No relationship is more important than the parent-child relationship, and any suggestion that you abuse your children in shocking.
Nevertheless, allegations of child abuse are made every day, often by a former partner or a mandated reporter like a teacher or doctor.
If you are facing child abuse charges in Colorado, you need an experienced attorney to assist you. These cases are very complicated and emotionally draining, and you should not handle your case alone.
Child Abuse Laws in Colorado
Colorado’s main child abuse statute is found at Colorado Revised Statutes § 18-6-401. The first part of the statute generally defines abuse as any harm inflicted on a child under the age of 16 or putting a child in a potentially harmful situation. Abuse can include:
- Denying proper medical care
- Denying food or water
The second part of the statute criminalizes sexual abuse of a young girl, in particular female circumcision or genital mutilation. An exception exists if the procedure benefits the child’s health.
Another section of the statute defines child abuse to include having children in the presence of the manufacture or possession of certain controlled substances.
Punishment for Child Abuse
The punishment you face for child abuse will depend on many factors, including:
- The child’s age
- The severity of the child’s injury
- Whether the abuser acted knowingly/recklessly or only with criminal negligence
- Any prior convictions for child abuse
Death and serious bodily injuries will warrant the greatest punishment, although they are rare.
Death of a Child:
If a child dies, you may receive the following:
- If you knowingly or recklessly caused a child’s death, it is a Class 2 felony and can result in 8-24 years in prison and a fine of up to $1,000,000.
- If the death was caused negligently, then you can face 4-16 years in prison and up to $750,000 in fines.
- It is a Class 1 felony if the child is under age 12.
Serious Bodily Injury:
If a child is seriously injured, you may receive the following:
- If you knowingly or recklessly cause serious injury, it is a Class 3 felony. You can face 4-16 years in prison and a fine up to $750,000.
- If you negligently caused serious bodily injury, then you are looking at a Class 4 felony and punishment of 2-8 years in prison and a fine up to $500,000.
Minor or No Physical Injuries
Most child abuse cases, however, involve minor or no physical injuries. Nevertheless, the state can still prosecute you, giving you a criminal record if convicted. You might receive the following:
- If you have no prior child abuse convictions and your child suffers no injury (or a minor one), then it is a misdemeanor. Punishment will depend on whether you abused the child knowingly/recklessly or with criminal negligence. Generally, you are looking at 3-18 months in jail and a fine up to $1,000.
- If you are in a position of trust, or if you have a prior conviction for child abuse, then the state can bump up the misdemeanor to a Class 5 felony. Punishments include 1-5 years in prison and a fine up to $100,000.
As you can see, the punishment depends on the circumstances, and a skilled attorney can minimize the punishment by downplaying your criminal culpability.
Child Abuse Legal Actions
If you have been accused of child abuse, you could be facing two different legal actions:
- The state can prosecute you for child abuse. If convicted, you face criminal sanctions like time in jail and/or fines mentioned above.
- Child Protective Services (CPS) can investigate you and, depending on their findings, start a dependency & neglect (D&N) action, which could result in you losing your children.
Each of these legal actions is different, and you need an experienced CPS attorney who can defend you in each of them. Often, a lawyer might know how to defend a criminal case but not a D&N action, or vice versa.
Miller Leonard, Esq. has experience defending clients in both legal proceedings. As a CPS attorney, he is particularly skilled at fighting D&N actions. He can also fight to keep you out of jail and keep your family together.
Collateral Consequences of a Child Abuse Allegation
You should definitely take all allegations of child abuse very seriously. Being accused of beating a child carries with it a definite social stigma that can result in a lost job. If you are in a custody dispute, then an allegation of abuse can also cost you custody if the judge believes that the abuse happened.
Convicted felons also lose important rights in Colorado, such as the right to vote and the right to possess a firearm or archery weapon. Getting these rights restored can be difficult, so it is best to avoid a felony conviction if at all possible.
Defenses to a Child Abuse Charge
An accusation is not a conviction. Parents accused of child abuse can raise many defenses to these accusations that might be successful. For example, you might be able to raise general defenses, such as:
- Lack of proof (i.e., reasonable doubt)
- Self defense
If a teenager has rushed you, then it is not illegal to use self-defense to protect yourself and your family members but any use of force must be reasonable.
Other defenses are available if you are a parent who uses corporal punishment to discipline your children. Under Colorado Revised Statute § 18-1-703, a parent, guardian, or anyone entrusted with the physical care a child can use physical force to discipline them or promote their welfare. However, the force must be appropriate and reasonably necessary.
Speak with a Colorado Child Abuse Lawyer
Child abuse allegations warrant a swift response. Attorney Miller Leonard defends people accused of child abuse and understands how difficult these cases can be, and he is prepared to do whatever is necessary to clear your name in court or in a D&N proceeding.
For more information, please schedule a free initial consultation by calling 720-613-8783 or sending an online message.