DC Child Abuse Lawyer

Under the District of Columbia criminal laws, child abuse is prosecuted under a statute that criminalizes the cruelty to children and is defined as first degree cruelty to children and second degree cruelty to children.

Both are taken extremely seriously in the eyes of the law. Therefore, if you are facing charges, contact a DC child abuse lawyer as soon as possible. A skilled defense attorney will work to build the strongest defense possible.

Degrees of Cruelty

First degree cruelty to children takes place when a person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly tortures, beats, or otherwise willfully maltreats a child under 18 years of age. First degree cruelty to children can also be prosecuted when a person engages in conduct that creates a grave risk of bodily injury to a child and as a result causes bodily injury.

A person commits a crime of second degree cruelty to children when they intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly do one of the following:

  • Maltreat a child
  • Engage in conduct that causes a grave risk of bodily injury to a child
  • Expose a child, or aide and abet in exposing a child, in any highway, street, field house, outhouse, or another place with intent to abandon the child

Second degree cruelty to children is considered to be a less severe offense compared to first degree cruelty to children. That said, however, both are considered to be felony charges.

What to Expect After an Allegation

When a report of child abuse is made, such as a child reporting to another person that they were abused, in many circumstances there is a legal obligation for the person who receives the complaint to notify law enforcement agencies. For example, DC law states that when a teacher receives a complaint from a child that they were abused at home or some other place, the teacher has a legal obligation to report those statements to the local law enforcement agency or other child welfare agency.

Once the report is made, law enforcement investigates the allegation made by the child or other person in order to determine if there is enough evidence to prosecute the case. The police often discuss the allegations with prosecutors at the United States Attorney’s Office to determine whether there is enough evidence to request that a warrant be issued for the arrest of the suspect.

When the prosecutors at the US Attorney’s Office decide that there is enough evidence to prosecute such a case, they must write a report detailing the probable cause to believe a crime was committed and the identity of the person who allegedly committed the crime.

The report is called an affidavit in support of an arrest warrant and must be submitted to a judge. The judge determines whether the prosecutors or the police have sufficient, probable cause to issue an arrest warrant. If the judge believes they have done that, an arrest warrant is issued. At that point, law enforcement can arrest the suspect which officially begins the criminal case. The suspect then becomes a defendant in a criminal case.

Application for an Arrest Warrant

The process by which police and prosecutors apply to a judge for an arrest warrant is not an open process. There are no defense attorneys involved in the process and a suspect, in many situations, may not even know they are being investigated. In some situations, the police may first attempt to interview or interrogate the suspect before submitting their request.

It can be helpful for the police to get an arrest warrant when they have admissions or statements from a suspect to use as evidence against the suspect. It is not uncommon for police to attempt to get admissions or statements from a suspect to use to support their allegations and help them get an arrest warrant and obtain a conviction in the criminal case.

How an Attorney Can Help Achieve a Favorable Outcome

Even an allegation by a child that may seem not serious or something that can be resolved in private can still result in an arrest, prosecution, and severe long-term consequences for a person’s ability to be able to maintain a supervisory role in that child’s life. In situations where the allegation of cruelty to children is against a person who has no supervisory authority over the child, for example, a non-parent figure, an extended family member, or in some situations a complete stranger, there can still be serious criminal consequences even when a person is charged with a misdemeanor offense of attempted second degree cruelty to children.

Regardless of the relationship between the child abuse accuser and the person charged, the consequences make it essential that a person contacts a criminal defense lawyer who is familiar with DC cruelty to children laws. The same suggestion applies to people who have not yet been contacted by law enforcement. If a person thinks that an allegation might be made, speaking to a criminal defense lawyer first can help the person avoid making costly errors when communicating with law enforcement, communicating with the child, or communicating with the child’s parents. It is difficult to take those statements back. Sometimes it is difficult to explain statements that were made in the past, so speaking with a DC lawyer who understands cruelty to children prosecutions before any prosecution begins can help a person avoid making costly mistakes down the line. Contacting a DC child abuse lawyer is the best way to increase the likelihood of a favorable outcome.