Kids require care, protection, and safety, and they should certainly not be subject to violence, abuse, or neglect. Almost all parents know this, and so does the law. That’s why Colorado law and Colorado prosecutors treat child abuse charges so seriously. Prosecutors will aggressively seek convictions for child abuse, and due to the severity of the crime, law enforcement will often err on the side of caution, arresting a parent or other adult in situations where no abuse has occurred or a situation has been misconstrued. If you’ve been charged with child abuse, the consequences and stigma can of such charges can put your family, freedom, and future at risk.
What is Child Abuse in Colorado?
The definition of child abuse under Colorado law is expansive and goes well beyond just physical violence. Colorado Revised Statutes § 18-6-401 provides that:
A person commits child abuse if such person causes an injury to a child’s life or health, or permits a child to be unreasonably placed in a situation that poses a threat of injury to the child’s life or health, or engages in a continued pattern of conduct that results in malnourishment, lack of proper medical care, cruel punishment, mistreatment, or an accumulation of injuries that ultimately results in the death of a child or serious bodily injury to a child.
Under this broad definition, things like leaving a child unsupervised for an extended period of time or in a hot car could result in child abuse charges, as could driving under the influence of alcohol with a child in the car, even if the child is ultimately unharmed.
Severe Penalties for Child Abuse
Child abuse can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the severity of the abuse, the seriousness of the injuries or harm, and the position and intent of the accused. Child abuse is what is known as an “extraordinary risk” crime and therefore carries harsher penalties than regular misdemeanors. The penalties for misdemeanor child abuse in Colorado are:
- Child abuse which is the result of criminal negligence without injury is a class three misdemeanor which could result in a sentence of up to 12 months in jail.
- If the abuse is done knowingly or recklessly, but does not cause injury, it is a class two misdemeanor which could result in up to eighteen months in jail.
- If the child is injured, but without serious bodily injury, the act is a class one misdemeanor with a possible penalty of two years in jail.
But if the abuse leads to serious bodily injury or death, or is a second or subsequent conviction, child abuse will be charged as a felony, and an extremely long prison sentence, including the possibility of life in prison, is likely upon conviction.
Of course, a child abuse conviction can cost you more than just years in jail. Your rights as a parent could be restricted, and you will have to live with the disruption to your relationships and stain on your reputation long after you have served any time. If you have been charged with child abuse, it is crucial that you retain an experienced Colorado criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney can protect your rights, fight the charges, and help you obtain the best possible outcome.