A person accused of child abuse faces a range of sanctions and penalties possible depending on several factors. These include the state in which it occurred, the abuse, the age of the child, if the offense included sexual abuse, if the child suffered bodily or mental harm, and the criminal history of the offender.
The sentences for causes of child abuse and neglect are often complex for everyone involved, especially because the causes of child abuse usually have great media coverage and the potential of the family suffers the social stigma is very high.
In most states, child abuse may be sentenced as a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the circumstances. The most severe cases of child abuse may involve life imprisonment for serious crime, while less serious cases are considered misdemeanors, and important, they may not have prison sentences. The punishment will usually be more severe if the offender has a criminal history of child abuse, and are greatly reduced if there is no history.
For the purposes of the judgment, a person accused of child abuse may plead guilty or not guilty or not to declare. In many cases, the sentences will include probation or a prison sentence of up to five years. The sentences in other more serious cases can include prison sentences longer.
Other possible penalties and consequences may include:
- requirement for life to register as an abuser of children;
- termination of parental rights;
- reputation ruined;
- criminal history;
- supervised access to the child;
- physical loss or real-of the child;
- ongoing participation in an agency of child protection services;
People who do not report child abuse or neglect also face penalties and consequences in some states with mandated reporting laws. In those states, if a person has a reason to suspect that someone is abusing a child, you should report it through a hotline or a law enforcement agency. The lack of timely complaint in such cases is considered a misdemeanor in most states and could result in fines, imprisonment, or both.
Generally, it is recommended to work with a lawyer specializing in criminal law in your area to reduce the severity of penalties in all cases of child abuse.