The Law on Child Abuse and Neglect in Texas
Texas, like all other US states, is equipped with laws to protect children from abuse and neglect, both civil and criminal. These laws also aim to hold perpetrators accountable for their actions or omissions that harm a child’s well-being.
Despite strong state and federal laws, child abuse and neglect remain common in recent years. In 2021, CPS investigated 157,159 cases of child abuse and neglect. They found evidence of mistreatment or neglect for 68,517 children in Texas.
What is Child Abuse?
The definition of child abuse under Texas law is any intentional, knowing, or reckless act or omission by a person that causes physical, mental, or emotional harm, or the imminent risk of harm, to a child. This harm can be physical, mental, or emotional, and it can also put the child in immediate danger. It can also include forms of abuse like physical, emotional, and sexual assault.
What is Child Neglect?
Child neglect under Texas law refers to the failure of a parent, guardian, or caregiver to provide the necessary care, supervision, and support for a child’s physical, mental, or emotional well-being. The act of child neglect can manifest in various forms, such as:
- Physical neglect: Failing to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, or medical care for the child’s physical needs.
- Emotional neglect: Ignoring a child’s emotional needs, not providing affection, support, or attention, and exposing them to emotional distress.
- Educational neglect: Failing to enroll a child in school or provide proper homeschooling or educational support.
- Medical neglect: Refusing or failing to seek necessary medical attention or treatment for a child’s health issues or conditions.
Child Abuse Penalties
The court can charge child abuse as either a felony or a less serious misdemeanor offense, depending on the circumstances. Severe child abuse can lead to long prison sentences, even for life. Less serious cases may not result in any prison time.
Punishment is harsher for those with a criminal history, especially if they have a record of abusive behavior. This includes previous charges related to sexual abuse, physical violence, and domestic violence. However, it may be less severe if the person has no previous record.
Other penalties may include:
- Lifetime registration as a sex offender (if the offense qualifies)
- Possession of a permanent criminal record
- Loss of parental rights
- Supervised or restricted access to children
- Mandatory counseling or mental health treatment
- Ongoing involvement with a child protective services agency
Child Neglect Penalties
Parents may occasionally make errors in judgment. For instance, situations like having to go to work while a sitter is unavailable might arise. In Texas, the authorities can punish parents who abandon or endanger their children differently based on the severity of the offense.
They can receive a state jail felony punishment for a simple case of abandonment. This means they could go to jail for six months to two years and also have to pay a fine. If leaving the child puts them in immediate danger of death or harm, it becomes a more serious crime. In this case, the penalty entails two to 20 years in prison, along with a fine.
Mandatory Reporting of Abuse and Neglect
In Texas, if you know about child abuse or neglect, it is in your best interests to tell the authorities. This rule applies to everyone, including lawyers, religious leaders, and healthcare workers, who usually have private conversations. As law mandates, failure to report suspected neglect or abuse is a serious crime. It can lead to a year in jail and a fine of $4,000.
Arrested? Don’t Plea, Call Me!
If you or your loved one is charged with child abuse or neglect, you will require the assistance of an experienced criminal defense lawyer. They can give you important advice, guide you through the legal details, and represent you in court.
As an experienced criminal defense lawyer, we can look at all the facts of your case and investigate your charges. Then, we’ll strategize a strong defense plan specifically for your case. We can talk to the other side for you and stand up for your rights in court.
As well as clarify the consequences of your conviction if you face charges. These consequences may require you to spend time in jail, monetary penalties, or other forms of punishment. We try to make sure the charges do not make a lasting impact on your life and future.
The whole criminal justice system can be really complex and scary. But having an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side can make a big difference. They can explain things to you, help you understand your options, and support you all throughout the legal process. They will review evidence, gather witness statements, and search for anything that could improve your situation.