Prince William County child endangerment cases are taken extremely seriously because of the minor’s vulnerability and the impact that a guardian’s negligence can have on their future health. As a result, if you have been charged with child endangerment, you should speak with a well-versed attorney immediately. Legal counsel can explain your charges as well as their potential consequences while helping you build a defense.
The law classifies risk of injury to a child cases in Prince William County depending on the severity of the conduct that led to the charge. Some of the child abuse statutes have overlapping standards that can make the dividing line between felonies and misdemeanors unclear. However, the general rule is that if conduct causes a life-threatening injury or life-threatening situation for the child, law enforcement may charge this behavior as a felony. When non-life-threatening injuries or situations occur due to a guardian’s actions, arresting officers may charge the accused with a misdemeanor. For instance, a non-relative adult who has consensual sexual intercourse with a minor who is at least 15 years of age may be charged with a misdemeanor. Otherwise, law enforcement may classify this behavior as a felony.
Child endangerment cases that do not involve sexual conduct are generally less serious and may not focus on a child’s consent to the adult conduct at the time of the offense. Age at the time of the offense also may not be an element that must be proven when the court determines a charge’s classification.
Judges hear Prince William County risk of injury to a minor misdemeanor cases in Juvenile and Domestic Relations (JDR) Court. Felony cases may start there as well, and then could be transferred to Circuit Court if the JDR judge determines probable cause. However, felony charges also can start in Circuit Court if a grand jury directly indicated the accused of a felony. Judges in Circuit Court may hear misdemeanor charges if someone is charged in combination with felonies or if someone appeals a JDR conviction to Circuit Court.
After arrest, law enforcement may take the accused before a judge to determine if they should be released or held in custody pending the resolution of their case. If a judge decides to release the defendant until their court date, the judge establishes the conditions of their release. These conditions may include whether there can be any contact or cohabitation between the accused and the alleged victim pending trial and whether the court should issue any protective orders should against the accused to protect the involved minor.
If an accused disagrees with any of these decisions, they can appeal these determinations to the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, followed by the Prince William County Circuit Court. In some instances, an accused may further wish to appeal issues of bail to the Virginia appellate courts.
At an accused’s first court date, the alleged offender may be arraigned on their charges, meaning the court informs them of the name and nature of their charges. The judge also allows the defendant to request a court-appointed attorney to represent them if they are deemed indigent enough to merit a court-appointed attorney based on their personal financial information. Parties for the prosecution may or may not be present at an arraignment.
After the arraignment, the court informs the accused of their next court date and expects the accused to hire private counsel or contact their court-appointed counsel.
The defense attorney’s role in a Prince William County minor endangerment case is to negate the accused’s charges as much as possible, by whatever legal means necessary and available. Most child endangerment charges involve a lack of context about the circumstances that led to the minor’s alleged endangerment. A defense attorney is the best party equipped to add context to the case proceedings and negotiations, as well as handle any adverse effects which result from the outcome of a criminal case.
A child injury charge can be challenging to defend without proper legal representation. Therefore, if you have been charged with minor endangerment, you should consider reaching out to a skilled attorney. A legal professional could describe the Prince William County risk of injury to a minor cases process and how these proceedings may operate in your specific situation. For a case consultation, contact a lawyer today.
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