Defense of Child Abuse Charges in Virginia
Allegations of child abuse are serious and can be extremely difficult upon every person in your family. These allegations can place family members at odds with each other and cause tremendous strain in the family structure. Child abuse allegations can even result in jail or prison time if they are escalated to the criminal justice system. You need to have experienced, caring, and effective legal representation to guide you through this difficult time.
It is important to protect yourself, your livelihood, your reputation, and your family if you are accused of child abuse. Carlos Wall and Alex Gordon have successfully defended hundreds of individuals charged with child abuse and other offenses against family members.
Our criminal defense lawyers are available for free and confidential consultation at 703.218.8416 for anyone who is being investigated for child abuse in Fairfax, Loudoun, Arlington, or Prince William County.
What is the definition of child abuse in Virginia?
Not all allegations of child abuse are prosecuted in criminal court. The Virginia Department of Social Services (“DSS”) often handles allegations and investigations of child abuse separately from the police department and the Virginia Juvenile and Domestic Relations court system.
Child abuse is defined by Virginia Code § 18.2-371.1.
Broadly, the code imposes a duty upon all caregivers of children to act to protect a child. Therefore, if, by the caregiver’s conduct a child is injured, or if the caregiver failed to act and a child is injured, then a caregiver can be accused of child abuse.
A caregiver does not have to be a parent. It can be an aunt or uncle accused of child abuse, a day care provider, babysitter, grandparent, or even a teacher.
If the Department of Social Services (DSS) contacts you, or anyone in your family, because they have begun an investigation into an allegation of child abuse, it is important to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney right away. A DSS investigation is a civil investigation and they are going to determine what level of intervention is necessary to protect the interests of the child. Any statements that you or a family member makes to an investigator can be used against you in criminal court.
DSS can require the alleged abuser to attend such programs as a parenting class. The DSS in major cases can request the court to terminate the parental rights of the alleged abuser. The DSS might refer the case to the police and Commonwealth Attorney for criminal prosecution for child abuse. Often DSS investigators will work jointly with local law enforcement investigators as they interview witnesses, document the abuse, and collect evidence.
If you are contacted by law enforcement, it is imperative you contact an attorney immediately -- before you agree to speak to the police. Most people’s first instinct is to defend themselves by speaking to the police and denying the allegations. Police officers are well-trained, and they will use every method available to them to get you to make incriminating statements. The statements a person makes either before or after an arrest can be used against you in court. We have seen hundreds of cases where people have given the police or DSS investigator all of the information that is needed to secure a criminal conviction because a person talked to a law enforcement officer before talking to a criminal defense lawyer. It is very important that you contact an attorney to effectively defend your case.
What are the possible consequences of a criminal child abuse charge?
Misdemeanor Domestic Assault on a Child Virginia Code Section 18.2-51
Felony Child Abuse and Neglect causing injury of a Child Virginia Code Section 18.2-371.1(A)
Felony Child Abuse and Neglect placing the child at risk of injury Virginia Code Section 18.2-371.1(B)
Misdemeanor “Child Abuse” – Domestic Assault Charges in Virginia
The assault and battery of child by an adult is a violation of Virginia Code Section 18.2-51.
A violation of 18.2-51, a Class One Misdemeanor, is often thought of as “child abuse”, but it is punished far differently.
A Class One Misdemeanor is punished by:
Between one day to 12 months in jail; and/or
A Fine of up to $2500.00; and/or
Up to 12 months of Probation.
Felony Child Abuse or Child Neglect Charges in Virginia
Child abuse or child neglect in Virginia can also be charged as either a Class 6 felony or a Class 4 felony.
Both types of allegations will result in an arrest. The accused will be taken to jail. A bond may or may not be granted by the court.
Bond depends on several factors, such as the nature of the offense and the accused’s ties to the community and ability to abide by the restrictions imposed by the Court. You are allowed to contact an attorney before you are arrested.
Alex Gordon and Carlos Wall have represented many individuals during the investigative phase of these types of allegations. We look forward to putting our expertise forward to help you. We are available for free and confidential consultation at 703.218.8416 for anyone who is being investigated for child abuse charges in Fairfax, Loudoun, Arlington, or Prince William County.