Felony Child Abuse
State and federal law generally give parents and other legal guardians of young children a wide berth regarding how they raise and discipline their children.
However, there are limits to what parents and guardians are allowed to do when it comes to disciplining a young child, especially with regard to the use of physical force. Children enjoy certain protections under the law, and being found guilty of child abuse carries significant penalties. If the abuse rises to the level of a felony, the penalties become much more severe.
If you’re accused of felony child abuse, contact a North Carolina child abuse defense attorney right away. The Raleigh criminal defense lawyers at Kurtz & Blum have more than 50 years of combined experience, and our dedicated, collaborative approach gives us an advantage when it comes to challenging criminal cases. We’ll be ready to discuss your situation when you call us for a confidential case evaluation.
What Is Felony Child Abuse?
In North Carolina, felony child abuse is defined in North Caroline General Statute § 14-318.4. This law explains that a person who causes a serious physical injury to a child younger than 16 who is in their care can be charged with a Class D felony.
For the purposes of this law, serious physical injury and serious bodily injury mean:
- Serious physical injury – “Bodily injury that creates a substantial risk or death or that causes serious permanent disfigurement, coma, a permanent or protracted condition that causes extreme pain, or permanent or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ, or that results in prolonged hospitalization.”
- Serious bodily injury – “Physical injury that causes great pain and suffering” to include serious mental injury.
Class D Felony
In addition to the broad definition of felony child abuse, North Carolina’s law also spells out specific actions that are considered abuse, as well as penalties for those actions. Under North Carolina law, you can face charges for a Class D felony if you:
- Intentionally inflict any serious physical injury on the child or intentionally commit an assault on a child that results in serious physical injury
- Commit, permit, or encourage an act of prostitution with the child
- Commit or allow a sexual act to be committed on the child
Class B2 Felony
You can face harsher penalties if you cause serious bodily injury to the child. You can be charged with a Class B2 felony if you intentionally inflict any serious physical injury on the child or intentionally commit an assault on a child that results in any of the following to the child:
- serious bodily injury
- permanent or protracted loss or impairment of any mental or emotional function
Class E and G Felony
If your willful act or grossly negligent omission in the care of a child under 16 shows a reckless disregard for human life and that act or omission results in serious bodily injury to the child, you can be charged with a Class E felony. This includes cases in which you fail to report a child as missing. If your act or omission resulted in serious physical injury, you could be charged with a Class G felony.
Penalties for Child Abuse
The criminal penalties for felony child abuse depend on the nature of the particular offense. General felony child abuse is a Class D offense in North Carolina. The maximum penalties for child abuse carry different penalties, including:
- Baseline felony child abuse – Class D felony, punishable by up to 204 months in prison
- Sexual abuse of a child – Class D felony, punishable by up to 204 months in prison
- Committing, permitting, or encouraging a child to engage in prostitution – Class D felony, punishable by up to 204 months in prison
- Intentional acts resulting in serious bodily injury – Class B2 felony, punishable by up to 484 months in prison
- Willful acts or gross negligence resulting in serious bodily injury – Class E felony, by up to 88 months in prison.
- Willful acts or gross negligence resulting in serious physical injury – Class G felony, punishable by up to 47 months in prison
If you are charged with misdemeanor child abuse under North Caroline General Statute § 14-318.2, you can face up to 150 days in jail.
In addition to possible imprisonment, a child abuse conviction can result in other penalties and consequences. You can be charged with other related crimes. You could also end up losing your right to see or spend time around your children. If you’re found guilty of sexually abusing a child, you could also be forced to register as a sex offender.
Potential Defenses to Child Abuse Charges
Given the severe penalties that come with a felony child abuse charge, it’s important to do whatever you can to avoid a conviction. There are a few ways adults accused of felony child abuse can defend themselves.
While children should be protected from intentional harm, they sometimes suffer accidental injuries that may look like the result of abuse. If the child has suffered a physical injury, showing how it happened accidentally can demonstrate that no abuse has occurred. Providing evidence that an adult did not mean to intentionally harm the child could also lead to a lesser charge.
A child abuse allegation may also stem from a dispute between the child’s parents, especially if they’re getting divorced. If this is the case, a criminal defense lawyer can help the accused adult gather evidence that questions the credibility of the allegations against them.
Law enforcement must lawfully obtain evidence in a child abuse case to use it in their prosecution. If law enforcement unlawfully obtained evidence, an experienced criminal defense lawyer can challenge the seizure of such evidence.
How Kurtz & Blum Can Help Defend Against Felony Child Abuse Charges
An accusation of felony child abuse is serious. If you’ve been accused of child abuse, take prompt action by contacting an experienced North Carolina child abuse defense lawyer as soon as possible. The criminal defense team at Kurtz & Blum will fight to protect your rights. We’re in your corner. We have a collaborative approach to our cases, which allows us to put our collective 50 years of combined legal experience to help our clients.
Arrange a confidential consultation with one of our lawyers today by calling our office in Raleigh, using our live chat service, or filling out our contact form.