If you are facing a child abuse case, you may feel frightened and fearful for your future. Whether you are facing a completely false accusation, or the police overreached in charging an offense for a minor incident, you need an experienced Colorado Springs child abuse defense attorney who can explain the charges and help you obtain a favorable outcome in court.
The criminal defense attorneys at Patterson Weaver Law, LLC are highly knowledgeable and experienced in handling this type of criminal case, and can help you build a strong and customized legal defense, even up to and including trying your case at trial. Reach out online today for a free case evaluation.
What Is Considered Child Abuse in Colorado Springs
Simply put, child abuse in Colorado is harm to a child under 16 years old or putting a child in any situation that is potentially harmful.
Child abuse does not necessarily mean physical harm. The child abuse statutes are much more expansive than most people realize. Situations and behaviors that can lead to child abuse charges include:
- Causing an injury to a child’s life or health, including psychological abuse
- Placing a child in a situation that poses a threat to their health or life
- Malnourishment and neglect
- Failure to provide medical care
- Child neglect
- Cruel punishment
- Emotional abuse
- Physical Abuse
- Failure to provide for a child’s basic needs
- Accumulation of injuries that result in serious bodily injury or death
- Female genital mutilation
- Sexual abuse
- Manufacturing certain controlled substances in the presence of a child
Is Child Abuse a Misdemeanor or a Felony offense?
As outlined below in “Child Abuse Penalties,” a child abuse conviction can be either a misdemeanor or a felony. The difference between the two can affect your entire future. Not only may you face heavy fines and prison time, but you may also have a difficult time finding employment or securing housing with a serious conviction in your past. That is why it’s essential to work with an experienced attorney who can advise you during the court process and help you obtain the least damaging outcome in a trial.
Child Abuse Penalties
Colorado’s Child Abuse law, codified as Colorado Revised Statute 18-6-401, is remarkably convoluted and can be difficult to understand. When determining the penalties involved, one must look to two things: (1) the nature and severity of the injury to the child; and (2) the mental state of the person accused at the time of the alleged offense.
Pursuant to the section (1)(a) of the statute, a person commits child abuse if the person causes an injury to a child’s life or health, or permits a child to be unreasonably placed in a situation that poses a threat of injury to the child’s life or health, or engages in a continued pattern of conduct that results in malnourishment, lack of probable medical care, cruel punishment, mistreatment, or an accumulation of injuries that ultimately results in the death of a child or serious bodily injury to a child.
Child Abuse (Knowing or Reckless)
If you caused injury to a child’s life or health, OR permit a child to be unreasonably placed in a situation that posed a threat of injury to the child’s life or health, OR engaged in a continued pattern of conduct that resulted in malnourishment, lack of proper medical care, cruel punishment, or an accumulation of injuries that ultimately resulted in the death or serious bodily injury of a child, and your actions were knowing or reckless, you could be convicted of knowing or reckless child abuse.
Child Abuse (Criminal Negligence)
If you caused injury to a child’s life or health, OR permit a child to be unreasonably placed in a situation that posed a threat of injury to the child’s life or health, OR engaged in a continued pattern of conduct that resulted in malnourishment, lack of proper medical care, cruel punishment, or an accumulation of injuries that ultimately resulted in the death or serious bodily injury of a child, and your actions were criminally negligent, you could be convicted of criminally negligent child abuse.
As stated above, punishment is determined through a combination of the injuries sustained and the mental state of the person committing the abuse.
- Where death results from knowing or reckless conduct, it is a class 2 felony punishable by a fine of up to $1,000,000 and a prison sentence between 8 to 24 years.
- Where death results from criminally negligent conduct, it is a class 3 felony punishable by a fine up to $750,000 and a prison sentence between 4 to 16 years.
- Where serious bodily injury results from knowing or reckless conduct, it is a class 3 felony.
- Where serious bodily injury results from criminally negligent conduct, it is a class 4 felony punishable by a fine of up to $500,000 and a prison sentence between 2 to 8 years.
- Where injury other than serious bodily injury results from knowing or reckless conduct, it is a class 1 misdemeanor.*
- Where injury other than serious bodily injury results from criminally negligent conduct, it is a class 2 misdemeanor.*
* If the defendant has a prior conviction for child abuse in Colorado or any other state, the charge is upgraded to a class 5 felony.
Colorado’s child abuse statute also provides for sentence enhancers that modify the sentence structure above under certain circumstances.
For example, when one knowingly causes the death of a child under 12 years old and the person committing the offense is one in a position of trust (parent, guardian, etc.) with respect to the child, that could be charged as first-degree murder with a sentence of life imprisonment.
The statute provides that felony child abuse and misdemeanor child abuse are extraordinary risk crimes that are subject to the modified presumptive sentencing range specified in sections 18-1.3-401(10) and 18-1.3-501(3), respectively. Under that section of Colorado law, if the defendant is convicted of the class 2 or the class 3 felony of child abuse, the court shall be required to sentence the defendant to the Department of Corrections for a term of at least the midpoint in the presumptive range but not more than twice the maximum term authorized in the presumptive range for the punishment of that class felony. Anyone convicted under that language is not eligible for suspension of sentence or probation or deferred prosecution.
Putting this into context of the numbers referenced above (8 to 24 years for a class 2 felony, and 4 to 16 years for a class 3 felony), you could be sentenced to between 16 to 48 years for the class 2, and 8 to 32 years for a class 3.
What’s the Difference Between Acceptable Punishment Vs. Child Abuse?
The difference between acceptable punishment versus child abuse can be confusing, even within the legal community.
Did you know that any of the following can be considered child abuse?
- Spanking a child
- Leaving a child unattended in a home or vehicle
- Driving a child in a motor vehicle while under the influence
- Exposing a child to controlled substances or illegal recreational drugs
- Committing domestic violence in a child’s presence
- Failure to report suspicion of child abuse
Because there is such a thin line between the two, your case may come down to having a child abuse defense lawyer who can put your unique case in the best light, especially when it comes to issues like spanking.
Mandatory Child Abuse Reporting
In some cases, you may be facing child abuse charges because someone reported you on suspicion of child abuse.
You may also be facing charges for failure to report suspected child abuse if you are a:
- Private or public school employee (teacher, coach, or administrator)
- Healthcare provider (physician, nurse, dentist, etc.)
- Mental health practitioner
- Child care provider
- Social worker
- Law enforcement officer
- Firefighter or emergency medical responder
- Religious leader
Contact a Colorado Springs Child Abuse Defense Lawyer for Help
As you can see from the above, the definition of child abuse and the resultant penalties can be confusing and hinge on subtleties of the situation and how the law interprets it. Therefore, it is imperative to hire a child abuse attorney and law firm with the experience you need to protect your rights and ensure you get the thorough representation you deserve.
Founding attorney Patterson Weaver and his staff have the knowledge and experience you need and will fight to give you the defense you’re entitled to in court. A former prosecutor, Patterson Weaver heads a team of legal professionals who can keep you in the loop and potentially improve your outcome by obtaining reduced charges, reduced sentencing, and/or a sealed case at the end. The firm’s case results and testimonials speak to clients’ satisfaction with their representation from Patterson Weaver Law, LLC.
If you or a loved one has been accused of child abuse, do not wait to get in touch with an attorney. Call today at 719-264-9858 or contact us online. We are here to help you navigate this difficult time.