professions, jobs, or volunteer positions that give them access to children. They often make or collect child pornography.
Their methods of seduction may include bribes and the use of pornography depicting sex between adults and children the age of the intended victim. The relationship with the child may develop over a period of weeks or months, becoming increasingly coercive and invasive. Child molesters repeatedly offend and may molest or attempt to molest literally hundreds of children before being caught. The victims, while frequently befriended by the child molester, are generally not related by blood or marriage.
Molestation is an umbrella term that includes a number of sex offenses against children including, but not limited to:
- Sexual assault
- Sexual abuse
- Statutory rape
- Sexual exploitation
- Creation or distribution of child pornography
- Indecent exposure
- Child prostitution
- Lewd and lascivious conduct
A person convicted of any of the above acts will suffer extensive damage to their personal, professional, and social life in addition to other serious penalties and punishments including imprisonment, loss of rights, financial reimbursement to the victim, and more.
Houston Sex Crimes Lawyer Charles Johnson has a wealth of experience handling sex crime cases and will work diligently to ensure your legal rights and interests are protected every step of the way. His firm is dedicated to thoroughly investigating your case, building a strong defense, negotiating with other parties to dismiss or reduce your charges, and more. If you want someone who is on your side, please contact Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson today for a complimentary consultation.
Sexual Assault of a Child as Defined by Law
Like all states, Texas protects children from sexual contact short of statutory rape. Like statutory rape, consent is not an issue, the age of consent is 17, and there is an affirmative defense if the two parties are close in age:
§ 21.11. INDECENCY WITH A CHILD. (a) A person commits an offense if, with a child younger than 17 years and not the person’s spouse, whether the child is of the same or opposite sex, the person:
(1) engages in sexual contact [defined below]with the child or causes
the child to engage in sexual contact; or
(2) with intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person:
(A) exposes the person’s anus or any part of the person’s genitals, knowing the child is present; or
(B) causes the child to expose the child’s anus or any part of the child’s genitals.
(b) It is an affirmative defense to prosecution under this section that the actor:
(1) was not more than three years older than the victim and of the opposite sex;
(2) did not use duress, force, or a threat against the victim at the time of the offense; and
(3) at the time of the offense:
(A) was not required under Chapter 62, Code of Criminal Procedure, to register for life as a sex offender; or
(B) was not a person who under Chapter 62 had a reportable conviction or adjudication for an offense under this section.
(c) In this section, “sexual contact” means the following acts, if committed with the intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person:
(1) any touching by a person, including touching through clothing, of the anus, breast, or any part of the genitals of a child; or
(2) any touching of any part of the body of a child, including touching through clothing, with the anus, breast, or any part of the genitals of a person.
(d) An offense under Subsection (a)(1) is a felony of the second degree and an offense under Subsection (a)(2) is a felony of the third degree.
Sexual Assault (Statutory Rape)
Forcible rape was a common law offense. Consensual sex with a child was criminalized by a statute by Parliament, and is thus termed “statutory” rape. The Texas version is found in TPC sec. 21.011 (2). It provides that an actor commits an offense if he or she
2) intentionally or knowingly:
(A) causes the penetration of the anus or sexual organ of a child by any means;
(B) causes the penetration of the mouth of a child by the sexual organ of the actor;
(C) causes the sexual organ of a child to contact or penetrate the mouth, anus, or sexual organ of another person, including the actor;
(D) causes the anus of a child to contact the mouth, anus, or sexual organ of another person, including the actor; or
(E) causes the mouth of a child to contact the anus or sexual organ of another person, including the actor.
Note that like the forcible rape version, the statute is gender neutral and includes sex acts other than vaginal intercourse. There is no element of lack of consent .
A child is defined as someone younger than 17 years of age who is not the spouse of the actor. Because the acts are consensual, there is, unlike in the forcible rape version, a spousal exception. Persons under 17 are presumed incapable of giving a valid consent, except when married. Age 17 is referred to as the “age of consent,”–the age at which the law assumes a valid consent can be given.
There is a defense of medical care: “(d) It is a defense to prosecution under Subsection (a)(2) that the conduct consisted of medical care for the child and did not include any contact between the anus or sexual organ of the child and the mouth, anus, or sexual organ of the actor or a third party.”
There is also a defense if the offender and victim are close in age, are not close relatives, and the offender does not have certain prior convictions for certain sex offenses. In these situations it is less likely that there is some form of improper exploitation of a young victim by an older predator.
(e) It is an affirmative defense to prosecution under Subsection (a)(2) that:
(1) the actor was not more than three years older than the victim and at the time of the offense:
(A) was not required under Chapter 62, Code of Criminal Procedure, to register for
life as a sex offender; or
(B) was not a person who under Chapter 62, Code of Criminal Procedure, had a reportable conviction or adjudication for an offense under this section; and
(2) the victim:
(A) was a child of 14 years of age or older; and
(B) was not a person whom the actor was prohibited from marrying or purporting to marry or with whom the actor was prohibited from living under the appearance of being married under Section 25.01.
The statute does not say that the defendant must know that the victim is under 17, and Texas courts have not created such a requirement. Thus, (as in a majority of states) mistake of fact about the victim’s age is not a defense.
New Super Aggravated Offenses: Continuous Sexual Abuse Of Young Child Or Children
In response to legal issues regarding notice, election, jeopardy and unanimity, the 80th Legislature added Section 21.02 to the Penal Code, which defines a new offense entitled Continuous Sexual Abuse Of Young Child Or Children. The new statute provides that a person commits an offense if, during a period of time of 30 days or more, the person commits two or more acts of sexual abuse, regardless of whether the acts of sexual abuse are committed against one or more victims, and at the time of the commission of each of the acts of sexual abuse, the actor is seventeen years of age or older and the victim is a child younger than fourteen years of age. § 21.02(b). For purposes of this section an “act of sexual abuse”, includes aggravated kidnaping with the intent to violate or abuse the victims sexually; indecency with a child, other than by touching the breast of a child, or exposure; sexual assault of a child pursuant to section 22.011; aggravated sexual assault under section 22.021; burglary with the intent to commit one of the foregoing offenses; and sexual performance by a child under section 43.25. §21.02(c), P.C.
It is imperative that you contact Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson immediately when you learn that you are under investigation for this serious offense. You can reach him directly at (713) 222-7577 to discuss your options.
Penalties for Child Abuse and Sentencing
A person charged with child abuse faces a wide range of penalties and sentencing possibilities, depending on several factors. These include the state where the abuse took place, the age of the child, whether the offense involved sexual abuse, whether the child was physically or mentally injured, and the criminal history of the offender.
Sentencing for child abuse and neglect cases is often difficult for everyone involved — especially since child abuse cases are often highly publicized and the potential for a social stigma on the family is great.
In most states, child abuse may be charged as either a felony or a less serious offense depending on the circumstances. The most severe cases of child abuse may carry felony lifetime sentences, while the least serious cases are considered gross misdemeanors with potentially no jail time. Punishment will typically be more severe if the offender has a prior record of criminal child abuse activity and greatly reduced if there is no prior record.
For sentencing purposes, a person charged with child abuse may enter a guilty, not guilty, or no contest plea. In a large number of cases, sentencing will typically include probation or a prison term of up to five years. Sentencing in other, more serious, cases may include a longer prison term.
Other possible penalties and/or consequences may include:
- Lifetime requirement to register as a child sexual offender
- Termination of parental rights
- Ruined reputation
- Criminal record
- Supervised access to the child
- Physical or actual loss and enjoyment of a child
- Continual involvement with a child protective services agency
People who fail to report child abuse or neglect also face penalties and consequences in some states with mandatory reporting laws. In those states, if a person has reason to suspect that someone is abusing a child, they must report it through a hotline or law enforcement agency. Failure to report such cases in a timely manner is considered a misdemeanor in most states and may result in fines, jail time, or both.
Statute of Limitations for Sexual Assault of a Child Crimes
Felony indictments must be presented within these time limits:
- Continuous sexual abuse of a young child/children
- Aggravated sexual assault of a child
- Sexual assault of a child
- Indecency with a child
- Sexual assault of an adult if DNA evidence is present
20 years from the victim’s 18th birthday:
- Sexual performance by a child
- Aggravated kidnapping with intent to commit sexual offense
- Burglary of habitation with intent to commit sexual offense
10 years from the date of the commission of the offense:
- Sexual assault of an adult
- Aggravated sexual assault of an adult
Sections 21 and 22 of the Texas Penal Code define indecency with a child, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault and other sex crimes. In these cases, “child” means a person younger than 17 years of age who is not the spouse of the actor.
Possible Defenses for Child Abuse Charges
Defending yourself against a child abuse charge can be difficult especially if it involves the testimony of a child. Combine that with the media’s negative depiction of child abuse offenders and it may seem impossible to overcome the harsh realities of a child abuse allegation.
If you are charged with child abuse – whether physical, emotional, or sexual – a criminal defense lawyer can devise a sound defense strategy and help cast doubt on the prosecutor’s case. Like other crimes, a person charged with child abuse has the same rights as defendants of other crimes, including the right to defend themselves against a criminal charge.
While child abuse laws aim to protect children, the justice system is set up to vindicate those who are wrongfully accused. Below are some of the most common (and some not so common) defenses that a person may assert on a child abuse charge:
False Allegations of Child Abuse
A common defense to child abuse charges is to say you didn’t do it. False accusations of child abuse are more common than most people think, especially in dysfunctional families or between parents who are involved in a difficult child custody battle. Although sometimes difficult to prove, the best strategy to defend false child abuse charges is to aggressively counter-attack allegations and show proof of the lie or similar wrongful conduct by the accuser.
The Injury Is a Result of an Accident
Most state child abuse laws do not punish accidents, unless the accident was a result of recklessness or gross carelessness. Examples of true accidents may include pushing your child on a bike and causing him to fall and scrape his knees or unknowingly slamming your toddler’s hand in the door. When a child’s injuries are a result of an accident, a person may raise this as a defense against child abuse charges but courts are split as to whether to prosecute parents who accidently cause harm to a child when acting with negligence (such as leaving a sleeping baby in a car alone on a hot day).
The Injury Is a Result of Something Other Than Child Abuse
Sometimes parents are falsely accused of child abuse based on non-accidental situations, such as when a child fights with another child and injures himself or when a child has a pre-existing medical condition that contributes to her own injuries. For example, one type of disease called “brittle bone disease” has been raised as a defense to show that one’s injuries were the result of a disorder that causes a child’s bones to break easily, and not a result of child abuse.
Parent’s Right to Discipline
Parents are generally free to discipline their children in any manner they choose, so long as the discipline is reasonable and causes no bodily injury. The question of how a parent disciplines a child (such as through spanking or threat of spanking), however, is often the subject of many child abuse cases. In certain circumstances, a parent, or one standing in “loco parentis “(such as a teacher), can raise the defense of “parental privilege” and claim that they had the right to reasonably discipline a child under their authority. However, if a child’s injuries are more serious than minor bruising as a result of the discipline, the parental privilege may not apply.
Religious Beliefs or Exemption
Even though it’s hard to grasp the thought of a child dying from an easily treatable illness, parents may claim an exemption to child abuse for religious reasons when a child dies because of a parent’s failure to seek medical care for their sick child. Although controversial, this religious exemption is a defense in all but a handful of states, and allows parents to escape charges of child abuse if they choose to pray for their sick children rather than take them to a doctor.
Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy
In rare cases, an individual accused of child abuse may raise the little-known defense called Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy (MSBP). MSBP is used to describe incidents in which a child caregiver, usually the mother, either lies about or promotes illnesses in their children in an attempt to draw attention or sympathy to themselves. This defense usually requires proof of psychological or medical data.
There may be other defenses available depending on the circumstances in your particular case. If you need assistance with defending charges of Child Abuse in Houston, Attorney Charles Johnson can help you understand your rights with respect to child abuse laws in your state. You can contact him directly day or night at (713) 222-7577 to discuss your case.
Hire the Best Houston Child Abuse Lawyer: The Charles Johnson Law Firm
The abuse or neglect of a child can have devastating effects on children and their families, as can false allegations, underreporting, and lack of knowledge. Child abuse is often zealously prosecuted and certain people are required by law to report instances of child abuse believed to have taken place.
When very small children are involved, the statements of the children themselves can be manipulated by the investigator. When older children are involved, the child’s behavioral or emotional problems can result in false accusations or manipulation of the investigator’s sympathy. In many cases, a child may simply tell the investigator what he or she thinks the investigator wants to hear.
The goal in a child abuse prosecution is to protect you from the criminal penalties that would follow a conviction and to protect your professional and family interests. Houston Sex Crimes Lawyer Charles Johnson knows how to challenge the findings of a CPS investigation and broaden the inquiry to cover circumstances that show you in a better light as a parent or child care professional.
Child abuse is, of course, a very sensitive issue and Houston Domestic Violence Lawyer Charles Johnson will address your case with this firmly in mind. Any children who are involved in the case will be engaged in the proceedings as little as possible in order to shield them from this litigation. When their involvement is necessary to improve the chances of a positive outcome, they will be treated with the utmost care and respect. Attorney Johnson is well versed in all areas of domestic violence and abuse cases and is ready to assist you in your legal matter. Contact him directly around the clock at (713) 222-7577 to discuss your case.