Child abuse charges, of any severity, carry a certain stigma. It often does not feel as though a person charged is in fact, “innocent until proven guilty.” This is because, just the mere charge of child abuse carries sometimes quick, collateral consequences. The collateral consequences of a child abuse charge can affect almost every area of a person’s life from their home, life and their employment. A few of the collateral consequences a person can face as a result of a child abuse charge include losing a position of employment and/or not being eligible for an educational or employment opportunity. A person charged with child abuse could lose their child or children through a DHS proceeding and even possibly be mistreated or harassed in the community all due to being charged (or mischarged as is often the case) with child abuse. The law office of Black & Graham, LLC is dedicated to making sure the prosecution is held to the extremely high burden of proof of beyond a reasonable doubt. The law firm of Black & Graham will fight to represent you every step of the way in your child abuse case and protect you from the possible collateral consequences.
Many times a person accused of child abuse faces a two-pronged legal-proceeding. One legal proceeding is from the State, county or city government in the form of a criminal charge. The other legal proceeding comes from the Department of Human Services (DHS) in the form of an investigation, which could result in removal of the children and/or a dependency and neglect action (D&N). Anyone charged with child abuse should have an experienced and reputable attorney to provide a defense from both of these legal proceedings and make sure every single one of their rights is respected and honored.
Child abuse charges in Colorado range from a Class 2 Misdemeanor to a Class 2 Felony depending upon the circumstances and severity of injury. Child abuse can even result in Class 1 Felony charges under some very limited circumstances. Child abuse in Colorado covers numerous situations including those beyond what traditionally is thought of as child abuse. Many situations not traditionally thought of as child abuse can result in child abuse charges, including, but not limited to:
- leaving a child who is not responsible on their own for any period of time, leaving your child in a running car or leaving your child in a car on a hot day;
- using drugs or alcohol in front of the child or while caring for a child;
- manufacturing drugs in a house in which the child lives (possibly including growing marijuana pursuant to a medical license or State law);
- getting into an argument or physical altercation in front of the child (getting charged with Domestic Violence in the presence of the child);
- getting charged with Driving Under the Influence (DUI), Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI) for drugs or alcohol with the child in the car, and;
- placing the child in an unreasonably dangerous position can be considered neglect, and therefore can be considered child abuse under Colorado Revised Statutes. Neglect is placing the child in an unreasonably dangerous position and/or failing to provide for the child’s basic needs (e.g. food, clothing, shelter or proper medical care). Please note there are possible religious defense to the charge of neglect for failing to provide proper medical care. This list is not meant to cover every possible scenario but rather, is meant to illustrate many untraditional types of child abuse that can result in criminal charges in Colorado.
The collateral consequences of a child abuse charge and the stigma associated with it can feel especially unfair given that many cases come about due solely to the mandatory disclosure requirements. In Colorado, people with certain job titles (teachers, doctors, psychiatrists, law enforcement officers, etc.) are required by law to report any issue they suspect to be child abuse to law enforcement. This is a legal requirement for mandatory reporters which results in many of the mandatory reporters erring on the side of caution. Mandatory reporters report anything remotely close to child abuse in an effort to protect themselves from liability. This is the often case even when the mandatory reporter does not think child abuse has occurred. Mandatory reporters often do not know the profound effects that these mere allegations can have on people’s lives regardless of any criminal charges being filed.
A person charged with child abuse may have many possible defenses available depending upon the facts and circumstances of the case. In addition to the traditional defenses associated with any criminal case (general denial, lack of intent, alibi, etc.) there are affirmative defenses possibly available in a child abuse case including the right of self-defense, defense of others, defense of property and the right to use physical force when there is the existence of a special relationship 18-1-703 Colorado Revised Statutes. (C.R.S.). This statute allows a parent or guardian or anyone with a special relationship as defined by statute to use physical force to maintain discipline or promote the welfare of the child or children. In these situations, the parent or guardian may use reasonable and appropriate physical force upon the child when and to the extent necessary and appropriate to maintain discipline or promote the welfare of the child. It is vital that you have an experienced criminal defense attorney like the attorneys at Black & Graham, LLC to help identify and raise any applicable defenses and to put you in the best possible position to avoid a felony or misdemeanor conviction, to avoid any jail or prison sentence and any collateral consequences if you or someone you know is charged with child abuse.