Child abuse of any kind is a grave charge. Indiana state law assigns serious penalties to anyone who is convicted of a form of child abuse. If you’re facing this type of charge, it’s important to get an experienced child abuse or child neglect attorney who can help you understand the charges, explore possible defenses, and protect your rights.
In the United States, anyone accused of a crime is considered innocent until proven guilty and has the right to counsel. When you’re facing serious charges that can end in felony convictions, you need to make sure you understand what you’re up against and have an experienced attorney at your side.
What Is Child Abuse?
In Indiana, child abuse is defined as any situation in which one of the following occurs:
- A child’s physical or mental health is impaired or endangered as a result of the parent, guardian, or custodian’s refusal or inability to provide necessary food, shelter, clothing, medical care, supervision, and education.
- A child’s physical or mental health is endangered due to an injury.
- The child is a victim of a sex offense or allowed to participate in an obscene performance or sex offense.
You may think of physical injury as the most obvious example of child abuse, but this offense can occur in many ways, some of which involve no physical contact with the child whatsoever. Here are some types of abuse that you should be aware of:
- Physical abuse occurs when a child suffers from any nonaccidental injury.
- Sexual abuse is any instance where a child under the age of 18 is allowed sexual contact with an adult or older child.
- Emotional abuse occurs when a child is subject to a pattern of behavior that harms their emotional development or sense of self-worth.
- Neglect is a type of child abuse in which the child’s basic needs are not met.
What Charges Are Associated With Child Abuse?
Child abuse in any form is a serious charge. If you or someone you know has been accused of child abuse, it’s important to understand what this means.
Neglect of a Dependent
If you’re charged with neglect of a dependent, you’re facing a Level 6 felony. This is punishable with imprisonment for anywhere from six months to two-and-a-half years and a fine of up to $10,000. If the offender has a previous conviction under this statute, the offense is elevated to a Level 5 felony. Neglect occurs if a child:
- Is put in a situation that endangers their life or health.
- Is deprived of education as required by the law.
- Is abandoned.
- Is cruelly confined.
- Is deprived of necessary support.
Nonsupport of a Dependent
If you fail to provide support for a dependent child either knowingly or intentionally, you can be charged with a Level 6 felony. Support includes food, shelter, clothing, and medical care. This is a Level 5 felony if you have a previous conviction under this charge.
You may have a valid defense against this charge if the child has abandoned the home of the family without the consent of their parents or an order of a court. However, if the child left the home due to abuse, this is not a defense.
Battery of Children
Battery occurs when any person knowingly touches another in a rude, insolent, or angry manner. A simple battery is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and no more than 180 days in jail. If the battery results in bodily injury, it becomes a Class A misdemeanor punishable with a fine of up to $1,000 and no more than one year in jail.
When the battery occurs against a child, the severity of the crime increases significantly. If the battery is committed by someone who is at least 18 years of age against someone who is less than 14 years of age, it becomes a Level 3 felony. This is punished with a fixed prison term between six and 20 years and a fine of up to $10,000. If the battery results in death, it’s a Level 2 felony with a prison term between one and 30 years and a fine of up to $10,000.
If the case is considered an aggravated battery, the charges are more severe. Aggravated battery occurs when the individual intentionally or knowingly inflicts injury that creates:
- Substantial risk of death.
- Loss of a fetus.
- Serious permanent disfigurement.
- Impairment or protracted loss of the function of an organ or part of the body.
Aggravated battery is typically a Level 3 felony, but it becomes a Level 1 felony if it results in death and is committed by a person at least 18 years of age against someone less than 14 years of age. This is punishable by 20 to 50 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
How Is Child Abuse Reported?
By law, anyone who believes that a child is a victim of abuse or neglect is required to report this to law enforcement or child welfare services. These reports do not have to be substantiated. The suspicion of child abuse or neglect is sufficient. Anyone involved in the reporting or investigation of child abuse is immune from civil or criminal penalties unless acting in bad faith. There are penalties for failure to report suspected child abuse or neglect.
Where Can I Get More Information About Indiana Child Abuse Laws?
Within Indiana Code, Title 35, Article 46, Chapter 1, you can find more information about child abuse statues.
- Definitions: Section 35-46-1-1.
- Neglect of a Dependent: Section 35-46-1-4.
- Nonsupport of a Dependent Child: Section 35-46-1-5.
- Reckless Supervision: Section 35-46-1-4.1.
- Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor: Section 35-46-1-8.
- Tobacco or Electronic Cigarettes and Minors: Section 35-46-1-10.
If you’re facing charges associated with child abuse, contact our lawyers at Alvarez Law Office in Crown Point, Indiana. We can provide you with the best defense possible and will work tirelessly on your behalf to protect your rights. Our law firm has defended the accused since 1974 and can put that experience to work for you.