A criminal attorney who has experience defending clients charged with child abuse can offer a variety of legal services to meet the needs of the case. Below is a description of these services and an indication of what you can expect at each step in the process.
When you initially meet with your attorney in Moreno Valley, CA, they can thoroughly go over your case to learn all the specific details and circumstances that make it unique. Once your attorney has a thorough understanding of your case, an evaluation of the key components of your case, charges, and other factors can allow your attorney to find weaknesses in the prosecution’s case against you.
This close analysis of your case allows your attorney to determine the right defense strategy for your situation. They can inform you of the realistic expectations of your case from an experienced legal perspective. A responsible attorney ensures that you are made aware of potential sentencing outcomes. They can also advise you to take a plea deal if it would benefit you more than other potential outcomes.
Evidence Collection and Analysis
At this stage, your attorney collects any evidence that they can regarding your case, including:
- Witness statements
- Documentation that portrays your character in a way that is inconsistent with an abuser
- School records
- Medical records
- Anything else pertinent to your case
Your attorney can then scrutinize all the evidence collected.
Your attorneys also want to collect any evidence that depicts you in a negative light. That way, they can be prepared to counter that evidence if the prosecution brings it up.
They also look for any evidence indicating that an error was made in any departmental procedures. A skilled attorney can see if protocol at the time of the arrest or booking, or anytime thereafter, was not carried out properly. This type of evidence could lead to some evidence being excluded from the trial. It may even lead to a dismissal or downgrade of the charges, depending on the unique circumstances of the case.
Offer Legal Advice and Guidance
Your attorney can offer you crucial legal advice, guide you through the process, and explain your rights to you throughout your case. They can inform you of the laws that are applicable to your situation and answer any questions you may have. You should also be made aware of any potential consequences that you might be facing. Your attorney can advise you on the ideal route, whether it involves going to trial, negotiating a plea deal, or seeking another alternative resolution.
Provide Representation in Court Proceedings
Throughout the legal proceedings, your attorney can advocate for your case at pre-trial hearings, trial proceedings, and sentence hearings when necessary. Throughout the process, your attorney might need to:
- Present a defense on your behalf.
- Cross-examine any witnesses.
- Question witnesses on behalf of the defense.
- Challenge the prosecution’s evidence.
Your attorney can advocate for you in this way to convince the jury or judge, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the claims made by the defense are valid.
Negotiate a Plea Deal With the Prosecutor or District Attorney
If the prosecution’s case against the defendant appears to be strong, a good lawyer may try to negotiate a plea deal with the prosecutor. This often results in lower charges and reduced sentencing if the defendant pleads guilty to lesser charges. In these cases, negotiating a plea deal usually arises out of the need to avoid an inevitable guilty verdict. The defendant’s attorney can tell if the prosecution has too much evidence to risk going to trial or if there’s no chance that the case will result in anything less.
Post-Conviction Appeals and Relief
In the event of a conviction, an experienced child abuse attorney may find ways to explore post-conviction relief options, such as appealing the decision of the court or requesting a sentence modification for the defendant.
Your attorney could also help navigate the legalities of the consequences that follow your conviction, such as employment restrictions, loss of parental rights, or adherence to the terms of a protective order.
Penalties for Child Abuse
Child abuse can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the facts of the case and the severity of the allegations. These types of charges are referred to as “wobblers” because they could go either way. Misdemeanor charges carry penalties of up to one year in county jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. Felony charges carry penalties of up to six years in state prison, a fine of up to $6,000, or both.
However, if a second child abuse violation occurs within ten years of a prior same-offense conviction, an additional four years in state prison is added to the sentence.
There is also the possibility of being sentenced to probation for a child abuse conviction. This typically requires:
- A mandatory three-year probation
- Completion of a child abuser’s counseling and treatment program
- Protective order prohibiting threats of violence or violence by the abuser toward the victim
- Random urinalysis for drugs if the offense involved drug use
A juvenile court will nearly always try a minor as a juvenile for a status offense due to the fact that these offenses would not be violations if they were committed by an adult. Common status offenses include:
- Underage drinking
- Underage marijuana usage
- Underage use of tobacco products
- Truancy, or skipping school
- Violating local curfew hours
Child Abuse Charges Explained
Child abuse can occur anywhere, whether it be in public, at school, at extracurricular activities, at church, or at home. Abuse can result in physical injuries, emotional injuries, or even death. There are four types of child abuse as defined by California criminal law: physical, emotional, sexual, and neglect. These four types are explained below, along with signs to identify them.
Physical child abuse happens when a child suffers bodily harm at the hand of an individual who intentionally and consciously acted in violence to inflict pain on the child. Examples of physical abuse include:
- Any other physically harmful actions
These acts can cause minor or serious physical injuries, ranging from bruises or marks to fractures or other internal injuries. Injuries are often unexplained and appear to occur over the course of time. In most instances, the victim is reluctant to talk about their injuries.
Emotional child abuse occurs when someone’s actions negatively affect the emotional or psychological well-being or developmental well-being of a child. Examples of psychological abuse include:
- Any other form of negative emotional acts toward a child
Emotional child abuse is often difficult to detect because it is invisible and leaves no physical marks or scars, but the injuries can be even more severe and long-lasting than physical injuries. Emotional abuse can be harmful to a child’s mental health, self-esteem, emotional regulation, and social aptitude, among other things.
When an adult engages in sexual activity with a minor or exposes a minor to sexually explicit situations or material, it is considered sexual abuse. Sexual child abuse also occurs when an adult:
- Inappropriately touches a minor
- Inflicts sexual assault on a minor
- Participates in child molestation
- Rapes a minor
- Exploits a minor via pornography or prostitution
Children who have been sexually abused may exhibit a sudden change in their behaviors. They may possess sexual knowledge inappropriate for their age, and they may be reluctant to participate in activities that they were formerly comfortable with.
Neglect occurs when the caregiver of a child fails to provide for that child’s basic needs, whether that be emotional, physical, medical, or educational needs.
- Failing to meet emotional needs involves failing to provide love, emotional support, or guidance.
- Neglecting physical needs involves failing to provide adequate food, shelter, clothing, or hygiene.
- Medical neglect is a failure to provide necessary medical and dental care.
- Educational neglect occurs when a child doesn’t receive appropriate schooling or special needs accommodations.
A neglected child may show signs of malnutrition, poor hygiene, and untreated medical needs. They may also have frequent school absences.
Defense Strategies for Child Abuse Charges
When you’re facing charges for child abuse, a criminal lawyer who is well-versed in California law and has extensive experience working both with and against prosecutors can be an invaluable resource. Not only do these attorneys know what to expect, they have a keen eye regarding what can hold up in court.
A good Moreno Valley child abuse lawyer can develop a defense strategy based on your unique case but also incorporate defense strategies that have been the most successful in past cases. Below are some of the most common defense techniques used in child abuse cases.
Presenting Firsthand Knowledge Through Character Witnesses
Individual testimony from people who personally observed the defendant interacting with the child can attest to the responsibility and care that the defendant displayed toward them. This can be a great way to establish credibility. At the same time, their testimonies challenge the validity of the prosecution’s argument against the defendant.
These first-hand witnesses might include:
- Close family members
- Close friends
There might be other caregivers who have personally witnessed the relationship between the accused and the child. In some cases, the testimony of the child may be admissible.
Comprehensive Medical Records
Submitting detailed medical records and documents can give context regarding any injuries or health issues that are demonstrated by the prosecution. These can disprove accusations that some or all of the injuries were a result of intentional harm by the accused.
The injuries in question might be explained as having a plausible alternative cause, such as an accident documented in the medical records, a pre-existing condition, or some other origin. If this evidence supports the claims of the defense, it may be determined that the charges are unfounded.
Testimony From a Credible Professional
It can be useful to secure testimonies from certified professionals with a deep understanding of child abuse, pediatric health, or child psychology. Such testimony could come from a child psychologist, a social worker, or a pediatric physician. They may be able to provide insight into the case, stating for the court whether the allegations match what they know from their experience in their respective fields. These informed perspectives can be an asset to the defense.
Documentation of the Defendant’s Activities
If the defense can produce meticulous, detailed, and documented records that show the location and actions of the defendant during the time in which the allegations took place, a reasonable doubt could be established as to whether the defendant is guilty of abuse.
Establishing an alibi and/or proving the defendant’s whereabouts when the abuse reportedly took place may involve submitting:
- The defendant’s work records or timesheets
- Store, online, or email receipts
- Bank account transaction records
- Travel footprint documentation
- Phone records
- Footage from surveillance equipment
These may be enough to corroborate the defendant’s story.
Contact My SoCal Lawyers
If you are facing child abuse accusations and/or charges and wish to defend yourself, My SoCal Lawyers can provide you with guidance and support throughout the proceedings of your case. Our experience affords us the knowledge and understanding to convincingly present a case for your innocence to the court on your behalf.
A comprehensive defense, backed by strong evidence, has the potential to influence the outcome in your favor. Contact us to learn more about our services and find out how My SoCal Lawyers can be an asset to your case.