Being accused of endangering or abusing your child is one of the most challenging accusations a parent can face. In Texas, child abuse and endangerment charges have severe consequences, including jail time, serious fines, and the loss of parental rights. A single incident reported by a social worker or teacher could result in the Texas Child Protective Services Division (CPS) investigation. Attorney Douglas Wilder of Wilder Law Firm provides Plano and Dallas residents with skilled legal representation in child endangerment and abuse cases. Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation.
Texas Child Abuse Laws
In Texas, child abuse is a broadly defined crime. Many different actions can constitute child abuse under Texas law. According to § 261.001, child abuse involves all of the following:
- Inflicting or failing to reasonably prevent others from inflicting mental or emotional injury that impairs a child’s growth, development, or psychological functioning
- Physical injuries that result in substantial harm
- Sexual abuse, exploitation, and the use of controlled substances resulting in mental or physical harm to a child
Failure to report child abuse is also a crime in Texas. Specific categories of people must report child abuse, including teachers, nurses, doctors, daycare employees, clergy, and attorneys. Employees of Texas license organizations with direct contact with children, mental health professionals, and reproductive health clinic workers must also report suspected child abuse. Failure to report or falsely reporting child abuse is a Class B misdemeanor in Texas.
Child Endangerment in Texas
Under Texas code § 22.041, It is a crime to abandon or endanger a child. Abandoning a child means leaving a child in any place without providing necessary and reasonable care for the child under circumstances in which no reasonable person would have left a child of that age and ability. To prove that someone has abandoned a child, the prosecutor must show that the person placed a child under the age of 15 in imminent danger of death, bodily injury, or physical or mental impairment. The law goes on to give examples of ways in which someone can endanger a child, such as:
- Manufacturing, possessing, or taking methamphetamine in the presence of a child
- Exposing a child to methamphetamine
- Ingesting or inhaling a controlled substance into the body in front of a child
Examples of criminal child neglect include:
- Leaving a child in a situation in which they are exposed to a substantial risk of mental or physical harm
- Placing a child in or failing to remove a child from a situation that could result in immediate harm or harmful sexual conduct to the child
- Failure to provide a child with the food, clothing, or shelter necessary to sustain the child’s life
- The failure to seek medical care for a child results in a substantial risk of death or disfigurement
Penalties for Child Abuse in Texas
Defendants convicted of child abuse in Texas can expect harsh penalties that depend in part on the child’s injuries. Defendants convicted of reckless actions that caused bodily injury to a child can spend between 180 days and two years in jail and may be required to pay up to a $10,000 fine. When the defendant acts intentionally or with knowledge and causes a bodily injury to a child, they will face a third-degree felony charge. Third-degree felonies carry penalties of up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
When the defendant acted recklessly and caused serious mental or bodily injury to a child, they will face a second-degree felony charge with a prison sentence between two and 20 years and/or a fine of up to $10,000. Finally, suppose the defendant knowingly or intentionally caused serious mental or bodily injury to a child. In that case, they could face first-degree felony charges that carry a prison sentence between five to 99 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Defendants may also be subject to civil penalties through a personal injury lawsuit by the victim’s family.
Penalties for Child Abandonment or Endangerment in Texas
Typically, a conviction for child abandonment or endangerment is punishable by a state jail felony when the alleged offender intended to return the child. The penalty for a state jail felony is a jail sentence between 180 days into years and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
When the defendant did not intend to abandon the child, he or she will face a third-degree felony that carries a prison sentence ranging from two to 10 years and/or a fine of up to $10,000. When the alleged offender places the child in a situation that would likely cause the child bodily injury, death, or mental or physical impairment, he or she will face a second-degree felony that carries a prison sentence from two to 20 years and a fine of up to $10,000.
Child Protective Services: What to Know About Fighting CPS Investigations and Charges
If CPS is investigating you for child abuse, the first thing you should do is take the allegations seriously. You should also ask what the accusations and charges against you are while saying as little as possible before discussing your case with a lawyer. Remember that almost all charges that CPS accuses you are criminal charges. It can be difficult to refrain from trying to prove your innocence to the CPS agent, but you should remain quiet until you discuss your case with a lawyer. At Wilder Law Firm, we will review your case, advise you of your rights, and aid in communications with the police and CPS so you can protect yourself.
Contact a Skilled Child Abuse Defense Lawyer Today | Plano & Dallas, Texas
Child abuse allegations are serious. Not only do you face jail time, fines, and a criminal record, you could also lose the ability to see your children. If CPS is investigating you or you have been charged with child abuse or neglect in Texas, contact attorney Douglas Wilder of Wilder Law Firm. We represent clients throughout Plano and Dallas, and will provide you with the skilled legal defense you deserve. Contact us as soon as possible to schedule a consultation.
For more information on Texas child abuse laws, please see: Child Abuse Facts & Questions
Our office location: 5600 Tennyson Parkway, Suite #290, Plano, TX 75024