Endangering a child is a criminal act according to some child abuse statutes in Virginia. The severity of the criminal charge changes based on the type of injury and level of risk associated with that injury. In general, any time that someone in charge of supervising a minor directly or indirectly causes a situation that puts that minor at risk which rises above the standard of civil negligence, they could be charged with child endangerment. The law broadly defines an injury and therefore also may include mental or moral injury.
Law enforcement takes these criminal charges extremely seriously. If you have been charged with child endangerment, you should contact an experienced Prince William County risk of injury to a minor endangerment lawyer for help building a defense. An attorney could review your case and guide you through the best course of legal action for a person in your situation.
The law often refers to child injury as child abuse. However, other categories of risk do not necessarily involve actual harm to the child’s health. State law also prohibits conduct that renders a child to be “delinquent,” or acting in violation of the law. A supervisor also cannot behave in a way that renders a child in “need of supervision, services, or neglected.” These are all similar concepts of risk related to the notion that children may injure themselves when left responsible for their own care.
There are a great number of scenarios that can lead to a child endangerment charge, but some scenarios are much more common than others. Allowing a child to consume or possess illegal drugs, engage in unlawful sexual relations, drive vehicles without a permit or license, and skip school are frequent bases for these charges. Others may include allowing a child to remain by themselves at home or in a vehicle for long periods of time, especially if they are exposed to dangerous housing or environmental conditions, or in proximity to other children or animals that might cause harm when unsupervised.
Depending on the injury to the unattended child, either the misdemeanor or felony charge of causing abuse, delinquency, or neglect to a minor could apply. These offenses are codified in Virginia Code § 18.2-371, and § 18.2-371.1.
More direct examples involve failing to address the manifest medical needs of a child who is sick or injured, excessively disciplining a child, engaging in consensual sexual acts with a child, or transporting a child in a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or without placing the child in proper safety restraints. A Prince William County minor endangerment attorney could review a defendant’s case to determine which of their actions resulted in their child injury charge. Then, using this information, a legal representative could help build a case in their defense.
Misdemeanor child endangerment charges are all Class 1 misdemeanors punishable by up to 12 months in jail and up to a $2,500 fine. When the alleged offender inflicts injuries that are less severe or not life-threatening, the law may classify this charge as a Class 6 felony. Class 6 felonies are punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $2,500 fine. Due to the severity of these potential penalties, if law enforcement charges an individual with a child injury offense, they should immediately get in touch with a well-versed risk of injury to a child lawyer in Prince William County.
While there is no legal difference in the minimum or maximum ranges of punishment for sexual and non-sexual endangerment cases, an accused may be at a greater risk of receiving the maximum sentence in a sexual case because of the visceral nature of the charge. Another difference in the penalties associated with a sexual child injury charge that is unrelated to fines or jail time is that the accused may have to register as a sex offender on the Virginia Sex Offender Registry. This consequence can be extremely inconvenient and can result in damaging stigmas against the alleged offender.
The statutory subsection that protects the health and morals of children from endangerment is subsection A of section 40.1-103 of the Virginia Code. This law is located in the Labor & Employment title of the state code rather than the state criminal code. The Virginia Court of Appeals recently established that this charge does not violate the Double Jeopardy Clause of the U.S. Constitution to charge someone with violating both this statute and the criminal code version of the statute.
State law forbids the risk of injury to a child’s mental health. Mental injury may be more difficult to prove than physical injury because of the complex nature of mental ailments in terms of their diagnoses and symptoms. However, mental health injury can be easier to attribute to causes that preexisted the initiation of any legal charges.
In Virginia, guardians acting in loco parentis over a child, meaning in a position of parentage or supervisory care, can inflict some extent of corporal punishment. However, such punishment has to be reasonable, timely, and necessary to correct faults in a growing child, as measured by the surrounding circumstances, age, size, behavior, and types of wounds of the child. The intricacies of the limits surrounding physical discipline can be hard to determine without help from a knowledgeable child endangerment lawyer in Prince William County. As a result, hiring legal counsel may be necessary if corporal punishment applies to a case.
People charged with child endangerment offenses may not meaningfully understand how or why they might be found guilty because of the broad legal standards that apply to such cases. As a result, child endangerment defendants may be ill-equipped to effectively defend themselves in court, negotiate with law enforcement, or accurately predict the result of their prosecutions in terms of potential punishments.
A Prince William County risk of injury to a minor endangerment lawyer can provide valuable assistance on these fronts. If you have been charged with child injury, you should contact our office for a consultation on your case as soon as possible.
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